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On Intelligence

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,002 Ratings  ·  310 Reviews
From the inventor of the PalmPilot comes a new and compelling theory of intelligence, brain function, and the future of intelligent machines

Jeff Hawkins, the man who created the PalmPilot, Treo smart phone, and other handheld devices, has reshaped our relationship to computers. Now he stands ready to revolutionize both neuroscience and computing in one stroke, with a new u
Paperback, 261 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Okay. This book and I didn't get along terribly well, but the experience was nevertheless a valuable one. So, 3 stars, even though I disagree fundamentally with some of the theory and the style of presentation. This will be a long one; bear with me.

To put it simply.... Jeff Hawkins is a very intelligent computer engineer who thinks he understands brains in ways that no neuroscientist ever has before, mostly because he is willing to stand by a grand picture where most neuroscientists want to inve
Apr 01, 2009 M.L. rated it liked it
"On Intelligence (and Condescension)"

The only thing wrong with Jeff Hawkins's book is Jeff Hawkins. His idea for the brain basic structure is exciting. (basically he argues that the brain works off a near-recursive prediction model based on stimulus and memory.) And he's really into intelligent machines. In fact, he may have convinced me not to fear the giant robot armies that have plagued my dreams. Nope. Now I can fear the infinitely-sized hyper-conscious EverMind that operates mainly in the
Jul 27, 2011 Dave rated it it was amazing
Jeff Hawkins has done a remarkable thing. He's essentially synthesised all of the information we have on how the brain works into a simple, elegant and utterly comprehensible theory of intelligence that will pave the way to the creation of truly intelligent machines. That's a massive claim I know but I honestly don't think I have ever read a simpler, more straightforward account of what intelligence is.

Hawkins' theory, in a nutshell, is that intelligence is a manifestation of the brains ability
Jul 14, 2008 DJ rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the brain and artificial intelligence
Shelves: brain
Hawkins' theory is that the entire sensory cortex runs a single cortical algorithm to perform all of its sensory functions.

This single algorithm simply looks for patterns. Layers and layers of brain cells performing this pattern recognition result in our sensory experience. Here is an example of how this might work for vision:

Layer 1 receives sensory input from the outside world and looks for general patterns of lines.
Layer 2 receives input from layer 1 and looks for patterns of edges from those
Vinit Nayak
May 14, 2016 Vinit Nayak rated it really liked it
4.23 stars

Awesome read even if you aren't familiar at all with AI, neural networks, or anything tech related. This book takes a stab at trying to explain how we learn, and breaks down the steps that our brain goes through during the process of learning and recollection.
It's a really good mix of easy to understand, higher level philosophical arguments as well as lots of technical details when he get's into the details about how the neocortex performs it's actions, from sensory input all the way t
Shea Levy
Moderately entertaining speculation on how intelligence works on a neural level in humans. A lot of his criticisms of neuroscience as practiced rung true to me (a more-than-layman less-than-initiate for this field) 10 years later, though I wouldn't be as extreme as he is. The framework he puts forth is at least plausible and has a certain elegance to it. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of support provided, and a lot of the assertions he makes (particularly his high confidence in Mountcast ...more
Eric Hamilton
Aug 07, 2013 Eric Hamilton rated it it was ok
I picked this up on sale but I can't finish it. I wanted a bright person's coherent and logical progression through a model of the brain. As bright as the author might be, he is astonishingly tone deaf to how distracting the relentless implicit and direct accolades he gives to himself are to the science he is trying to explain. The book might be summarized as a tapestry of ....introduction (all about me!)...look at me again! at me!...look at me! you see me?! etc ...more
Faisal Nawab
Nov 10, 2011 Faisal Nawab rated it really liked it
The book is a take on understanding (human-like) intelligence. The author introduces memory prediction framework to explain the kind of intelligence humans possess. He defines intelligence as the ability to predict. This ability (prediction) can then take different shapes, like decision-making and even creativity. He view the brain as a pattern-recognition device. Different sensory inputs, he claims, are treated in (almost) the same way by the brain.

The treatment of the subject was very pragmat
Rich Brown
Jun 03, 2009 Rich Brown rated it liked it
Condescending, but interesting. A thousand examples too long. Or, to put it another way, the examples were 1 + 999 too many. Or as one might say, 10*100 examples are too many. In case I haven't made myself clear, think of it this way: more than 200 + 800 examples are in this book. This is heady stuff, so let me say it again. 400 + 600 examples are here, and more.

Computers compute, but brains do pattern recognition. Then they do pattern recognition on the patterns they've recognized. Then they re
Sarah Soderberg
Dec 18, 2014 Sarah Soderberg rated it liked it
Jeff Hawkins is most commonly known for inventing one of the first handheld computer devices, the palm pilot, and founding the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. Although he has expressed interest in artificial intelligence his whole life, he has also expressed a deep interest for Neuroscience as shown in his book On Intelligence. In this book he brings the ideas of artificial intelligence and neuroscience together to present his theory of how the brain processes information. Here are ...more
Sep 25, 2013 Mani rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed thoroughly. Read it twice.
Dimitri Yatsenko
Mar 27, 2012 Dimitri Yatsenko rated it really liked it
Mr Hawkins' dream was to encapsulate a basic theory of intelligence in a straightforward plainly written book. Written with science writer Sandra Blakeslee, "On Intelligence" combines Mr Hawkins' motivational autobiography, a scientific treatise on natural and artificial intelligence, and a philosophical discussion delivered in a no-nonsense, unembellished, yet stimulating narrative.

At its core, "On Intelligence" postulates that all higher cognitive functions are built on a single relatively sim
Dec 25, 2013 أحمد rated it it was amazing
Shelves: كمبيوتر
هذا الكتاب .. و حياتي يدوران حول شغفين

الاول هو برمجة الكمبيوترات المحمولة و الثاني هو الذكاء

هكذا بدأ المؤلف الكتاب

لا اعتقد اني ابالغ ... الكتاب ثورة في العلم و يؤدي حاليا الي ثورة في التقنية موضوع الكتاب ببساطة شديدة هو ان الذكاء البشري هو نوع من انواع المعالجة التي يمكن محاكاتها باستخدام الحاسب

الفكرة هنا مختلفة تماما عن علم (الشبكات العصبية) فهي تقترب من فكرة (كيف يعمل المخ البشري) اعتقد ان الكثير من الابحاث في الادراك و علم الخلايا العصبية و علم النفس قد وصلت الي نتائج حتي الان تؤكد صحة النظر
Vikram Kalkura
Feb 16, 2015 Vikram Kalkura rated it liked it
Now I am not scared of Robots it machines taking over us in near future. They can never overtake what our brain functions. They can just be faster than what our brain thinks but can never beat it.
If you want to know more about how your brain functions or how complex your brain is, then it's a good read. The 6 layers in your cortex that completely runs your body and mind is fascinating.
Good explanation on why human is the only living being that can talk and had so many languages. And why anim
Daron Yondem
Oct 11, 2013 Daron Yondem rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-learn
I can't really say this was a practical book but it definitely gives a different perspective on how the brain works and how the current AI implementations are totally off the target. It's enlightening. Worth the read if you are a software developer for sure.
Feb 26, 2016 G rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
If to put it short, Palm Pilot-inventor Jeff Hawkins book explains his memory-prediction framework theory of the brain and describes some of its consequences.
Well, that's makes sense to me, as I've learned from professor Wang in my first lectures of neuroscience: "Brain is just a surviving organ...".
Sure, but there is always the Homunculus, that little bastard that is preventing us to perceive our realm directly, straightforwardly. Every time we turn to study ourselves we get into mess with that
Manuel Alfonseca
Dec 20, 2015 Manuel Alfonseca rated it liked it
This book offers what the author considers a revolutionary framework to understand the workings of the brain. Unfortunately, the author gets carried by his own enthusiasm for his pet theory, to the point that he speaks as though all his ideas, suggestions and suppositions were facts, and sometimes it's difficult for the reader to notice the difference. One must read the appendix with proposals of experimental confirmation / refutation, to see clearly that most of the ideas in the book are actual ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Wersly rated it really liked it
Best of this book: the chapter where Hawkins lays down his theory of cortical function and expands on its implications. Really thought provoking stuff; he's got a way of extrapolating and coming to big, far reaching conclusions from the nitty-gritty of cortical wiring and structure. This is largely due to Hawkins attaching an overarching 'theory of intelligence' to his descriptions and illustrations of cortical organization. I find this perspective much needed given the current state of science ...more
May 23, 2014 Mikal rated it liked it
Hawkins book highlights how difficult it is to make predictions in areas of deep experience. Fundamentally the cortex theory is clearly presented but belabored. Sadly, Hawkins makes no efforts to cite or reference sources, leaving the reader to trust Hawkins at his word or do due diligence on their own to review the neuroscience community's perspective of his work.

On Intelligence has two major goals: define intelligent machines and the roll of intelligence machines in future society and to defi
Don Skotch Vail
Nov 14, 2009 Don Skotch Vail rated it really liked it
The adrenaline ran through my veins as I read this book, because I loved it so much. I think he is onto something, although I suspect he got some of the details wrong. When I tried to map out what he was describing, somethings didn't look like they would pan out. E.g. "names" flowing up and down the cortical regions were very vague, and how they could still be static names while getting less specific at each region was confusing to me.

He doesn't do a great job of describing how he think the cort
Aug 27, 2007 kareem rated it really liked it
original review:

This is the second book that Phil Terry asked us to read as part of the Creative Good fellows program. It was writted by Jeff Hawkins, creator of the PalmPilot and Treo. Turns out Jeff's other passion is trying to understand how the brain works.

This book lays out his theory of how the mind works in layman's terms. Hawkins premise is that the brain uses a "memory-prediction" framework to operate, and states that his model fills in a lot of h
Mar 14, 2009 Scott rated it really liked it
Hawkins comes off really arrogant but if you can get past that he has some really interesting ideas on how the brain works. I totally don't agree with some of his criticisms of AI research and he totally doesn't understand why Searle's Chinese room argument is complete crap. I also think he belittles the Turing test a bit too much, I think there is definitely still value in it, although I understand that it's not the only or best way to demonstrate intelligence. My last criticism is that his fra ...more
Zarathustra Goertzel
May 21, 2016 Zarathustra Goertzel rated it it was ok
As another commenter noted, the full title is, "On Intelligence (and Condescension)."

A lot of the content isn't particularly new or insightful. However some chapters are written well and portray a nice imagery >_<.

Expect the first 2-3 chapters to be full of condescending descriptions of how "artificial intelligence" has utterly failed up until now.

His descriptions in chapters 4, 5 and more-so 6 can be good =]

And his responses on consciousness and creativity are ok, typical responses.
Dec 19, 2014 Tclizzy rated it it was ok
On Intelligence is a book that discusses Jeff Hawkins’ theory as to how the brain works and as a vessel to flout his superiority complex. If you are a person casually interested in the functions of the brain and the future of artificial intelligence who is willing to slog through what I felt was sub-par writing, this is a interesting read.
Hawkins proposes that the brain is essentially a device that uses past experiences to predict the future. He makes this proposal to support his goal of making
Calvin Holst
Dec 18, 2014 Calvin Holst rated it really liked it
On Intelligence is a theoretical work regarding the function and physiology of the human brain by Jeff Hawkins. Hawkins is the inventor of the Palm Pro, one of the creators of the microprocessor, and is considered one of the most prominent figures of electronics and neuroscience research in the past 20 or so years. Hawkins begins the book by explaining the shortcomings of AI (artificial intelligence) in the search for intelligent machines. In this section he argues that the defining feature of i ...more
Nicolas Johnston
Dec 17, 2014 Nicolas Johnston rated it really liked it
Jeff Hawkins, inventor of several handheld devices such as the Palm Pilot and the Treo, breaks new ground in his nonfiction book, On Intelligence as he tackles a new theory about how the human brain works. In his book Hawkins explores controversial ideas and concepts like his Memory-prediction framework, which suggests the brain combines old and new information to make predictions about what will happen in the future. Hawkins expertly incorporates theories like this one to explain how and why at ...more
Dec 17, 2014 Evan rated it really liked it
On Intelligence is non-fiction book written by Jeff Hawkins, who is an inventor and a neuroscience researcher. The main purpose of his book is to relate brain theory to artificial intelligence and to demonstrate that if we apply what we know about the brain, then we can make truly intelligent machines.

This book focuses on answering several questions:
What is intelligence?
How does the brain do it?
How can we replicate it in our technology?

At the start, Hawkins explains what the brain can do, and w
Nizar Hadeli
Dec 17, 2014 Nizar Hadeli rated it it was amazing
Nizar Hadeli
Book Review: On Intelligence

The book, On Intelligence, is an informative text on the physiology and psychology of the brain, and a philosophical discussion about the use of intelligence in machines and its possible effects in the future. This book is written by Jeff Hawkins with help from Sandra Blakeslee, but it is mainly centered on Hawkins and his knowledge and opinions. Hawkins is an electrical engineer with a degree from Cornell. Hawkins worked at Intel, helping with th
Pohsuan Huang
Sep 23, 2014 Pohsuan Huang rated it it was amazing
insightful, inspiring, scientifically supported piece of technical writing, which however more thrilling than sci-fi to me. Easy to understand for general public, straightforward writing style saves your time on understanding what exactly is intelligence.

Jeff Hawkins's work points right to the question “ How does brain work? ” As an engineer, he tackle with this one of the most crucial questions of humanity with great scientific scrutiny and incomparable enthusiasm that stems from his childli
Apr 25, 2014 Drtaxsacto rated it it was amazing
One of the things I do in San Miguel de Allende is read a lot. I am not sure where I even got this book. But I had it here and decided to tackle it. Jeff Hawkins is the guy who invented Graffiti (the software for handwriting recognition that was used on the Palm Pilot and also on the Handspring) but he has also had a real interest in human intelligence. So he started his career as a programmer - but as he thought about it the way we build computers is not the way the brain works. He tried at one ...more
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How is it going? 8 39 Apr 09, 2014 07:06PM  
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“It is the ability to make predictions about the future that is the crux of intelligence.” 2 likes
“Deep Blue didn't win by being smarter than a human; it won by being millions of times faster than a human. Deep Blue had no intuition. An expert human player looks at a board position and immediately sees what areas of play are most likely to be fruitful or dangerous, whereas a computer has no innate sense of what is important and must explore many more options. Deep Blue also had no sense of the history of the game, and didn't know anything about its opponent. It played chess yet didn't understand chess, in the same way a calculator performs arithmetic bud doesn't understand mathematics.” 2 likes
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