On Intelligence
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On Intelligence

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  2,305 ratings  ·  204 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...more
Paperback, 261 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2004)
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"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...more
Jul 14, 2008 DJ rated it 4 of 5 stars 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...more
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...more
Faisal Nawab
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...more
Dimitri Yatsenko
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...more
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...more
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...more
Daron Yondem
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.
Mani  Scienide
Enjoyed thoroughly. Read it twice.
Don Skotch Vail
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...more
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...more
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
Rich Brown
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...more
Eric Hamilton
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!...science...look at me!...look at me!....science...did you see me?! etc...more
This engaging, non(too)technical book offers a new and plausible theory of how the brain, or more specifically the neocortex, works.

When I learned about the existence of this book, I was drawn to it for a number of reasons. For one thing, I'm intrigued by the faculty we call intelligence: what is it, exactly? For another, I, like the author Jeff Hawkins, have long been fascinated by the brain and how it works. And finally I was eager to read a book on neuroscience by a nonscientist, for Hawkins,...more
WOW, that's some heavy stuff. Learning how your brain works...
Last chapter is the best for sci-fi people and parents. So many possibilities.
Goes great w/ the other book from Bill Gates suggested reading list: 13 things that Don't make sense.

Vincent Russo
Jeff Hawkins was the inventor of the Palm Pilot, and he has since turned his creative and research endeavors into the realm of building intelligent machines, which led him primarily to the study of brains and neuroscience. This book is a overarching look at his approach to brain science, and how one would and should approach the task of creating intelligent machines.

The book criticizes some of the tried and true methods of artificial intelligence, as an admirable, but inevitably prone to failur...more
Miguel Duarte
This is a fascinating book. If you are interested in the topic of human and artificial intelligence, please do yourself a favor and read it. This books aims at describing a unified theory of how the brain works and intelligence arises. Jeff Hawkins developed a a passion for the brain quite early in his career, and has obsessed over it ever since. He starts the book by explaining that although there are thousands of people studying the brain, there is no unified theory of how it works as a whole....more
Interesting book by Jeff Hawkins on intelligence, and how our understanding of the way the brain learns can help us recreate intelligence artificially. If I read it correctly, I think it goes something like this:

Using the 6-layered cortex as a hierarchical information system, lower levels send collections of input to higher cortex layers as patterns (which Hawkins calls "names") , and the higher levels use the same cortical algorithms to decode the information (and return signal when necessary,...more
This book is surprisingly good in its ability to reach both the lay reader and the reader familiar with neuroscience (I am a neuroscientist PhD candidate). The ideas expressed in On Intelligence are important both for scientific advancement and for philosophical consideration. While one could argue that perhaps there are other forms of intelligence or ways to produce intelligence, Hawkins does a good job in arguing what intelligence is in terms of mammalian brains and what the neocortex does. Th...more
The first half of the book is basically an introduction to how the brain works and the last couple of chapters are the new ideas.
The first part is actually a pretty nice intro especially for someone new to neuroscience and psychology.

It seems to me that Hawkins thinks that the brain is basically a data store, perhaps something like a GADDAG (my own interpretation). The brain also constantly re-interprets what it sees and makes assumptions about the future. It does pattern matching and on top of...more
Ira Therebel
I am no expert in neither brain activity nor building intelligent machines. This is why it is hard for me to say anything about the idea itself, nor would it really matter.

I did find it very interesting. I am pretty sure I learned about hierarchical brain functioning in my Cognition class a few years ago. I don't want to make a mistake to think that it is 100% right or that this kind of thinking is indeed superior to what is done by AI people. As Jeff Hawkins said, it is impossible for computers...more
John Martindale
I found a review from audible by a fellow named Joseph that captured exactly my reaction to this book. Joseph wrote

"No doubt Jeff Hawkins is a brilliant cortex, given that each one of us and the world we live in is nothing more than the experience of an active cortex. But he is not a wise human, which, in my mind, is the greatest achievement of homo sapiens, not the ability to recreate intelligence in a machine.

It is telling that he admits to never studying the nature of consciousness, but in o...more
A book with many fascinating insights into how the mind works, sadly flawed with too many brash assumptions and glossing over important issues.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first:
On p41 he makes the big, big assumption that only neocortex houses intelligence. This is pretty brash, given how we’re still learning about how the mind works and so much other stuff I’ve read shows how all the parts of the mind influence the others. That said, he hadn’t defined intelligence at that point.
And t...more
William Herschel
This book helped me understand brains better. It outlines his theory called the memory-prediction framework and describes it for a layman audience, sort of. Actually, the only problem people seem to have with his theory is his lack of detail.

He postulates that the neocortex processes sensory and motor stimuli as patterns and that intelligence is the result of prediction through feedback; all senses are processed in the brain by the neocortex in the same way. It's just patterns to the brain. It i...more
If, like me, you're a software developer with an interest in true artificial intelligence, this is a very stimulating book. Hawkins applies his own engineer's mind to an effort to discern and describe the human brain's underlying "cortical algorithm", the means by which intelligence "works". As Hawkins sees it, the neuroscience community has been too focused on the minutae of how neurons function, without giving adequate consideration to the brain's overall learning and decision-making architect...more
This was a fascinating book, and a surprisingly fast read considering how complex the topic is. Hawkins' insights into why AI development hasn't produced a computer that can do many of the things that human brains are capable of-like seeing the similarities between a piano and a saxophone-are well-reasoned and astute, and his theory of the cortex working off of a memory-prediction algorithm is quite intriguing. Unlike some some scientists (when writing for a lay audience), Hawkins also devotes a...more
Reza Putra
Buku ini cukup informatif mengenai: (a) struktur kasar neokorteks. Bagian yang paling gue suka adalah ketika Hawkins mencoba menggariskan satuan unit terkecil pada korteks berdasarkan algoritma kortikal yang bahkan baru bersifat draf! (cf. Mountcastle, 1978)--dalam artian belum ada persamaan atau bahkan fungsi matematisnya; (b) ambiguitas korteks dalam mengelompokkan data; dan (c) saccade dan fiksasi mata--menurut gue, Hawkins menjelaskan secara baik dengan mengangkat proses identifikasi wajah s...more
Presents a new framework for understanding the function of the neocortex. The main idea - that the cortex functions as a hierarchical feedforward/feedback system - is quite compelling. Learning this was worth 4 stars. Flaws: Hawkins took too long to get into the meat of the book, was too soft on the science (for my taste), and finished with an airy, useless discussion of quasi-philosphical issues and applications of "intelligent machines." The new framework presents a host of scientific issues (...more
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“The neocortex is not like a computer, parallel or otherwise. Instead of computing answers to problems the neocortex uses stored memories to solve problems and produce behavior.” 0 likes
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