Bruce's Reviews > On Intelligence

On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins
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's review
Jan 11, 2011

really liked it
Read in January, 2011

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 (details!!!) that Hawkins ignores. One major issue, which Hawkins breezes past and almost certainly gets wrong, is the fitting of inherited behaviors into the new framework. He makes some pretty strong statements along the lines that the mind is tabula rasa upon birth. Wrong (see, e.g. new born pups go directly for food), and an assumption not remotely demanded by the new framework. From a geeky engineering standpoint, I'd have liked to see a mention of Kalman filters, a pervasive engineering technique (avionics to speech enhancement) that bears similarities to the author's theory. Could go on and on with science issues. Nonetheless, as mentioned, a more than worthwhile read because the theory is so powerful.

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