East Lansing, MI, USA
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  • On Intelligence

  • By: Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee
  • Narrated by: Jeff Hawkins, Stefan Rudnicki
  • Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,115
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 934
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 934

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 understanding of intelligence itself.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting Introduction to a Fascinating Field

  • By James on 04-14-06

Why hasn't Hawkins hasn't made a bigger splash?

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-04-05

I don't normally talk to friends about what I'm reading. But for the past two weeks I've been obsessively telling friends - even my 78-year-old mother - about this book. Maybe it's just me, but I find hearing On Intelligence has changed the way I think about computing and human intelligence. I suddenly feel I understand a range of phenomena which have intrigued or baffled me for years.

I can't do justice to Hawkins's thesis, but I'll take a stab. He claims to have figured out how the cortex - the part of the brain that was "new" to mammals, and whose size seems to be the greatest difference between humans and other primates - works. In other words, he asserts a general theory of what makes humans intelligent, and more generally, of what we're doing when we think.

Based on several lines of evidence, he rejects the idea that the cortex is primarily sifting through input data, looking for general patterns, with each stage summarizing and passing information up to more abstract levels. Instead, Hawkins asserts that the cortex is mainly MODELING the world we sense, and spends the great bulk of its effort actually passing predictive data DOWN to lower levels, including sensory areas.

These predictions are broken into an unbeliveably detailed representation of the world, modeling at the level of individual sensory neuron, what we will see, hear, touch, in the next second or two. Wherever this prediction is more-or-less right, it is treated as "confirmed" and the world we experience is mainly THAT PREDICTION, not a summation of this instant's actual nerve receptors' sensations. Where the prediction is NOT confirmed, an "exception" is generated, which either causes minor adjustments in the predicted scenario, or draws our conscious attention to the unexpected event.

If that doesn't make sense, listen to the book. There's a lot more to it.

This book has changed the way I see the world. I think it's a really big deal.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful