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Editorial Reviews

The same man who created the Palm Pilot and other handheld devices criticizes contemporary technology for not learning more lessons from the greatest computer of all -- the human brain. Not stopping there, Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee go on to tackle the head-scratching subject of how our brains really work, and if artificial intelligence can ever truly catch up. But what really sets this listen apart is the passion with which the authors address the big questions about our brains.

After a solid intro from Hawkins, Stefan Rudnicki takes over the narrating reins. The effect is an audio program with a compelling ability to anticipate the question taking form in your own brain as you listen, then answer it with clarity and sincerity. That's a feat worthy of admiration.

Publisher's Summary

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.

Hawkins develops a powerful theory of how the human brain works, explaining why computers are not intelligent and how, based on this new theory, we can finally build intelligent machines.

The brain is not a computer, but a memory system that stores experiences in a way that reflects the true structure of the world, remembering sequences of events and their nested relationships and making predictions based on those memories. It is this memory-prediction system that forms the basis of intelligence, perception, creativity, and even consciousness.

In an engaging style that will captivate audiences from the merely curious to the professional scientist, Hawkins shows how a clear understanding of how the brain works will make it possible for us to build intelligent machines, in silicon, that will exceed our human ability in surprising ways.

Written with acclaimed science writer Sandra Blakeslee, On Intelligence promises to completely transfigure the possibilities of the technology age. It is a landmark book in its scope and clarity.

©2004 Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee; (P)2005 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[Hawkins's] argument is complex but comprehensible, and his curiosity will intrigue anyone interested in the lessons neurobiology may hold for AI." (Booklist)
"[Hawkins] fully anticipates, even welcomes, the controversy he may provoke within the scientific community and admits that he might be wrong, even as he offers a checklist of potential discoveries that could prove him right. His engaging speculations are sure to win fans." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall

Taking the Risk of Seeing the Big Picture

I liked the way the author weaved the results of many researchers into a coherent and unified theory. Painting in broad strokes, he readily admits that some of the detail will be refined in time, yet he takes the risk of seeing the big picture. His theory is based on available research and he is well read. While research necessarily focuses narrowly only on the smallest possible piece of the puzzle, the author pulls together these pieces which are spread over many disciplines and decades to make a powerful theory of how the brain works. It is detailed yet assessable to the non-scientist. Sometimes it takes someone outside the field to be able to pull together the bigger picture while the leaders in the field ‘can’t see the forest for the leaves’. Well written and provocative…I bet it has shaken up more than one researcher from more than one discipline who could easily point out contradictions from their narrow perspective. Yet I doubt they have a more satisfactory overview to offer.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Nothing Short of Revolutionary!

Read it. Think about it. Read it again. Although there will be parts of this book that we layman will find hard to grasp, they aren't essentially to appreciating Hawkins' theories. Really quite a striking and potentially important explanation of the structure of intelligence.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Los Altos, CA, USA
  • 01-22-06


A terrific book. Quite engrossing. Only a few parts were tough to listen to. Definitely download and refer to the figures during the "technical" portion of the book. The book outlined great ideas, but didn't really dive down into the details of implementation. Nonetheless it is a great introduction to a new integrated computation framework.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Ode to an Ego

The first 6 chapters are interesting enough but the last few spend their time reinforcing existing paradigms of computer intelligence.

Look, Jeff. To create a brain, it will take a brain -- not a bunch of sensors who happen to excel at the mysterious "algorithm" you are so sold on. There is more to intelligence than simple data access through highly stylized pathways. That theory merely posits a better AI.

To imitate life, a machine would have to conjur a picture out of memory on its own for no particular reason but to ponder.

5 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Hawkins satisfied my deepest curiosity about how the brain actually does its job!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

What I forgot from college

I was a student in both psychology and computer science in AI's heyday of the early to mid 80's. This book is an encapsulation of the "pieces" from the various fields and theories from the world of cognitive science and reminded me of a lot of things that I had forgotten that had originally inspired me.

Jeff Hawkings introduces a clear and unified way of thinking about how our minds work. The material is presented such that anyone can understand. It is also so clearly presented, that it conjures a lot of ?why didn?t I see this??.

Not only is this full of examples and explanations (including downloadable figures), but it has enough rigor to the theory to present ways to test these theories. I liked his approach to this topic, explaining why previous ventures in AI didn?t work like they were hyped.

As someone who worked on expert systems, I?m ready to go back to the drawing board and try to apply this theory.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

This is an amazing book!

I have spent much of my life trying to understand brains and consciousness.
The subject has facinated me... and driven my personal and professional
work - which is releated to building a computer framework capable
of efficently processing distributed invariant patterns, like those described
in Jeff's book, "On Intelligence."

Jeff Hawkins has given humanity a remarkable gift, in my opinion.
For the first time a realistic brain-theory is available to us.
His discussion and descriptions "ring true" to my way of thinking.
The ideas presented are easy to understand by anyone.
He has solved the problem of understanding exactly how the brain works.

I really liked the reader of this book as well (Stephan Rudniki).
As he was the same professional voice for the "Ender's Game" books..
which I also really enjoyed. It was nice to be able to hear this
book in a voice I already appreciated. He made the book all the more
enjoyable. Now I've listened to this twice and purchased a hard-cover version.

If you see this, Thank you Jeff!
I will contact you soon. I believe you may be interested in the
pattern-processing environment I have developed over the past decade.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • NASHUA, NH, United States
  • 03-08-05

Great for anyone interested in how we think

Jeff Hawkings introduces a fresh and brilliant way of thinking about our own minds that anyone can understand. Full of examples and clear explinations he walks thru step by step every aspect of his thoughts and theories about intelligence and why we do the things we do. I especialy like that he takes an engineers aproach to this topic, explaining why previouse attempts at AI did not work and will continue not to work and how we can change our way of doing making machines so that we may one day be able to build intelligent machines.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Coto De Caza, CA, USA
  • 07-22-05


Thorough, clear, innovative, and easy to follow. Highly recommended.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Blashy
  • Québec, Canada
  • 12-10-09

Much too technical

He should have taken a lesson from Bill Bryson's book a short history of nearly everything.

I stopped a little over halfway.

1 of 7 people found this review helpful