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Book Review: On Intelligence

As a student of practical applications of neuroscience, I enjoyed On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. In the past year I read How the Mind Works and Mind Wide Open. On Intelligence ranks up there as good reading for anyone interested in this area.

And everyone must be interested in neuroscience. The advancements we've made over the past 50 years in understanding our brains are incredible. We are finding out more and more that our brains really are us, and that the world is merely a reflection of how our sensory organs process sights, sounds, and so forth. At the expense of being repetitive, I will reiterate my prediction: soon, within my lifetime for sure, a major divide between the haves and have-nots is going to be one's ability to understand his or her own cognitive makeup in significant detail. Imagine being able to walk down the street and by the end of the day know EXACTLY how you learn, process information, make decisions, etc. It won't be cheap. But for those who have resources, the implications for that intellectual leg-up are going to be astounding.

Back to On Intelligence - Palm Pilot founder Jeff Hawkins' key premise is that prediction is at the core of neuroscience. What separates humans from other big brained animals is that we have developed an extraordinary system for storing memories and then predicting based on those memories. Thus, the creation of truly intelligent machines will depend on equipping those machines with sensory capabilities so they can accumulate their own memories. Humans are limited by our biological neuron limit whereas a machine, given enough memory capacity, could capture much more of the world.

Hawkins ends with a plea to high school and college students to enter the field of neuroscience. I'm not enough of a scientist to do so, but clearly, this is a field on the brink of becoming really big. The least I can do is be informed.


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