On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines

I am fascinated my the brain and all things neuroscience. 

On of my favorite books on the brain and what I can do is: On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines.

This book was written by  Palm Pilot-inventor Jeff Hawkins with New York Times science writer Sandra Blakeslee.

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.

What is the big idea?

Hawkins’ basic idea is that the brain is a mechanism to predict the future, specifically, hierarchical regions of the brain predict their future input sequences. Perhaps not always far in the future, but far enough to be of real use to an organism. As such, the brain is a feed forward hierarchical state machine with special properties that enable it to learn.

Here is one of my favorite snippets from the book called altered door experiment:

When you come home each day, you usually take a few seconds to go through your front door or whichever door you use. You reach out, turn the knob, walk in, and shut it behind you. It’s a firmly established habit, something you do all the time and pay little attention to. Suppose while you are out, I sneak over to your home and change something about your door. It could be almost anything. I could move the knob over by an inch, change a round knob into a thumb latch, or turn it from brass to chrome. I could change the door’s weight, substituting solid oak for a hollow door, or vice versa. I could make the hinges squeaky and stiff, or make them glide frictionlessly. I could widen or narrow the door and its frame. I could change its color, add a knocker where the peephole used to be, or add a window. I can imagine a thousand changes that could be made to your door, unbeknownst to you. When you come home that day and attempt to open the door, you will quickly detect that something is wrong. It might take you a few seconds’ reflection to realize exactly what is wrong, but you will notice the change very quickly. As your hand reaches for the moved knob, you will realize that it is not in the correct location. Or when you see the door’s new window, something will appear odd. Or if the door’s weight has been changed, you will push with the wrong amount of force and be surprised. The point is that you will notice any of a thousand changes in a very short period of time. 

How do you do that? How do you notice these changes? 

The AI or computer engineer’s approach to this problem would be to create a list of all the door’s properties and put them in a database, with fields for every attribute a door can 5have and specific entries for your particular door. When you approach the door, the computer would query the entire database, looking at width, color, size, knob position, weight, sound, and so on. While this may sound superficially similar to how I described my brain checking each of its myriad predictions as I glanced around my office, the difference is real and far-reaching. The AI strategy is implausible. First, it is impossible to specify in advance every attribute a door can have. The list is potentially endless. Second, we would need to have similar lists for every object we encounter every second of our lives. Third, nothing we know about brains and neurons suggests that this is how they work. And finally, neurons are just too slow to implement computer-style databases. It would take you twenty minutes instead of two seconds to notice the change as you go through the door.

Check out Jeff Hawkins on Firing Up the Silicon Brain

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Intelligence

Six Thinking Hats

Ever heard the phrases “He is an innovator”, “She is a devil’s advocate”, “He can see things that don’t exist yet”. We all have different strengths in our core thinking styles. What if we understood and learnt different thinking styles?

Six Thinking Hats is a system designed by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six colored hats.

Learn this framework and use it for in all discussions and decisions for work or life. Learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic “thinking hat.” 

What is the big idea?

Image result for six hats thinking
Source: https://www.storyboardthat.com/articles/b/six-thinking-hats-examples
Image result for 6 hats thinking
Source: https://mgrush.com/blog/2017/06/22/debono-six-thinking-hats/

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Research has shown that the brain does not spend much energy on habit based actions. Our capabilities of being frazzled and distracted have increased over time. Information about these habits purposes to impart you with knowledge on how you can become an effective individual at work and generally in life.

What is the big idea?

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin with the End in Mind
  • Put First Things First
  • Think Win-Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw

Read Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Habit#1: Be Proactive

Being proactive entails being responsible for everything that revolves around your life. Individuals who are proactive can see that they can respond to happenings in their lives. Reactive is the opposite of being proactive. Proactive people will understand their responsibilities in their lives and therefore take the appropriate actions on matters. Proactive people will be driven to achieve their goals regardless of the surrounding circumstances. 

Habit#2: Begin with the End in Mind

Begin with the end in mind is based on one’s ability to see with their mind what cannot be seen physically. There are both physical and mental creations in this habit. The same way construction follows a blueprint; the physical creation follows the mental creation. When one does not make efforts to envision whom they aspire to become, they are empowering other people to make decisions that lead default shaping their future. Putting your goals and targets first reaffirm that you are moving your ideas into reality.

Habit#3: Put First Things First

Put first things first means that you have to set your priorities right and in order. It is essential to understand that you do not have to prioritize everything that comes your way. There is no point in over-stretching yourself; this will make you less effective. It is important to realize that you have the power to say no to things that are not priorities. This habit entails management and controlling of your priorities, roles, values, and your objectives. If you set your priorities, you will be able to manage and organize events and time according to the individual preferences you set in the second habit; Begin with the end in mind.

Habit#4: Think Win-Win

Majority of people love to base and measure their self-worth based on competition and comparisons. We think of succeeding based on another person’s failures in that if “you lose I win” and vice versa. There is a better alternative. Think win-win. Solutions and agreements cane be made mutually, making them beneficial and satisfying. An organization or a person who approaches issues with the win-win attitude has three essential character traits which include maturity, integrity and abundance mentality. You also have to be confident and brave to go win-win. 

Habit#5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

In life, communication is a very vital skill. Therefore, are you a good listener? A significant percentage of people will want to get their points across first. This will sometimes lead to ignoring what the other person is saying and therefore you will not understand them. A vast number of people will not listen to understand but to answer. Listen. Understand. Answer. 

Habit#6: Synergize

Two ideas put together are better than one. This habit entails the creation of cooperation. Synergy is also Open-mindedness and teamwork. Can you put together you expertise and life experiences to create synergy with another party? Synergy allows unveiling of good results we would not discover on our own. You will attain new insight when they start to interact with each other honestly. You will know you are in synergy when you start viewing things from a different perspective. Being able to value how people are different will help you see and drive synergy.

Habit#7: Sharpen the Saw  

Enhancement and preservation of your greatest assets mean to sharpen the saw. You have to have a balance in all life areas which include spiritual, mental, social and physical. One needs to eat, exercise and rest enough to be productive. Also, it is of great importance to be social, read more for mental growth and expand your spiritual self through prayer, music, and art. Practicing this habit keeps you rejuvenated as you engage in practices of the other six habits. Your ability to handle challenges and being productive increases tremendously.

Habit#8: Find your Voice and inspire others

Finding your voice tells you to discover work that encourages your talent and motivates passion. Finding your voice indicates that you are no longer on the path of mediocrity but on the right track. You will be able to increase your feeling of contentment by assisting others in helping theirs. Inspiring other too to find their voices by respecting, recognizing and creating meaningful opportunities. 

Check out this great summary of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

On Harvesting Time

What comes to your mind when I say “4 Quadrants”?

Well, if you are a math geek like me, you see something like the image below in your mind’s eye.

What comes to your mind when I say “4 Quadrants of Time Management”?

While you are thinking about it, let me tell you a little about my life.

I am a mom.
I am a wife.
I am a daugther.
I am a teammate.
I am a dog owner.
I am a friend.
I am a reader.
I am a writer.
I am a carpool partner.
The list goes on…

You get the picture here….I wear many hats and juggle too many balls that I can’t drop. I bet it is the same with you and your life.

We ONLY have 24 hours.

Couple of decades ago, I noticed that some people were making more out of their 24 hours than others. So, I started reading books on time management….like a MANIAC.

I know what you are going to ask me – “Ambal, how would you summarize your learnings?”

Buy me coffee and I’ll give you my version of the summary.
But, until that day you and I get together for coffee, here are few of my observations:

Observation #1  Plutonium and diamonds are NOT the most valuable resources on this planet that you and I call home. I don’t give a rat’s a** about any of those precious things or resources that are commonly put in the precious pile. I urge you not to put crappy stuff in the precious pile too.
Do you know what is the most valuable resource that is ready for you to harvest any time and any place? Ready for it? TIME is the MOST valuable resources on this planet.

I wrote part of this post while waiting to get my  latte at Starbucks, another part while waiting to pick up my son. Any place. Any time. You can harvest time. And, notice I wasn’t really waiting while waiting. I didn’t give the power to the barista or even my beloved son to take over my time. I still owned it.

Do you own your time at all times? Think about it.

Observation #2 There is only one chart that you need to know to manage your time. That is the “4 Quadrants of Time”. Read Covey’s Time Management Grid

Source: https://liveurbestlife.wordpress.com/

Observation #3 I believe that success doesn’t happen on one dimension….it is along multiple dimensions.

  • Are you growing spiritually?
  • Are you growing as a person?
  • Are you growing in your career?
  • Are you growing on the family dimension?
  • Are you growing on the adventure dimension?
  • Are you growing on the health dimension?
  • Are your growing other people around you?
  • Are your growing trees and plants that will out live you?

The list goes on…..and it is based on what is important you and what YOU define as success.

The only want to grow along multiple dimensions is to ensure you invest time (the same 24 hours that you and I have.) wisely in each dimension that is important to you.There is no right or wrong answers. You do what is right for you.

It is important to me to bag peaks. I have a running list of mountains that I have climbed and will climb. It is not an easy task and one to fit into my hectic life. But, it is important to me to stand on mountain peaks and observe. It is important to me to go through that struggle (both physical and mental) of climbing. It is important to me to walk through the forests, the lakes, the tall trees and head toward the peak and immerse myself in the sheer beauty of nature. It is important to me to let myself be conquered by nature as I try to conquer a peak that I have set my eyes on for several years. It is important to me, that my children see (and, hopefully, remember long after I am gone) that I found time to do bag peaks….despite being a 5 foot lean and mean looking woman. So, I continue to do it,  all the while trying to make progress on other dimensions too.

What dimensions are most meaningful to you? Think about it.

Observation #4
In my mother tongue Tamil there is a saying (by a lady poet who lived in 13th Century named Avvaiyar)  that goes like this –

கற்றது கைமண் அளவு, கல்லாதது உலகளவு
“Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu”

Her quote has been translated as “What you have learned is a mere handful of sand; What you haven’t learned is the size of the world” and exhibited at NASA. It can also be translated as “Known is a drop, unknown is an Ocean“.

My learnings about time and my inherent gut level appreciation and understanding (thanks to my Eastern roots and upbringing) of how timeless time actually is …..all those learnings are indeed so miniscule. So, I will continue to learn about time and hone time management skills over a lifetime.

I hope you will do the same.

To Time! Cheers,  my friend!

More posts on  Time & Moments:

On Time

On Waiting

Embrace‬ ‪the‬ ‪Metaphysical‬

Look at the Sun Rays

All Kind of Miracles Happen. Don’t they?

Experience Moments, One by One

Warm water of the Atlantic Ocean. Met my feet.

The Mindset to Enjoy the Little Things in Life

I would have bet Bolt hands down!

On What you are seeking and How it is seeking you

Thoughts of a Weary Traveler

On Moments that become Meaningless

Right place at the Right time with the Right person

Nostalgia Reminds us that some Beautiful Moments are Past Us

Moments eventually come to an End

Mad Rush through the Grocery Store Aisles

On Diversity Led Innovation – The Medici Effect

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen states that The Medici Effect is “One of the most insightful books on innovation I have ever read.” Clayton himself is a brilliant author and renowned expert on innovation. I have read many of his books and gotten so much of out it. So, I took Clayton ‘s advise and dug into The Medici Effect.

The Medici Effect” is a term coined by Frans Johansson and used throughout various industries to describe innovation that happens when disciplines and ideas intersect.

What is The Medici Effect?
The Medici Effect is a phenomena of innovation that occurs at the intersection of multiple fields, disciplines and cultures, by combining existing concepts to create extraordinary new ideas.

The name of the book is derived from the Medici Dynasty, an Italian banking family that came to power in the 14th century. The family’s wealth was able to support artists that led to The Renaissance. The book looks at examples of how Renaissance painters, sculptors, poets, philanthropists, scientists, philosophers, financiers, and architects, shaped historical eras of innovation. The Medici family did not intend the Renaissance, but contributed to it with what Johansson coins as the “Medici Effect”.

If you are a curious person like me, you are gonna wanna  know everything there is about the Medicis. So, start here: 7 Things You May Not Know About the Medicis

Check out this great summary: 5 Things Frans Johansson says about innovation

Johansson argues that all new ideas are just combinations of old ideas. In the realm of social innovation, this means that collaboration with people from different backgrounds is the key to success. Read: The Medici Effect’s Frans Johansson On The Intersection Of Innovation And Social Change

“Cultural diversity does not only imply geographically separated cultures. It can also include ethnic, class, professional, or organizational cultures. The mere fact that an individual is different from most people around him promotes more open and divergent, perhaps even rebellious, thinking in that person. Such a person is more prone to question traditions, rules, and boundaries—and to search for answers where others may not think to.”
― Frans Johansson, Medici Effect: What You Can Learn from Elephants and Epidemics

Sources:

http://medicieffect.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Medici_Effect