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