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A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence Summary

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence from A bestselling author, neuroscientist, and computer engineer unveils a theory of intelligence that will revolutionize our understanding of the brain and the future of AI.

For all of the neuroscience's advances, we've made little progress on its biggest question: How do simple cells in the brain create intelligence?

Jeff Hawkins and his team discovered that the brain uses maplike structures to build a model of the world not just one model, but hundreds of thousands of models of everything we know. This discovery allows Hawkins to answer important questions about how we perceive the world, why we have a sense of self, and the origin of high-level thought.

A Thousand Brains heralds a revolution in the understanding of intelligence. It is a big-think book, in every sense of the word.

About the Author

Jeff Hawkins is the cofounder of Numenta, a neuroscience research company; founder of the Redwood Neuroscience Institute; and one of the founders of the field of handheld computing. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and author of On Intelligence.

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A New Understanding of the Brain

The cells in your head are reading these words. Think of how remarkable that is. Cells are simple. A single cell can’t read, or think, or do much of anything. Yet, if we put enough cells together to make a brain, they not only read books, they write them. They design buildings, invent technologies and decipher the mysteries of the universe. How a brain made of simple cells creates intelligence is a profoundly interesting question, and it remains a mystery.

Understanding how the brain works are considered one of humanity’s grand challenges. The quest has spawned dozens of national and international initiatives, such as Europe’s Human Brain Project and the International Brain Initiative. Tens of thousands of neuroscientists work in dozens of specialties, in practically every country in the world, trying to understand the brain. Although neuroscientists study the brains of different animals and ask varied questions, the ultimate goal of neuroscience is to learn how the human brain gives rise to human intelligence.

You might be surprised by my claim that the human brain remains a mystery. Every year, new brain-related discoveries are announced, new brain books are published, and researchers in related fields such as artificial intelligence claim their creations are approaching the intelligence of, say, a mouse or a cat. It would be easy to conclude from this that scientists have a pretty good idea of how the brain works. But if you ask neuroscientists, almost all of them would admit that we are still in the dark. We have learned a tremendous amount of knowledge and facts about the brain, but we have little understanding of how the whole thing works.

In 1979, Francis Crick, famous for his work on DNA, wrote an essay about the state of brain science, titled “Thinking About the Brain.” He described the large quantity of facts that scientists had collected about the brain, yet, he concluded, “in spite of the steady accumulation of detailed knowledge, how the human brain works is still profoundly mysterious.” He went on to say, “What is conspicuously lacking is a broad framework of ideas in which to interpret these results.”

Crick observed that scientists had been collecting data on the brain for decades. They knew a great many facts. But no one had figured out how to assemble those facts into something meaningful. The brain was like a giant jigsaw puzzle with thousands of pieces. The puzzle pieces were sitting in front of us, but we could not make sense of them. No one knew what the solution was supposed to look like. According to Crick, the brain was a mystery not because we hadn’t collected enough data, but because we didn’t know how to arrange the pieces we already had.

In the forty years since Crick wrote his essay, there have been many significant discoveries about the brain, several of which I will talk about later, but overall his observation is still true. How intelligence arises from cells in your head is still a profound mystery. As more puzzle pieces are collected each year, it sometimes feels as if we are getting further from understanding the brain, not closer.

I read Crick’s essay when I was young, and it inspired me. I felt that we could solve the mystery of the brain in my lifetime, and I have pursued that goal ever since. For the past fifteen years, I have led a research team in Silicon Valley that studies a part of the brain called the neocortex.

The neocortex occupies about 70 percent of the volume of a human brain and it is responsible for everything we associate with intelligence, from our senses of vision, touch, and hearing, to language in all its forms, to abstract thinking such as mathematics and philosophy. The goal of our research is to understand how the neocortex works in sufficient detail that we can explain the biology of the brain and build intelligent machines that work on the same principles.

In early 2016 the progress of our research changed dramatically. We had a breakthrough in our understanding. We realized that we and other scientists had missed a key ingredient. With this new insight, we saw how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. In other words, I believe we discovered the framework that Crick wrote about, a framework that not only explains the basics of how the neocortex works but also gives rise to a new way to think about intelligence. We do not yet have a complete theory of the brain—far from it. Scientific fields typically start with a theoretical framework and only later do the details get worked out.

Perhaps the most famous example is Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin proposed a bold new way of thinking about the origin of species, but the details, such as how genes and DNA work, would not be known until many years later.

To be intelligent, the brain has to learn a great many things about the world. I am not just referring to what we learn in school, but to basic things, such as what everyday objects look, sound, and feel like. We have to learn how objects behave, from how doors open and close to what the apps on our smartphones do when we touch the screen. We need to learn where everything is located in the world, from where you keep your personal possessions in your home to where the library and post office are in your town.

And of course, we learn higher-level concepts, such as the meaning of “compassion” and “government.” On top of all this, each of us learns the meaning of tens of thousands of words. Every one of us possesses a tremendous amount of knowledge about the world. Some of our basic skills are determined by our genes, such as how to eat or how to recoil from pain. But most of what we know about the world is learned.

Scientists say that the brain learns a model of the world. The word “model” implies that what we know is not just stored as a pile of facts but is organized in a way that reflects the structure of the world and everything it contains. For example, to know what a bicycle is, we don’t remember a list of facts about bicycles. Instead, our brain creates a model of bicycles that includes the different parts, how the parts are arranged relative to each other, and how the different parts move and work together.

To recognize something, we need to first learn what it looks and feels like, and to achieve goals we need to learn how things in the world typically behave when we interact with them. Intelligence is intimately tied to the brain’s model of the world; therefore, to understand how the brain creates intelligence, we have to figure out how the brain, made of simple cells, learns a model of the world and everything in it.

Our 2016 discovery explains how the brain learns this model. We deduced that the neocortex stores everything we know, all our knowledge, using something called reference frames. I will explain this more fully later, but for now, consider a paper map as an analogy. A map is a type of model: a map of a town is a model of the town, and the grid lines, such as lines of latitude and longitude, are a type of reference frame. A map’s gridlines, its reference frame, provide the structure of the map.

A reference frame tells you where things are located relative to each other, and it can tell you how to achieve goals, such as how to get from one location to another. We realized that the brain’s model of the world is built using maplike reference frames. Not one reference frame, but hundreds of thousands of them. Indeed, we now understand that most of the cells in your neocortex are dedicated to creating and manipulating reference frames, which the brain uses to plan and think.

With this new insight, answers to some of neuroscience’s biggest questions started to come into view. Questions such as, How do our varied sensory inputs get united into a singular experience? What is happening when we think? How can two people reach different beliefs from the same observations? And why do we have a sense of self?

This book tells the story of these discoveries and the implications they have for our future. Most of the material has been published in scientific journals. I provide links to these papers at the end of the book. However, scientific papers are not well suited for explaining large-scale theories, especially in a way that a non-specialist can understand.

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1541675819, 978-1541675810
Posted onMarch 2, 2021
Page Count288 pages
AuthorJeff Hawkins

A Thousand Brains PDF Book Free Download - HUB PDF

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence from A bestselling author, neuroscientist, and computer engineer unveils a theory of intelligence that will revolutionize our understanding of the brain and the future of AI.

URL: https://amzn.to/3oYnPes

Author: Jeff Hawkins

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