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VWN Product Reviews: On Intelligence

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On Intelligence is something of a detractor?s book of AI. In it, author Jeff Hawkins, the high-tech success story behind PalmPilots and the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, does a lot of thinking about thinking.

He juxtaposes computers and brains to examine what he perceives as the possible futures for artificial intelligences, and makes the claim that all AI experts have got it very, very wrong. Hawkins explains in his view, why computers are not getting smarter, and why, again in his view, no artificial mind can ever be as smart as a human, especially if we continue using current computing paradigms.

Hawkins does a good job of outlining current brain research for a general audience, and approaches AI from an examination of the human brain. Whilst his conclusions may be disagreeable, his analysis of the brain, does have vital insights for AI, and if anything, his claims call out to be disproved, quite clearly.

He "pops the hood" of the neocortex and carefully articulates a theory of consciousness and intelligence that offers radical options for future researchers. "[T]he ability to make predictions about the future... is the crux of intelligence," he argues.

Hawkins presents his ideas, with help from New York Times science writer Blakeslee, in chatty, easy-to-grasp language that still respects the brain's technical complexity. He 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.

 

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