Excerpt from On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee (published by Times Books in 2004). Jeff Hawkins, who created the PalmPilot, the Treo smart phone, and other handheld devices, has reshaped our relationship to computers. Now he stands ready to revolutionise both neuroscience and computing in one stroke, with a new understanding of intelligence itself.
On Intelligence 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. Previous attempts at replicating human intelligence – through artificial intelligence and neural networks – have not succeeded. Their mistake, Hawkins argues, was in trying to emulate human behaviour without first understanding what intelligence is.
The brain is not a computer, supplying by rote an output for each input it receives. Instead, it is a memory system that stores experiences in a way that reflects the true structure of the world, remembering sequences of events and their nested relationships and making predictions based on those memories. It is this memory-prediction system that forms the basis of intelligence, perception, creativity, and even consciousness. Intelligence is the capacity of the brain to predict the future by analogy to the past.
In an engaging style that will captivate audiences from the merely curious to the professional scientist, Hawkins shows how a clear understanding of how the brain works will make it possible for us to build intelligent machines, in silicon, that will exceed our human ability in surprising ways.
Written with acclaimed science writer Sandra Blakeslee, On Intelligence promises to completely transfigure the possibilities of the technology age. It is a groundbreaking book in neuroscience, psychology, and the quest to build intelligent machines.
Chapter 8: The Future of Intelligence
It’s hard to predict the ultimate uses of a new technology. As we’ve seen throughout this book, brains make predictions by analogy to the past. So our natural inclination is to imagine that a new technology will be used to do the same kinds of things as a previous technology. We imagine using a new tool to do something familiar, only faster, more efficiently, or more cheaply.
Examples are abundant. People called the railroad the “iron horse” and the automobile the “horseless carriage.” For decades the telephone was viewed in the context of the telegraph, something that should be used only to communicate important news or emergencies; it wasn’t until the 1920s that people started using it casually. Photography was at first used as a new form of portraiture. And motion pictures were conceptualized as a variation on stage plays, which is why movie theaters had retracting curtains over the screens for much of the twentieth century.
Read the rest here.