Two days ago I made the FYI post "Brain boss (prefrontal cortext) acts in step-wsie manner?" Shortly thereafter, someone posted a "comment" suggesting a link between the sequential step-wise hypothesized functioning of the prefrontal cortex and Hawkin's (2005) Hierarchical Temporal Memory (HTM) computational theory of intellectual functioning (as outlined in his book "On Intelligence"). I had never heard of this book or theory.
What I find intriguing is the fact that Hawkins is no minor player on the modern technology stage. He is well known for a number of activities--namely, he has founded founded three companies: Palm Computing (who has not heard of Palm Pilots?), Handspring, and Numenta, and the non-profit Redwood Neuroscience Institute, a scientific research institute focused on understanding how the human neocortex works.
The typical reader of IQs Corner may be wondering why someone with his background is now dabbling in understanding human intelligence. I wondered this myself. The answer lies in the Prologue to On Intelligence. A portion is reproduced below.
Maybe some readers of IQs Corner will explore this area in greater detail
- You may be wondering why a computer designer is writing a book about brains. Or put another way, if I love brains why didn't I make a career in brain science or in artificial intelligence? The answer is I tried to, several times, but I refused to study the problem of intelligence as others have before me. I believe the best way to solve this problem is to use the detailed biology of the brain as a constraint and as a guide, yet think about intelligence as a computational problem—a position somewhere between biology and computer science. Many biologists tend to reject or ignore the idea of thinking of the brain in computational terms, and computer scientists often don't believe they have anything to learn from biology. Also, the world of science is less accepting of risk than the world of business. In technology businesses, a person who pursues a new idea with a reasoned approach can enhance his or her career regardless of whether that particular idea turns out to be successful. Many successful entrepreneurs achieved success only after earlier failures. But in academia, a couple of years spent pursuing a new idea that does not work out can permanently ruin a young career. So I pursued the two passions in my life simultaneously, believing that success in industry would help me achieve success in understanding the brain. I needed the financial resources to pursue the science I wanted, and I needed to learn how to affect change in the world, how to sell new ideas, all of which I hoped to get from working in Silicon Valley.
- In August 2002 I started a research center, the Redwood Neuroscience Institute (RNI), dedicated to brain theory. There are many neuroscience centers in the world, but no others are dedicated to finding an overall theoretical understanding of the neocortex—the part of the human brain responsible for intelligence. That is all we study at RNI. In many ways, RNI is like a start-up company. We are pursuing a dream that some people think is unattainable, but we are lucky to have a great group of people, and our efforts are starting to bear fruit.
- The agenda for this book is ambitious. It describes a comprehensive theory of how the brain works. It describes what intelligence is and how your brain creates it
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