cover image A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

Jeff Hawkins. Basic, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5416-7581-0

Hawkins (On Intelligence), inventor of the PalmPilot, explicates his theories of how the brain works in this revelatory survey of human intelligence. He begins with the cell, explaining that individual cells work together in the brain to create intelligence (which, Hawkins writes, spans from “basic sensory functions to the highest forms of intellectual ability”) before moving on to a consideration of how the brain’s neocortex works. Hawkins’s central idea, the thousand brains theory, is that “the entire world is learned: as a complex hierarchy of objects located relative to other objects.” Extending beyond human intellect, Hawkins discusses artificial intelligence, which he writes falls short of human intelligence because of the narrow limits constraining the operations of even the smartest machines. In his most daring section, he argues that serious consideration should be given to using intelligent machines to preserve human knowledge, which would enable information to persist and be distributed throughout the galaxy, long after the death of the last human. The complex concepts are presented as simply as possible, but they aren’t dumbed down and demand focus. Readers who persist will find Hawkins’s study is full of thought-provoking arguments. (Mar.)