7th November 2005 - On Intelligence

Reading "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee was a very inspiring experience. It was a very good neuroscientific update on where science is today in understanding the workings of the human neocortex. Furthermore, it was an introduction to a progressive new way of designing intelligent machines, in particular computers with intelligent characteristics.

Essentially, Hawkins seeks to use a revised approach to designing intelligent machines based on theory and the latest understanding of the neocortex, in which model-based prediction and feedback gets a more central and critical role as opposed to traditional artificial intelligence such as neural networks.

His main argument is that no matter the computer processing and storage capacity we put behind one of the old-school artificial intelligence applications, it will never become truly intelligent as the human brain. According to Hawkins, the only way to reach this level of intelligence is to change the old design to a hierarchical and model-based design which means shorter processing in sequence but more processing in parallel. This seems to make sense since the human brain has much slower transactions than a supercomputer today, yet the supercomputer is still not able to behave truly intelligent. Learning from the human brain, we should focus more on the interconnections between the neurons, the synapses, rather than their individual processing capacity as well as the hierarchical structure of neurons sending information up through the six layers of the neocortex and feedback down again from the upper layers and the thalamus.

Hawkins propose a framework in which modeling based on timelines is stored in memory, and over time this memory is used for predicting and acting on experiences, while at the same time it is compared to the reality in terms of sensory input and fed back to refine the action taken and in time the model in memory. Building machines around this framework will create superior and perhaps truly intelligent machines compared to the computerized neural networks we know today.

In my opinion, Hawkins did a remarkable piece of mindwork in this book. It was truly an inspiration and an eye opener on the value of feedback. Furthermore, I believe that this book will give computer intelligence enthusiasts around the world new energy and be able to carry this field into this millennium with the same glory as artificial intelligence received in the 1980s. I do believe that working with machine intelligence is one of the most exciting quests within the IT industry, and I think it will be able to give us many revolutionary applications in the future. In particular we might find some of these ideas applied to decision making (OODA Cycles) for the benefit of CALM leaders and managers...

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Updated 2005-11-08

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The official homepage of Morten Middelfart and CALM. Computer Aided Leadership and Management (CALM) is an inspirational speculation on where mankind may be heading in the quest to leverage computer potentials for helping individuals and organizations to self-actualize their symbiotic potentials.

The time frame for this well-informed and provocative speculation on relatively near-term and more distant potentials is clearly within mankind's grasp. Dr. Middelfart argues persuasively that within the next one or two decades, symbiotic links with "intelligent machines" will surely leverage people's potentials, far beyond all human progress to date!

Altogether, a tour de force of well-informed contemporary insights and maturely reasoned speculation; affording possible stepping stones and a creative springboard for what may lie ahead. As has been said: "Man's reach should exceed his grasp; else what's a heaven for?


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