Top critical review
Basically Interesting, Incoherent Intelligence, maybe demented ... what the heck is this book?
Reviewed in the United States on March 13, 2021
This subject is so interesting to me that I bought Jeff Hawkins' first book, and now I find I've sprung for his second book.
The first part of it is interesting. A rather long read, but interesting and entertaining; logical, but not really much progress in figuring out how the brain works since the first book, "On Intelligence". This book just has the feel of a scam to prey on people who want to know more about the brain, intelligence. Hawkins gives us I guess the parts he thinks he wants to tell regular people about, since these concepts if they are real are worth lots of money, so it's like we get a small smattering of a few definitions ... not a lot of meat. ( my apologies to vegans )
The problem is the whole book taken together, after the Thousand Brains part, is semi-incoherent in direction or purpose.
First he talks about the brain, and the neocortical columns ... not very much there but a dictionary-like definition. Then he says that there are 150,000 of them and that is where the Thousand Brains theory comes into play, which is really a clever branding, not so much a theory, at least one developed very far here.
Then Hawkins jumps into talking about how today's AI has problems, which we all know. But he goes on then to pat himself on the back for Palm, which I am sure made tons of money but to me anyway was a rotten product as ahead of its time as to be almost useless, but popular and useful for some people and marketed well. Then he talks about how his Palm IP and device-centric theories, that he seems to want to associate himself with the iPhone and like devices, which he did not really make. Maybe there are some Palm pieces in the iPhone, or Palm lawsuits, I don't know? But because he was a visionary, he then goes on to imply that he is right again about some new kind of AI that he cannot even describe, except that it is better than neural nets. Neural nets which cannot learn. I agree with a lot of his assessments that AI is not all it is cracked up to be. Some good points about humans not really being intelligent ... since we are too stupid to do anything about the fact that we know we are killing ourselves. What is intelligence? He fails to ask or answer that question.
I don't know if I want my car to be learning, or conscious, or anything else, acting independently or perhaps making a mistake - as is the primary way humans seem to learn. I don't like it, I don't want it, I don't need it. I don't much like the AI stuff we have today, or at least the way it is used against us, but I sure as hell do not want something with a brain inside the devices I use. But Hawkins does not speculate much or sensibly on that, which could be interesting and I am sure he has some ideas about.
Instead he goes on to talk about the fate of humanity in infinite time, preserving intelligence by space devices - like shades that send Morse code to other astronomical civilization that might be looking at the stars in their skies. This is so off the wall and outside the subject matter it really had me questioning Hawkin's sanity or mental integrity. These ideas and speculations were not even very good in that they are common ideas as far back as the first Cosmos series or before. Filler in an already thin on real facts book.
I can't say I really regret getting the book, but that doesn't mean I have to think it is great, or be uncritical. Aside from about 1/10th of the book most of it was useless and a waste of time. Sorry if that is harsh - but you took my money for this.
3/10 or 1/5 if I have to.