On Intelligence (21 Apr 2005)

Review: On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins

I finished this book with a sense of dissatisfaction. The author makes some fairly grandiose claims about advancing the state of AI and normally that would be the sign of a moonbat. However, I was impressed with what little I saw of his talk at Google last year.

Sadly this book is very dilute. There is some good stuff in there but I think that his co-author (almost certainly forced on him by the publisher) had been told to water it down for a more lay audience. About half the paragraphs in the book need removing.

There's something worthwhile in there. What I take away from this book is a resuscitated hope that there is a general algorithm for the brain. So many AI papers have claimed that their algorithm was the magic fairy dust that myself, and others, had mostly given up on the whole venture - conceding that the brain was inelegant.

But given the scant neurological evidence presented in the book what would have really sold me is a good computer implementation. He makes grand claims about the possibility of one without ever trying it out. There is something along those lines here, but nothing seems to be moving very fast.

Maybe the ideas here will shape a future AI revolution, but the author isn't fanning the flames with this book.