Tuesday, April 10, 2007
  On Intelligence
I just finished On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee. While I enjoyed it a lot, I don't have a great deal to say about it right now. My thoughts will have to work themselves out slowly.
The central tenet of the book is that "prediction" can be said to occur on basically all neurological levels and that it's the basis of understanding. To build mental models of parts of the world, what we need is to be able to predict how they will behave in our experience. I agree and I feel that this is a pretty good place to locate an intersection between evolutionary theory and pragmatism. More thoughts on this subject will have to wait for another time.

I'd recommend the book for light reading. It could easily be read in a day. I took several days to finish it because I got stuck on a section in the "How The Cortex Works" chapter. This part involves a hierarchy of cortical columns ("higher" and "lower" regions), each of which is made up of a confusingly connected series of layers (which are also referred to with the "higher" and "lower" terminology). I didn't like the diagrams in the book, so I drew my own diagram of the structure of a cortical column, which after an iteration or two ended up looking something like the following:It's missing a few details, but imagine trying to get a mental picture of that from a description and you can see why this section threw me for a loop.
Later I'll write about another thing that threw me off, but I have to meditate on it for a while first.

Things I liked:
Things I didn't:
P.S. Invariably the "Things I didn't" list is longer than the "Things I liked" list, even though I definitely liked this book as a whole. I try to remain very critical and often the reasons to remain critical of a book are easier to describe than the impact it had on my thought processes as a whole. This is particularly evident in this post.

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