Jeff Hawkins - Neuroscience


After graduating from Cornell in June 1979, he read a special issue of Scientific American on the brain in which Francis Crick lamented the lack of a grand theory explaining how the brain functions. Initially, Hawkins attempted to start a new department on the subject at his employer Intel, but was refused. He also unsuccessfully attempted to join the MIT AI Lab. He eventually decided he would try to find success in the computer industry and then try to use it to support his serious work on brains, as described in his book On Intelligence.

In 2002, after two decades of finding little interest from neuroscience institutions, Hawkins founded the Redwood Neuroscience Institute in Menlo Park, California. As a result of the formation of Hawkins' new company, Numenta, the Institute was moved to the University of California, Berkeley on 1 July 2005, renamed the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, and is now administered through the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

In 2004, Hawkins published On Intelligence (with New York Times science writer Sandra Blakeslee), laying out his "memory-prediction framework" of how the brain works. His unified theory of the brain argues that the key to the brain and intelligence is the ability to make predictions about the world by seeing patterns. (cf. Franz Brentano's theory of intentionality, published in 1874) He argues that attempts to create an artificial intelligence by simply programming a computer to do what a brain does are flawed and that to actually make an intelligent computer, we simply need to teach it to find and use patterns, not to attempt any specific tasks. Through this method, he thinks we can build intelligent machines, helping us do all sorts of useful tasks that current computers cannot achieve. He further argues that this memory-prediction system as implemented by the brain's cortex is the basis of human intelligence.

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