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Why Everything Is Everything: Jeff Hawkins On Intelligence (With Apologies to Lauryn Hill)

Way back in 2005, computer scientist Jeff Hawkins produced…I’m not so hot with the adjectives but I’m just going to call it an unbelievably awesome book called “On Intelligence”. Although I only discovered it many years after it was published, it was and is way ahead of its time, and most researchers — including the great Ray Kurzweil, who’s usually the one out in front leading the pack — are only just beginning to catch up to its ideas. It really deserves its own course to plumb its depths with you. But today, we’re just going to cover the big ideas.

So, like, remember how earlier we talked about how language is a martial art (among other metaphors)? And how chess is a language because the neurocognitive architecture — the organic hardware and software — that creates and manipulates them is the same?

Well, this book is the source, spring and well-argued proof (? — not sure if that’s the right word…not too hot with the nouns either, innit) of that idea.

Jeff Hawkins wants to explain what “intelligence” actually is so we can use it to create more powerful artificial intelligences. As it turns out, his insights help us learn how to use our natural, organic intelligence as well.

Here’s the basic idea.

  1. All memories are just (stimulus) patterns in the neocortex
  2. All skill is memory boosted by automaticity and myelination. That’s why:
  3. Learning one skill unlocks the “secret” to learning other skills

Or, to paraphrase John Medina of “Brain Rules”: if you want to become skilled, memorize. If you want to memorize, repeat.

If what I’ve just told you doesn’t sound amazing, that’s my fault, not Jeff’s. The scales will fall from your eyes when you get into his explanation of how everything is just a pattern. He also talks a lot about how memory/intelligence isn’t for “thinking” as much as it is for making predictions. Again, when we finally unpack this, it’ll blow your mind. I hate how I seem to make wonderful books sound bland lol.

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