Machine Understanding


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June 18, 2009

On Passions and Machine Understanding

Today I started reading On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins for the third time. The first time I read the book I was impressed. The second time I read the book I believe I understood the more difficult parts. This time I am reading the book with two agendas: commenting on it in-depth, and developing my own ideas, complete with a mathematical framework, for machine understanding.

On page 1 of the prologue Jeff writes:

But I have a second passion that predates my interest in computers, one I view as more important. I am crazy about brains. I want to understand how the brain works, not just from a philosophical perspective, not just in a general way, but in a detailed nuts and bolts engineering way.

I suffer from passion attention deficit disorder (PADD). I am of the same temporal generation as Jeff Hawkins, a child of the space, computer, and nuclear age. I cannot even remember when I first wondered how people can be intelligent and conscious. Such wonder was in the air of the science fictions novels I read as a child. But I have other passions as well. So I have engaged in a variety of pursuits over the decades, only once in a while returning to the contemplation of machine understanding and its related issues of biology, philosophy, and technology.

Hopefully my interest in literature and writing, history, gardening, politics, and art will bring something to this enterprise. If nothing else, I can chronicle the field's development. And I hope to range into any topic that could be helpful in the endeavor, not just neuroscience and computer technology.