kitchen table math, the sequel: Jeff Hawkins: memory is intelligence, intelligence is memory

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jeff Hawkins: memory is intelligence, intelligence is memory

I've just read the transcript of Hawkins' talk, which is posted along with the video.

Maybe this is overstating matters, but on a quick read-through of the transcript my impression is that pretty much everything Hawkins says it as odds with pretty much everything constructivist educators believe:

Intelligence is not behavior.

Intelligence is not computation.

Intelligence is memory.

Memory is memory of sequence.

The point of memory is to predict what comes next.
"[T]he neocortex is just memorizing."
"You cannot learn or recall anything outside of a sequence."
"[I]ntelligence is defined by prediction."
"[P]rediction of future inputs is the desired output."
The education establishment has for many years denigrated both memory and sequence in favor of critical thinking, problem solving, spiraling and history taught as themes instead of narratives.

Meanwhile actual experts persist in knowing stuff and in organizing the stuff they know in coherent sequences.

On the other hand, constructivists have picked up on the idea of 'pattern' and 'prediction' in a way instructivists arguably have not....but the injunction that students must 'look for a pattern' (math) and 'make predictions' (reading) seems often to be a means of avoiding sequence (math) and the kind of ordinary nouns-come-after-prepositions-type prediction Hawkins is talking about.

I don't know whether Hawkins is right, of course. Reading the transcript, I wanted to hear him talk about cognitive illusions and the invisible gorilla. (I don't remember whether he discusses illusions in his book with Sandra Blakeslee.)

From the transcript :
So what is the intuitive, but incorrect assumption, that's kept us from understanding brains? Now I'm going to tell it to you, and it's going to seem obvious that that is correct, and that's the point, right? Then I'm going to have to make an argument why you're incorrect about the other assumption. The intuitive but obvious thing is that somehow intelligence is defined by behavior, that we are intelligent because of the way that we do things and the way we behave intelligently, and I'm going to tell you that's wrong. What it is is intelligence is defined by prediction.


The AI people said, well, the thing in the box is a programmable computer because that's equivalent to a brain, and we'll feed it some inputs and we'll get it to do something, have some behavior. And Alan Turing defined the Turing test, which is essentially saying, we'll know if something's intelligent if it behaves identical to a human. A behavioral metric of what intelligence is, and this has stuck in our minds for a long period of time.

Reality though, I call it real intelligence. Real intelligence is built on something else. We experience the world through a sequence of patterns, and we store them, and we recall them. And when we recall them, we match them up against reality, and we're making predictions all the time. It's an eternal metric.


You're all being intelligent right now, but you're not doing anything. Maybe you're scratching yourself, or picking your nose, I don't know, but you're not doing anything right now, but you're being intelligent; you're understanding what I'm saying. Because you're intelligent and you speak English, you know what word is at the end of this -- (Silence) sentence.


You still have that alligator brain. You do. It's your emotional brain. It's all those things, and all those gut reactions you have. And on top of it, we have this memory system called the neocortex. And the memory system is sitting over the sensory part of the brain. And so as the sensory input comes in and feeds from the old brain, it also goes up into the neocortex. And the neocortex is just memorizing. It's sitting there saying, ah, I'm going to memorize all the things that are going on: where I've been, people I've seen, things I've heard, and so on. And in the future, when it sees something similar to that again, so in a similar environment, or the exact same environment, it'll play it back. It'll start playing it back. Oh, I've been here before. And when you've been here before, this happened next. It allows you to predict the future. It allows you to, literally it feeds back the signals into your brain; they'll let you see what's going to happen next, will let you hear the word "sentence" before I said it. And it's this feeding back into the old brain that'll allow you to make very more intelligent decisions.


So what is the recipe for brain theory? First of all, we have to have the right framework. And the framework is a memory framework, not a computation or behavior framework. It's a memory framework. How do you store and recall these sequences or patterns?


Ben Calvin said...

Interesting. I wonder if this is a description of physical, neurological fact or an analogy of what happens in the brain.

Catherine Johnson said...

Well....I think he's studying the real brain, as it functions biologically.

What he's saying fits with pretty much all the reading I've done about the actual brain ----

Catherine Johnson said...

"the neocortex is just memorizing' -- that kills me!

I've got to find time to go back to his book and see how he connects 'just memorizing' with behavior ----

Catherine Johnson said...

Meantime, check this out: The Two-Second Advantage

just stumbled across it ...