A Thousand Brains Book Summary - A Thousand Brains Book explained in key points
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A Thousand Brains summary

Jeff Hawkins

A New Theory of Intelligence

4.6 (127 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

"A Thousand Brains" by Jeff Hawkins is a groundbreaking book that overturns conventional theories about how the brain works. It introduces a new theory of intelligence based on the latest neuroscience research that provides a compelling explanation for how the brain learns, and how we can use this knowledge to build intelligent machines.

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    A Thousand Brains
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    Mysteries of the neocortex

    Let’s begin by visualizing the structure of the brain.

    First, imagine making a pot of spaghetti. Now picture cutting each piece of spaghetti into lengths a tenth of an inch long (that’s 2.5 mm), and holding one of these little guys upright, like a tiny Roman column. Now virtually stick these miniature spaghetti pillars side by side until you make a sheet of 150,000 pieces – about the size of a dinner cloth. With us so far?

    So, now imagine that every single thing you know or could know about the world – everything you’ve ever thought, seen, heard, or imagined in your entire life – is inside that sheet.

    This symbolizes your neocortex, and it’s a wrinkly, folded piece of brain matter which takes up about 70 percent of the space inside your skull. It’s called neocortex because it’s believed to have evolved relatively recently. It wraps around brain regions that are older, like the limbic system – the so-called reptile brain. 

    The little spaghetti pieces are what Hawkins calls cortical columns. These columns aren’t visible to the naked eye – the cortex just looks like one big, crinkly sheet – but they’re there if you look under a microscope. They’re patterns of how neurons connect: tiny column-like structures of neural wiring. 

    The neocortex lets you see, hear, touch, talk, and think. It lets you learn languages, do math, paint watercolors, and ponder philosophy. But here's the puzzle: despite governing all these totally different functions, your neocortex looks pretty much the same everywhere. Strange, right?

    And not only that, but it closely resembles the neocortex of other mammals – animals who can’t speak languages, solve Rubik’s Cubes, and learn quantum physics. 

    So how is this possible? How can this one type of brain tissue, this one repeating structure that is the cortical column, do so many different things? 

    That’s the question we’re going to answer. 

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    What is A Thousand Brains about?

    A Thousand Brains (2021) explores the fundamental nature of intelligence. It poses the theory that the brain is a collection of thousands of mini-brains, each generating and refining their own predictions. It also delves into the implications of this theory for artificial intelligence and our understanding of consciousness.

    A Thousand Brains Review

    A Thousand Brains (2021) by Jeff Hawkins offers a groundbreaking exploration of how the brain truly works and its implications for our understanding of intelligence. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • By presenting a new model of intelligence, Hawkins challenges conventional theories and provides a fresh perspective on the inner workings of our minds.
    • The book combines rigorous scientific research with compelling anecdotes, making complex concepts accessible and engaging for all readers.
    • Through his clear and logical explanations, Hawkins effortlessly dismantles old assumptions and leaves readers with a profound understanding of the future of AI and human cognition.

    Who should read A Thousand Brains?

    • Fans of neuroscience who are interested in the latest research
    • Anyone curious about how humans think and learn
    • Those ready for an in-depth guide to one of life’s great mysteries

    About the Author

    Jeff Hawkins is a neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and computing pioneer. He cofounded Palm Computing and Handspring, where he invented the PalmPilot and the Treo smartphone. He now runs Numenta, a company and research lab which studies how the brain works, and is coauthor of the book On Intelligence

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    A Thousand Brains FAQs 

    What is the main message of A Thousand Brains?

    The main message of A Thousand Brains is that the brain is not a single hierarchical structure, but a network of interacting regions.

    How long does it take to read A Thousand Brains?

    The reading time for A Thousand Brains varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is A Thousand Brains a good book? Is it worth reading?

    A Thousand Brains is a fascinating book that provides valuable insights into the functioning of the brain. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of A Thousand Brains?

    The author of A Thousand Brains is Jeff Hawkins.

    What to read after A Thousand Brains?

    If you're wondering what to read next after A Thousand Brains, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
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