#BookReview: A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins

Amazing Discussion Marred By Myopia In Its Final Act. This book, by the guy that created the Palm Pilot (who has since turned to study neuroscience, which he had wanted to do from the beginning apparently), describes the intriguing new theory of how the brain works that he and his team have crafted very well. Hawkins does a truly excellent job of making the advanced theoretical neuroscience he works with approachable by all, from those who have barely ever heard of the word “neuroscience” to his colleagues and competitors in the field. In discussing the neuroscience leading up to the “thousand brain” concept and in discussing how the “thousand brain” idea directly impacts computing and artificial intelligence, Hawkins is truly amazing. The perils come in the third act, when Hawkins begins to apply the theory and what he believes it could mean directly to humans. Here, he begins to sound both Transhumanist and Randian in his claims of absolute certitude that certain beliefs are false – even while actively ignoring that by the very things he is claiming, there is so much that we simply cannot know – and therefore, logically, there can be no true certitude on these claims. While it was tempting to drop the overall work another star specifically for how bad this particular section is, ultimately the sections of the book leading up to that point are so strong that I simply can’t go quite that far. So read this book through Parts I and II, just be aware up front that Part III is the weakest section of the book and could easily be skipped entirely. Recommended.

This review of A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins was originally written on October 17, 2020.