Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Go build memories" - Jeff Hawkins

The more they innovate, more they are challenged. Chip designers received an interesting challenge this month from Jeff Hawkins, the famous founder of Palm and Handspring and an expert on the human brain: If they really want to design something intelligent, they shouldn't be doing processors. They should be making memories.

At the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, Hawkins addressed the question of "Why can't a computer be more like a brain?" He has been preoccupied with that question for decades and recently has been working on the answers for his new start-up, Numenta. Broader story here.

Hawkins said computers today are fast at solving calculations but terrible at doing things that children can do, like understanding simple stories or recognizing the difference between a cat and a dog. That's because computers are designed with Von Neumann architecture, with a processor connected to memory. The brain, by contrast, has a very different design. It is a "hierarchical memory system." At the lowest level, the brain's neural connections store memories such as the shape of an object. At the next level up, the pattern associated with a human form is stored. And at the highest level, the brain recognizes the person as Bill Clinton.

The brain operates on the same formula, or algorithm, in every region, according to Hawkins. It doesn't have one algorithm for processing vision or a different one for processing sound. Each part of the brain is also self-training. You are born with nothing and learn. Each part of the brain learns based on what information is passing through it.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home