Ever the optimist, Hawkins considers building intelligent machines eminently doable. Given his track record, maybe he’ll...

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ON INTELLIGENCE

HOW A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF THE BRAIN WILL LEAD TO THE CREATION OF TRULY INTELLIGENT MACHINES

Hawkins, the PalmPilot’s inventor, is keen to build truly intelligent machines based on his ideas of how the brain really works.

The brain is no computer, this guru of handheld devices makes clear. The AI folks have got it wrong, even with their neural networks and feedback devices. The brain is not a super-fast PC computing all the moves so as to beat you at chess. It’s slow, but oh-so-clever. It can fill in the quote when you supply it with a few words, read your crummy handwriting, hum the tune given a couple of notes. All this is possible, Hawkins says, because of the hierarchical structure of the neocortex covering the brain. The cortex is composed of six layers of cells that connect up and down in columns, sideways to cells in other columns, and also connect to other parts of the brain. Incoming signals, say from the eye, send a constantly changing barrage of signals to cells in the visual cortex that, through a succession of relays up and down, get transformed into invariant patterns (a face, for example). Memory, in Hawkins’s theory, is a neocortical function based on extracting invariant features of spatial (or temporal) sequences of patterns and employing a process of “autoassociation” in which pattern one invokes an associated pattern two, etc. Hawkins provides many a homely example to comfort the reader traversing the neuroanatomical details, culminating in what he calls the memory-prediction concept of intelligence, in which we use memory to make analogies that allow us to anticipate what happens next, even to devise creative moves. The strength here lies in the solid work of neuroscientists under-girding Hawkins’s ideas. Its weakness is his failure to consider the influence of the brain’s emotional/motivational circuitry on learning and memory.

Ever the optimist, Hawkins considers building intelligent machines eminently doable. Given his track record, maybe he’ll succeed. If not, the exercise may provide further insight into how the brain really, really works.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-8050-7456-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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