Book notice: Ray Kurzweil’s How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

I had always dismissed Kurzweil’s theories about “strong” artificial intelligence to be wishful thinking but this book changed my mind. I’m not quite as optimistic about scaling things up to human adult levels within the next couple decades, but reading this book gave me new found respect for his ideas and the evidence and theories he uses to back them up. I had no idea how powerful “hidden Markov models” are for solving problems, and Kurzweil makes a good argument that neocortical pattern recognition (essentially a form of probabilistic prediction making) is computationally approximate enough to these hidden Markov models that, if you put 300 billion such pattern recognizers together, used genetic algorithms for pruning, and gave it the entire internet to “grow up” in, then you could create a reasonable approximation of the intelligence worth wanting: categorizing pattern recognizing problem solvers with huge memories and lightning speed. Also, when Kurzweil delved into heady philosophical territory he held himself fairly well and exposed many of the fallacious and sadly misinformed criticisms of his views, many I once held myself due to lack of familiarity with what his views actually amount to, which are more modest than his vocal popularizers would have you believe. Granted, this is the only book of his I have read, so I can’t pretend to stand behind all his ideas, but the AI stuff in this book seemed solid to me. His view of an “intelligent mind” is really a modified form of Jeff Hawkin’s thoery of neocortical intelligence as a giant massively redudundant, hierarchical, recursive, and self-learning memory-prediction machine.4/5 stars.


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Filed under Books, Consciousness

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