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Science

A Thousand Brains

I’m about half way through reading Jeff Hawkins’ book “A Thousand Brains” which has been taking me quite some time, not because it is overly complicated or inaccessible, but because I tend to have so little spare time these days. It’s an interesting read with the key takeaway (so far) being that our mental world and knowledge, in as much as they are anchored in neurocortical facts, are organised in reference frames.

I’m not entirely certain that the theory is as revolutionary as is asserted as some of this seems quite unsurprising. That said, the notion that there is an unidentified common function or algorithmic process underlying all mental and neurocortical activity is quite compelling. Again, not surprising but certainly leading us all in the right direction here, I think.

Another interesting revelation is that our brains possess approximately 150,000 narrow cortical columns that radiate like porcupine spikes and that constitute the functional atoms of the reference frames. Although not necessarily definitive and certainly no more final than any theory of brain function could ever be, it feels qualitatively correct. Then again, psychoanalysis also feels quite qualitatively correct and compelling as an explanatory framework but is hardly unambiguous or universal in its assessments, triage or solutions.

All theory may represent something of a trade off between intuition and provability but in the end we only ever see the internal reflection of a half-mirrored scientific conjecture that must always reflect ourselves as much as it ever might aspire to objective truth.

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