On Intelligence is a well written book that offers a peak at how you think and how things may think in the future.
I started working with Neural nets when I was 20 trying to predict derivatives prices. I learned a lot about neural nets and genetic algorithms even more about the difficulty of predicting various markets.
I have been fascinated by neural nets, genetic algorithms and machine learning. All of which is derived from some of the earliest theory work done in control systems. Thanks Norbert Wiener.
Jeff Hawkins book is great stuff, for 2 reasons, one is clarity of communication, the second for the key ideas themselves. Basically the thesis is that human intelligence is a function of the neocortex performing a massively repetitive prediction algorithm.
The prediction algorithm is looking at bits and pieces of things and then matching them up with an invariant memory model. Invariant memories, the second key concept to Hawkins thesis are the ability to recognize things regardless of context or orientation. For example you can recognize a dog, from any direction, size or species. That is a great trick! and incredibly powerful computationally.
The repetitive nature of the algorithm (embedded in your physical neurons) combined with massive feedback and feed forward loops is the thesis for consciousness and learning. Hawkins approach seems very interesting. He forgoes a bunch of the fairly un-interesting philosophical traps of consciousness and awareness thrown out by types such as Daniel Dennet. Hawkins has fairly limited time for the Turing test as well. As an engineer he is more interested in a solution than its "philosophical impacts".
I agree with this. Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician and thinker, but the Turing test itself is too anthropic to be of any use to science. It is interesting from a philosophy perspective but pointless from an engineering and science perspective.
The human ego is fragile and many of us tend to respond to the potential of conscious machines with a strong state of denial. The same type of mentality that was upset when we lost our place at the center of the universe, or as a unique species. Science gets in the way of our self importance sometimes.
If you are interested at all in the potential future of artificial intelligence or even potential storage architectures of the future, Hawkins book may be for you. Even media as it gets richer will need to be able to sort and search images and complex data sets. Hawkins start up www.numenta.com is probably going to create something very interesting in the next few years. Keep watching.