Sometimes I think about top ten lists. Like what my top ten favorite songs of all time would be, or my top ten favorite books. You can probably tell a lot about someone by what would be on those lists. I once did a personality profiling procedure, which took the answers to about one hundred multiple choice questions and put the respondent into one of
25 72 bins. [Note: I just found the document, there were 72 bins. It was called the Insights Discovery Profile. I was in Bin #22, AKA “Reforming Director”]. The bin I was in was an eerily accurate description of me. I think of this procedure as ‘human dimensionality reduction’. It’s like PCA!
One of my top ten books is On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. Jeff was the founder of Palm and Handspring. If you’re not in a hardware company, there is an important fact I will share with you of which you may be unaware. Building hardware that works in the real world is a special kind of hell. I suspect Dante originally had a level of the Inferno where you had to just make carts or butter churns or whatever, but it was so painful to think about he took it out. So I feel a sort of esprit de corps with anyone who has suffered through that special kind of torture.
I first read On Intelligence in 2008, and it was my first exposure to two important ideas. They are:
- Intelligence is related to, and can even be defined to be, an entity’s ability to build an internal representation of the world, and correctly predict the outcomes of its possible actions within that model.
- Mammalian brains contain a structure, called the neocortex, that allows mammals to build models of the world out of the same repeating physical structure, tiled out a huge number of times. This repeating structure is hierarchical, and allows mammals to efficiently build representations of the world that are also hierarchical.
In my next series of posts I want to show you something related to both of these points. It’s a fascinating way to connect what D-Wave hardware does to the bleeding edge of machine learning.