Listen free for 30 days

Audible Membership

$14.95 a month

1 credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
The Plus Catalogue—listen all you want to thousands of Audible Originals, podcasts, and audiobooks.
$14.95 a month plus applicable taxes after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy Now for $37.16

Buy Now for $37.16

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Tax where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

A best-selling author, neuroscientist, and computer engineer unveils a theory of intelligence that will revolutionize our understanding of the brain and the future of AI. 

For all of neuroscience's advances, we've made little progress on its biggest question: How do simple cells in the brain create intelligence? Jeff Hawkins and his team discovered that the brain uses map-like structures to build a model of the world - not just one model, but hundreds of thousands of models of everything we know. This discovery allows Hawkins to answer important questions about how we perceive the world, why we have a sense of self, and the origin of high-level thought. A Thousand Brains heralds a revolution in the understanding of intelligence. It is a big-think book, in every sense of the word.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2021 Jeff Hawkins (P)2021 Basic Books

What listeners say about A Thousand Brains

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    46
  • 4 Stars
    10
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    39
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    34
  • 4 Stars
    7
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Ahead of its time

Imagine being one of the first people to learn about how evolution works or about how all life is made up of cells. This books tackles a question of similar magnitude and I believe it mostly succeeds.

The key points from On Intelligence are repeated here which makes this a great standalone book but it can be a bit repetitive if you've read the first book and have kept up with Numenta over the years.

After reading this book you'll start to see evidence for these ideas in your own life.

The knowledge I've gained from this book has helped me optimize strategies for learning new concepts which is the main reason I'm giving it 5 stars. It can be a bit dry in some places and a bit too opinionated in others but not nearly enough to be an issue.





4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

…What did I just listen to?

If you’re interested even casually in actual neuroscience - skip this one. Pseudointellectual. Author comes off as some rich guy who thinks he’s a neuroscientist and nobody has had the courage to tell him that he isn’t and that he shouldn’t write this vanity project. Doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “theory” and “hypothesis” - or, at best, rambling opinion. Frequently uses some version of “it’s too complicated to go into, so I’ll dumb it down for you” - but rather than actually presenting a complex idea simply you’re left feeling that the author just copped out because he has no idea what he’s taking about. A grand total of one chapter is directly related to the topic of the book, and even that is poorly argued from a scientific perspective. Very little depth here. After that the wheels just totally fall off and it turns into everything and the kitchen sink. Narrator did a good job at least.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • mgb
  • 2021-06-19

Opens with science, closes with pseudo-philosophy

Opens with a science-based explanation of our human brain (neocortex) works to understand and interact with the world. This is worth reading.

This transitions into philosophy and speculation where the author has a novel perspective to start from, but lacks the rigour to go beyond a “food for thought“ buffet of assorted ideas. I would have liked to see any of these ideas explored and defended further.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Another wonderful Gates reccomendation

Since 2020 I've been on a audiobook thrill ride and this one kept up the speed. Helping me understand myself and those around me a bit more

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great book with disappointing end

The whole part where he talk about his expertise is fascinating I learned a lot about the brain but the philosophy end with very questionable points and argument, I wish he spent the last 2 hours giving his opinion on the future of brain health revolution rather than the extinction of humanity

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Really Good for the Brain

Well read, concepts are made simple it not too delved into to keep it that way. The message is conveyed.

Nice insight about how this machine works and that it is still being researched, in newer ways. Being creative.

I hope for a follow up !

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great read!

I loved everything about the book and the writer. However I disagree with about 5% of the material/ authors point of view in the book. Rest is amazing.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This is a really important book

Read it. It heads in directions you might not immediately expect but are completely intriguing.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A revolution in brain science

Thinking is a kind of movement. moving from one reference frame to the next one. neocortex uses cells similar to grid cells to create reference frames. all thoughts are made this way. the book is fascinating and it might truly be a turning point in our understanding of brain mechanisms.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Warren
  • 2021-03-15

Starts out good, ends up a train wreck

Part 1 was good. It was interesting and to the point of the subject of the book. After that it was a complete waste of time for me as it degenerated into rants by the author of what he considers to be “true” vs. “false”. That would be fine if the book was supposed to be about climate change, etc., but it did not belong in this kind of book. I could not care less about his opinions on the cause of climate change or any other similar issues, but it seems like he mainly wanted to lecture us on social issues (the final two-thirds of the book) and used the title simply as a hook.

135 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-04-02

first part ok second nonsense

the first part of the book is fantastic . i advise the reader who is interested in neural network kind of artificial intellegence to concentrate on the first part of the book . the second part is just superficial mix of naive sci fi and political opinions such as: global warming is old stupid brain thinking while feminism is the new intelegence brain . there are really many chapters on this . i consider them really very shallow and waste of time. reader can just ignore them altogether.

109 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • D
  • 2021-03-28

Started with insights, ended with propaganda

This is a not place to push your beliefs about population control and anti religion. This should be about brain and Ai. Very dissapointing.

107 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • FredZarguna
  • 2021-07-29

There Are 3 Sections. Listen to the First One.

The first section, which lays out a model of the neocortex that's the product of the author, his company, and former researchers is interesting, and worth listening to. The only flaw in the first section I would point out is that the author appears to believe that movement is necessary to intelligence. In fact it isn't. One of the most powerful capabilities of the neocortex is that it can run its own hardware to do simulations. In effect, to "move" through new experiences, thought experiments, and so on, w/no physical movement at all. And it does this every moment it's functioning.

The second part, in which the author attempts to attack some thorny issues has huge problems. He derides philosophers (full admission: I am *not* one, and usually deride them as well.) But it's clear he needs to study philosophy if he wants to make arguments in the area of qualia and consciousness, because that chapter is an embarrassing hash in which he doesn't even seem to understand the physics of color vision--AT ALL. The discussion of consciousness is equally silly. He should have had a better editor.

His attempts to allay the fears of those who believe AI is potentially an existential threat to the human race because artificially intelligent machines won't have the "old brain" that causes so much mischief (like, allowing us to have fun, enjoy work, love, motivating us to survive... you know, all the "bad" stuff.) In fact, on this point he is catastrophically wrong. artificially intelligent machines *will* without the slightest doubt have an "old brain." Wanna see it?

Go look in a mirror.

Just as our old brain still dominates us, it will also dominate AI, using our neocortex as proxy.

Finally on the point about there being no moral hazard in unplugging an AI, it's clear the author has no ethical sense whatsoever; the rationale he gives for why this would be OK is genuinely preposterous. These machines wouldn't have any emotions, so killing them isn't immoral. Just ... wow.

The third section of the book isn't even worth commenting on. It's his political, cultural, and religious (or atheist) perspective and if you like the garbage that leftists spout as enlightenment no doubt you'll love it, but it has nothing to do with the topic, no matter how hard he tries to stretch it into "I believe the right stuff because I have no false consciousness. You, on the other hand, live in a fantasy world." This is infantile, but given his obvious political perspective, unsurprising.

92 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Joseph
  • 2021-04-07

Nothing new to see here

Old ideas about neural networks + grating self-agrandizement + endless repetition + unrelated musings about culture + unrelated musings about aliens = new book?

51 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-07-29

Awesome! But did he have to be so antitheist?

Truly an amazing book! I'm so happy to now know how intelligence works on the scientific level and definitely would recommend this to anyone who wants to understand the basic science underlying things - especially our own brains. Despite my rant below, I would highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys learning - even if you agree with my annoyance at antitheism. You can always skip that chapter or only read the first part of the science. I would say the non-science chapters were very good interpretations of the consequences of this new paradigm, but not necessary. Any reader capable of enjoying learning this science from reading/listening to this information will be able to make the same deductions as the author without having to sit through the annoying parts, should you find them as annoying as I did.

So, my one caveat with this book is the antitheism. It constantly annoys me how atheists go around pretending they have the intellectual high ground, when the truth will always be that We Cannot Know. Which the author even acknowledges. And then proceeds, like most atheists, to declare belief in the afterlife to be false. As a religious person who believes that the "whys" (which religion answers) are different from the "whats" and "hows" (which science answers), I will always maintain that the only truly rational stance is agnosticism. So having to sit through the half a chapter or so on the author's annoyances at religion as a false viral meme was quite frustrating for me. I wish he had attempted to respect us and found a religious person who follows the scientific method to review his book, and to change the antitheist parts to be less agenda-pushing and more scientific based, but respect was clearly not in his agenda. I agreed with his point that some beliefs in the afterlife can be the excuses used to kill others, maybe even entire cities. But the way he grouped all beliefs in the afterlife to be false and all of our beliefs equated with one of the possible Armageddons was just downright offensive. Just because I believe in heaven does not mean I am going to be a suicide bomber. As a religious person who enjoys nonfiction books and science tremendously, I am unfortunately used to be derailed and mocked for said beliefs. However it never fails to disappoint me.

My personal conclusion should I have the opportunity to give the author a piece of my mind, would be that I wish he could have written this book or future books with the knowledge that the information will disseminate better if you attempt to not offend us. Would it really have been so hard to just not equate all religions with suicide bombers? Did he and every person who read or edited this really not see how offensive that was? Or did they really all just not care that belief in why the universe exists can be separate from believing in flat Earth?

42 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mike
  • 2021-03-02

Hawkins has Purchase on the "Easy" Problem

The Thousand Brains theory of intelligence - that the neocortex is composed of many thousands of columns of connected neural structures based on older grid and place cells, which create and link together models of the world, and also vote together to construct hierarchically more nested models - is brilliant.  The number of empirical constraints it solves is incredibly satisfying.  Citing just two examples, 1) what/where pathways in the brain are explained if "reference frames" attach to objects in the what pathway, but attach to our bodies in the where pathway, and 2) the perceptual binding problem is solved - when cortical columns agree on an object via consensus voting, they will naturally have different sensory inputs, thus they contribute diverse sensory models to a complete perception.  I'm being terse here because 1) this is incredibly exicting, and 2) the book is so smoothly written that it itself is the perfect way to get these ideas across.  No review will suffice.  So please, read this book!

I will only add, Hawkins is a thorough physicalist when it comes to consciousness, such that this and his previous book insist on using the word "intelligence" when one might want to see the word "consciousness".  Unlike his previous book, Hawkins confronts this notion and dedicates a chapter to it here, in which the "hard" problem ala Chalmers is recognized.  As a physicalist who acknowledges the hard problem myself, I nonetheless find Hawkins' commentary here unsatisfying.  For example, is the qualia of green a cortical map of green experiences with dimensions corresponding to green surface orientations?  I'm not convinced.  However, as Hawkins notes, qualia indeed seem "out there".  In other words, qualia have the quale of location, an aspect nicely satisfied by reference frames at the core of the Thousand Brains theory.  A theory which, as testified to in the beginning of this review, is brilliant and satisfying in its own right.

37 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Armand Jarri
  • 2021-07-05

Underdeveloped theory. Premature book.

I think the author should not have written this book. His theory is still in its early phases and still poorly developed. The second half of the book is propaganda in favor of intelligent machines. But you can't something that doesn't exist and of whch you don't have a clear idea. The author talks about intelligent machines but he doesn't say how to acheive such an artificial intelligence. Too many assumptions with little solid science, or for that matter reality . Also the second half is rather repetitive. All is very unconvincing.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Benjamin
  • 2021-07-15

It really is that bad...

I'll start by saying that I am a huge fan of Jeff Hawkins work and have been waiting a decade for this book to come out. I was so excited to hear the progress of numenta on understanding the human brain. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, this book is a total waste of time and I got very little from it.

He begins by recapping his ideas from "On Intelligence" for a few chapters. Then he briefly discusses the thousand brains theory and their updated model. Which boils down to: each column creates models of entire objects by using grid cell derived reference frames and then votes using long range dendritic segments that put the neuron in a predictive state.

This is very interesting since it disrupts the standard hierarchical model we use to understand the brain. However, I felt like he just glanced over the whole theory and I was left wanting more. He mentions that it would take a while to describe the neuro-anatomy responsible for these processes so instead he just leaves it out entirely... thats exactly what people who read this book want to know about!

I wanted to learn about how grid cells work, how concepts and features are learned and how sequences of features could be mapped to a reference frame within the brain. I wanted to read about studies that were conducted that confirm or reject parts of the theory. I wanted to push my understanding of the brain to the limits.

Instead, and this is the real tragedy, he spends the last two thirds of the book with speculative filler. For some reason he spends an entire chapter talking about how overpopulation is an issue and the solution is for women to be able to have abortions. I'm not kidding. Why is this in a book about a theory of intelligence???

The last two thirds read like propaganda, and thats coming from someone who agrees with most of what he says. He explains how the brain can make bad models of reality enforced by viral ideas and then proceeds to talk about three or four beliefs he holds because of his perfect model of reality. As if one day we will overcome our ancient brains and finally start agreeing with all of his political beliefs.

I'm still giving two stars because I love the work they do at numenta and there was some value in the first third of the book.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Akron or Norka
  • 2021-04-11

new theory of intelligence-or global warming book

drones on and on about global warming, material that is literally everywhere, and covered better and more completely elsewhere. could have been great, needs a better editor

18 people found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Judy Corstjens
  • 2021-10-15

Something really new

This book is really three books: the first is brilliant, the second is interesting, and the third is plain loopy.

The Thousand brain theory forms part one of the book, and puts forward a theory for the structure and organisation of the neo-cortex which is arresting and inspiring. This largest and most modern and distinctive outer cover of the human brain consists of 150,000 1mmx2.5mm columns of ‘spaghetti’ which are almost indistinguishable from each other. This is odd because it implies that most activity (seeing, smelling, listening or thinking) is done by very similar structures and neurones. Vernon Mountcastle discovered this back in the 70s, and little pieces of the jigsaw (the sizes and arrangements of neurones) have been added since. The question is what is going on in the columns. Hawkins and his team reckon that some primitive organism created a brain structure that could create a map of its immediate environment - food here, light over there - and then locate and move itself around that reference frame. Obviously very useful. Then at a later stage the branch that became mammals starting replicating numerous copies of that module to eventually create the pocket-spring mattress that you are using to read these words. We use versions of reference frames and location to map out the features of a coffee cup and the locations of all our sensors (e.g. fingers); we use our experience of mapping out coffee cups to create reference frames for abstract concepts such as democracy. OK, there maybe a few gaps and heroic jumps, but the idea that we are living in a model of the world created by our cortex does strike true. When we try to draw things, we draw the model, not what our eyes see. Indeed, art lessons are a constant fight between what we know is there (white teeth) and what eyes actually see (a dark shadow under a lip). Our brain is flexible because all the neo-cortex does is create models from the inputs it receives. So whether it is examining a stapler in modern Britain, or an animal on the prehistoric savannah, a car, smartphone or behaviour of its spouse, it just observes and models and then makes predictions. The predictions from many columns cumulate their activity by ‘voting’ to create a consensus prediction. Your cortex is at the command of your old brain, and then follows the actions with the predicted outcomes that fit with the old brain’s ‘desires’. This might sound a bit light on details, but it does start to pull on the fibres of some theory that could unravel thought and consciousness, and I found it more convincing and satisfying than most other discussions I have read. It reminds me of how Steven Pinker analyses thought and language (Stuff of Thought) where he shows that abstract language derives from concrete language, ‘hold that thought; look here; let’s push off that task until tomorrow’. Abstract thought evolves from more concrete thoughts, but uses the same structures.

Part two compares this model of intelligence to that of current AI, and shows that currently AI is much more artificial than intelligent. Not a surprise. We all know that Google translate does not have a clue WHAT it is translating, but that a human translating a book must have a good understanding not just of the sense but the meaning and tone of the material, to do a good job. Jokes abound. Still, Hawkins is right to make the points, and he draws a very interesting line between intelligence and consciousness, and the brain he has just decorticated and the ‘old brain’ (that is probably even more subtle and complicated and multi-part) that gives us our actual desires and drives (as well as controlling breathing and all that stuff).

The third part of the book is weird and loopy. Hawkins seems to believe that we are important on a cosmic scale because we have, for example, measured the size of the earth, estimated the probable age of our universe and calculated pi at some length. We need to preserve this ‘knowledge’ for some future intelligent species who might eventually evolve after we are extinct, and spend most of their spare time searching for our remains. Well, why on earth would they be interested in the size of our planet? Or ex-planet? Why would they not be able to calculate the ratio of the diamètre to the circumference of a circle for themselves - and would they do it in base 10??? Ditto for the age of the universe. It is a fact that they may or may not be able to work out for themselves, but they won’t necessarily want it in billions of years, they use neither billions (again, rather base ten, finger counting) nor years, based on the time it takes our silly old planet to get round our silly old sun. The tyranny of the 300 page book. Still, well worth the credit.

Narration. Professional, very good job. Nice short chapters for auditing.