Brain Building - Q1. Define Intelligence

okay, you are not wrong.
I have to borrow a picture from Jeff:


I agree that definition is crucial, but you will never have everyone on board :). Yes, it’s all about prediction, which includes both what and where: location. But working from the first principles is mutually exclusive with imitating the brain, which is what folks here try to do. I do the former, not the latter, here is my take:

Since the synapses receive their input from presynaptic neurons, this seems a bit like a “chicken or the egg” question to me… both components are a necessary part of the system. It just tends (for me at least) to be conceptually easier to refer to the active neurons versus the synapses that they are transmitting into when talking about “representations”.


Definitely worth discussing more on this. The reason why i think the representation is in the synapses is because (could be total bogus):

  1. no of neurons is only roughly 100B, but each neuron roughly has 7000 connections to other neurons. By judging how much we need to remember, I think we need more than 100B.
  2. synapses has built in strength control through neurontransmitters, that allows how strong of the representation as a conclusion through association
  3. synapses can grow and be pruned, that allows memorizing and de-memorizing.

But I think there are researches showing not neurons/synapses store representation. This is definitely a bigger topic and will create another post later on after I finish with this one.

Wooo everytime I hear the word “never” it makes me excited. That means if somehow we can get through this the list will be a very strong one. Will take a look at your paper and learn more. Thanks!


@rhyolight believes in free will. (I know I know). We’ve had a very… very long thread about this somewhere here. (Don’t mind the thread title).

Love it when I hear “no can do”, that makes me excited.

I am a newbie so I don’t really know what folk psychology is. But I get that you thought I didn’t come from a biological perspective to look at this issue. Although I am a software technologist, but biology was my stream in my A Level and virology was my favourite subject. I do love biology. For the same reason, that’s why I like “On Intelligence”.

Now maybe I will switch my question to another angle to align our perspectives. In your opinion, what is the list of the most basic functions the brain (not just our brain) possesses that allow us to conclude the brain has Intelligence?

I believe these are the one you listed on another post:

I assume you would agree if something can perform the above, then that something can be said to have intelligence? Correct?

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So with only hearing coming from a mono location in principle that person should still be able to learn language, right? Well, it turns out that even in the isocortical regions for language there are at least two layers that produce grid structures (6b and 5b, and possibly 6a). It is not clear yet (at least to me) how this works, but it is more than likely that all this hardware is used to structure the vast body of information required for understanding language.

This is as fundamental to intelligence as it gets.

I think you need to look a little deeper into HTM theory. You have some catching up to do.


No. That is a basic logic fallacy. An example should help illustrate the point - a computer is built using logic gates, but not every device built using logic gates is a computer.

Coming back you your idea that you can tick the boxes of a laundry list and POOF you have intelligence … the part that is going to be very hard to define - the secret sauce - is how the part are arranged. You can have all of the right element present but they have to be Just So or you did not win. Defining this arrangement is the bit that trips up the laundry list approach.

The cortical column computation seems to be sufficient to build intelligence in one part of the brain but that is just the starting point. There is still a lot of theoretical heavy lifting left undone.

I agree that listing the parts is a great starting point (which is why I put up the cortical column computation post myself) but that really is the starting point on a very long road and I do welcome fellow travelers. I am not trying to discourage you so much as trying to help you see what the shape of landscape we are traveling in.


Yes, just pointing out that you need both to do anything useful. Populations of neurons form semantic representations when active around the same time, and the synapses are what connect those representations to each other in a virtually infinite number of useful ways.

Definitely. The synapses being the part that actively changes (while numbers of neurons much less so), they are where memories are being laid down. Just pointing out the fact that groups of synapses by themselves can’t do much without populations of neurons on either end to encode semantic meaning. They are both necessary parts of one system.


I don’t think that was the aim of @neubie. I think he wanted a list of fundamental elements of intelligence, as a starting point.


Point taken, but just identifying the basic parts misses the essential element that has been dancing in and out of the last few posts in this thread - those parts have to be arranged is a special way or they don’t do what is needed. This arrangement of parts may resist the simple laundry list approach.


I think it’s worse than that, compiling laundry lists is exactly backwards to defining intelligence. Such definition is an ultimate generalization, and generalization is a reduction. You have to leave non-essential stuff out, else there is no point.


Hey now, don’t put words in my mouth! I have deliberately stayed away from those debates because I don’t think they are relevant to our work yet.


Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry.
It was meant somewhat tongue in cheek, but I should at least have added a smiley.


This is a fairly exhaustive coverage:

This is the sense that I was using:

That is, that mental analysis by introspection can be misleading and counter-productive. At a minimum, it is a task that must be undertaken with great caution. I support the middle way " An intermediate position is revisionary materialism, which will often argue that the mental state in question will prove to be somewhat reducible to physical phenomena—with some changes needed to the common sense concept."

I think what Mark is saying is that we in this community are always looking to explain how something works with biology. It must make sense that neurons and synapses could possibly perform the theories we discuss, so we stay very low-level in most cases. The “sequence memory” part of HTM explains a very low-level theory that if accepted, provides a clue to how other neural mechanisms work. The Thousand Brains Theory falls apart without the sequence memory we’ve defined very clearly with a specific neuron model.

I think there is more progress to be made by looking at the brain and asking “what the hell are those neurons doing firing like that?” than by attempting to make clear definitions of what intelligence is and is not.


@neubie Excellent outline! A logic and useful roadmap to define (and then) expand key-points of the intelligence and how they relate each another!

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Matt, I get what Mark is trying to say.

Maybe I will ask you this to convey my point. In Numenta, when developing HTM as a biological constrained model of intelligence, on what conditions that the HTM has to satisfy in order for Numenta to conclude that the theory or the implementation of the theory indeed possesses intelligence? In the other words, what are the hypothesis on intelligence that you are testing to prove the theory (and the implementation)?

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Are “reduction” and “leaving non-essential stuff out” on understanding a complex problem such as brain intelligence as a first step a good approach or bad approach.