Hawkins defines (2004: 70, 171) four criteria for this algorithm. Specifically, the neocortex:
- stores sequences of patterns
- recalls patterns auto-associatively
- stores patterns in an invariant form
- stores patterns in a hierarchy
Hawkins hypothesizes that an elaborate process of generalization and classification is at play up and down the cortical hierarchy; with the hippocampus at the apex as the depository of “input that is truly new and unexpected.” Hawkins proposes (2004: 125) that:
all regions of the cortex form invariant representations of the world underneath them in the hierarchy. There is beauty in this.
The sheer quantity of interconnections within, and feeding in and out of, the neocortex is beyond any visualization. Although Hawkins himself does not dwell on this, it is worth mentioning that these connections are characterized by a certain repetition and redundancy. Rather than representing a deficiency, the inherent degeneracy may actually facilitate a whole catalog of brain features, including: its famous plasticity, its ability to “fill in” the missing parts of imperfect information, its penchant for generalization and classification, its uncanny ability to acquire language, its propensity for making analogies and loose associations, and its quirky and often erroneous retrieval of sequential information from its own shadowy memories.
Hawkins (2004: 147) envisages:
converging patterns going up the cortical hierarchy, diverging patterns going down the cortical hierarchy, and a delayed feedback through the thalamus…
With regard to the thalamus, Hawkins notes (2004: 84) that: connections going backward (toward the input) exceed the connections going forward by almost a factor of ten! For Hawkins (2004: 156) Every moment in your waking life, each region of your neocortex is comparing a set of expected columns driven from above with a set of observed columns driven from below. Where the two intersect is what we perceive… Furthermore (2004: 85), if a prediction is erroneous, “attention is immediately aroused.”
Hawkins asserts that this explains the difficulty we encounter “not looking at people with deformities.” He also points to our heightened appreciation of “highly creative works of art” which “violate our predictions.”
Hawkins, Jeff with Blakeslee, Sandra (2005) On Intelligence. Times Books/Henry Holt and Company, New York.