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A Brief History of Intelligence

Why the Evolution of the Brain Holds the Key to the Future of AI

Max Bennett



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20 March 2024
Bridges the gap between AI and neuroscience by telling the story of how the brain came to be. 'I found this book amazing' Daniel Kahneman, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and bestselling author of Thinking Fast & Slow

The entirety of the human brain’s 4-billion-year story can be summarised as the culmination of five evolutionary breakthroughs, starting from the very first brains, all the way to the modern human brains. Each breakthrough emerged from new sets of brain modifications, and equipped animals with a new suite of intellectual faculties.

These five breakthroughs are the organising map to this book, and they make up our itinerary for our adventure back in time. Each breakthrough also has fascinating corollaries to breakthroughs in AI. Indeed, there will be plenty of such surprises along the way. For instance: the innovation that enabled AI to beat humans in the game of Go – temporal difference reinforcement learning – was an innovation discovered by our fish ancestors over 500 million years ago. The solutions to many of the current mysteries in AI – such as ‘common sense’ – can be found in the tiny brain of a mouse. Where do emotions come from? Research suggests that they may have arisen simply as a solution to navigation in ancient worm brains. Unravelling this evolutionary story will reveal the hidden features of human intelligence and with them, just how your mind came to be.

Imprint:   HARPER360
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 33mm
Weight:   510g
ISBN:   9780008560102
ISBN 10:   0008560102
Pages:   432
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

As a pioneering artificial intelligence entrepreneur, Max Bennett is well positioned to bridge the gap between AI and evolutionary neuroscience. He spent the bulk of his career as the Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of Bluecore, one of the fastest growing AI companies in the world, most recently valued at over $1 billion dollars. Max taught himself neuroscience and has subsequently published numerous scientific papers in peer reviewed scientific journals on the topics of evolutionary neuroscience, intelligence and the neocortex. He has spoken at multiple conferences and groups on the topic of neuroscience and AI, including Numenta, Karl Friston’s group, and AI4.

Reviews for A Brief History of Intelligence: Why the Evolution of the Brain Holds the Key to the Future of AI

'Max Bennett published two scientific papers on brain evolution that blew me away. Now he has turned these into a fabulous book, A Brief History of Brains. His friendly writing style, clear jargon-free prose, and well of information make this book a winner.' Joseph LeDoux, Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Neural Science & Psychology at NYU, bestselling author of Anxious and A Deep History of Ourselves 'With a truly mindboggling scope, A Brief History of Brains integrates the most relevant scientific knowledge to paint the big picture of how the human mind emerged. The red line through this book never gets blurred by unnecessary detail or jargoned language. It makes for exciting reading for virtually everybody, laypersons and experts alike.' Kurt Kotrschal, Professor at Department of Behavioral Biology at University of Vienna, author of Dog & Human: The secret of our soul mates 'If you're in the least bit curious about that 3-pound grey blob between your ears, read this book. Max Bennett's entertaining and enlightening natural history of brains is a tour de force-as refreshing as it is entertaining. It made my brain happy.' Jonathan Balcombe, bestselling author of Super Fly, and the New York Times bestseller What a Fish Knows 'Max Bennett gives a lively account of how brains evolved, and how the brain works today. A Brief History of Brains is engaging, comprehensive, and brimming with novel insights.' Kent Berridge, James Olds Distinguished Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at University of Michigan 'If you want to know how our ancestors were able to weaponize their imaginarium to survive , then this is the book for you. In fact, this book discloses everything you always wanted to know about the brain (but were afraid to ask). It is an incredible resource.' Karl Friston, Scientific Director for Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging; Professor at Queen Square Institute of Neurology, University College London

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