A Thousand Brains, a new book by Jeff Hawkins, introduces a novel theory of intelligence with implications for AI and for the future of humanity

Media Alert

REDWOOD CITY, CA – March 3, 2021—A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence (Basic Books), a book released this week by Numenta co-founder Jeff Hawkins, introduces a theory that will revolutionize our understanding of the brain and AI.

A Thousand Brains is divided into three parts. In Part 1, Hawkins describes the new theory and the neuroscience behind it. In Part 2, he explains how this theory will lead to truly intelligent machines. Finally, in Part 3, Hawkins describes how a deep understanding of intelligence and AI will affect the future of humanity.

Core to the theory is the surprising notion that the brain does not contain one model of the world; it contains thousands of complementary models for everything we know. The models vote together to produce our singular perception.

Richard Dawkins, who wrote the foreword, describes this idea as follows: “Hawkins is, I think, the first to give eloquent space to the idea that there is not one such model but thousands, one in each of the many neatly stacked columns that constitute the brain’s cortex. Not the least fascinating of his ideas…is that cortical columns, in their world-modeling activities, work semi-autonomously. What we perceive is a kind of democratic consensus from among them.  Democracy in the brain? Consensus, and even dispute? What an amazing idea.”

Using language anyone can understand, Hawkins answers many perplexing questions asked through the ages, such as how do simple cells create thoughts? How can two people reach different beliefs from the same observations?  And can machines be conscious?

Published by Basic Books, A Thousand Brains is now available. To learn more about the book, visit www.AThousandBrains.com.

Praise for A Thousand Brains

“Don’t read this book at night. Not that it’s frightening. It won’t give you nightmares. But it is so exhilarating, so stimulating, it’ll turn your mind into a whirling maelstrom of excitingly provocative ideas—you’ll want to rush out and tell someone rather than go to sleep.”
Richard Dawkins, Biologist and Best-selling author

A Thousand Brains eloquently expresses the ultimate goal of thousands of scientists: to understand the mechanics of the human mind. Jeff Hawkins uses wonderfully clear and fast-moving prose to give an accessible overview of a theory of human intelligence that is likely to be very influential in the future.”
Michael Hasselmo, Director, Boston University Center for Systems Neuroscience

 “Jeff Hawkins’ book is that rare beast: A new theory about one of the oldest mysteries, the mystery of intelligence. The book is thoughtful and original, erudite and visionary. A must read for anyone interested in how the next breakthroughs in artificial intelligence will emerge from the recent (and not so recent) discoveries in neuroscience.”
Anthony Zador, professor of neuroscience, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 

“The fundamental existential threat that humanity faces is the disintegration of reality, facts, and truth into conspiracies, fiction and delusions, leaving us mumbling incoherently about a world that is fast receding into a fog, unable to move, even to save ourselves. But the end of Jeff Hawkins’ book gives us hope. Once we know how easily the neocortex is fooled, we can see our way out of the mist. That is why it is so important for everyone to read this remarkable book.”
Henry Markram, Professor, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, founder of the Human Brain Project


Jeff Hawkins, a neuroscientist and technologist, is the co-founder of Numenta, a neuroscience research company; founder of the Redwood Neuroscience Institute; and one of the founders of the field of handheld computing. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and author of On Intelligence and A Thousand Brains, A New Theory of Intelligence.


A Thousand Brains
A New Theory of Intelligence
By Jeff Hawkins
Published by Basic Books
Publication date: March 2, 2021
ISBN: 9781541675810 • $30 US / $38 CAN • Hardcover • 288 pages
E-book ISBN: 9781541675803


Numenta has a dual mission: to reverse-engineer the neocortex and to enable machine intelligence technology based on cortical theory. Co-founded in 2005 by technologist and scientist Jeff Hawkins, Numenta has developed a theory of cortical function, called the Thousand Brains Theory of Intelligence. Hawkins’ book, A Thousand Brains, details the discoveries that led to the theory and its potential impact on Artificial Intelligence. The team tests their theories via simulation, mathematical analysis, and academic and industry collaborations, and are actively engaged in using algorithms derived from the Thousand Brains Theory to solve problems confronting today’s AI. Numenta publishes its progress in open access scientific journals, maintains an open source project, and licenses its intellectual property and technology for commercial purposes.

Numenta Media Contact:
Betty Taylor
Krause Taylor Associates


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