If you can’t build it, you don’t understand it

Here’s a cool (but somewhat older) TED Talk by Jeff Hawkins. He has a nice summary of the state of brain science and the lack of theories. His ideas about what it will take to develop such a theory seem a little off base, although it could be that the TED Talk format does disservice to complex ideas. He seems to dismiss a computational-level understanding of the mind and wants to describe everything as memory and prediction at the neural level. That might work for some aspects of perception (and also captures much of what the brain does for us) but there’s a lot more going on that just these two processes.

Anyway, I posted this video because it contains a concise and impassioned statement about of the importance of theories of behavior. Near the end of his talk there’s a nice quote which is the title of this post: “If you can’t build it, you don’t understand it” (approx.). I think that’s as good of a statement for building formal models of behavior as one can come up with (cognitive, neural, or otherwise). But of course, I’m also originally an engineer! Anyway, check it out here: