Jeff Hawkins believes that his program, combined with the ever-faster computational power of digital processors, will also be able to solve massively complex problems by treating them just as an infants brain treats the world: as a stream of new sensory data to interpret. Feed information from an electrical power network into Numentas system and it builds its own virtual model of how that network operates. And just as a child learns that a glass dropped on concrete will break, the system learns to predict how that network will fail. In a few years, Hawkins boasts, such systems could capture the subtleties of everything from the stock market to the weather in a way that computers now cant.
Numenta is close to issuing a research release of its platform, which has three main components: the core problem-solving engine, which works sort of like an operating system based on Hawkins theory of the cortex; a set of open source software tools; and the code for the learning algorithms themselves, which users can alter as long as they make their creations available to others. Numenta will earn its money by owning and licensing the basic platform, and Hawkins hopes a new industry will grow up around it, with companies customizing and reselling the intelligence in unexpected and dazzling ways. To Hawkins, the idea that were born knowing nothing leads to a technology that will be vastly more important than his Palm or Treo and perhaps as lucrative.