On the Lighter Side: Numenta’s Picks for Brainy Entertainment

Christy Maver • VP of Marketing

Earlier this month, I shared some suggested reading and viewing of Numenta resources. This week, we’re doing something a little different. I asked Numenta employees to recommend their favorite brain-related movie, book, podcast, etc. All genres were fair game; the only criteria was that it had to be related to the brain or our work in some way. The responses ranged from upbeat rom-coms to serious sci-fi books. So if you’re looking for new content while the quarantine continues and are up for some “brainy entertainment,” here are the top picks from the Numenta team:

Movies

InceptionClassic, mind-blowing. It touches on the idea that we live in a simulation perpetuated by our brains, which can be indistinguishable from what we call reality.

– Lucas Souza, Numenta Research Staff Member

MementoMovie about a man untangling the mystery of who killed his wife. I recommend it not just because it’s another Cristopher Nolan movie (as is Inception). The man has severe short term memory loss and the story is structured in a way to show you exactly how dizzying that can be.

– Michaelangelo Carporale, Numenta Research Staff Member

Total Recall – I remember watching this movie in the early 1990s and being fascinated by the idea of false memories being planted into people’s brains.  I still think of that movie occasionally and wonder, “How do I know if I actually experienced my memories?”

– Christy Maver, VP Marketing

Fifty First DatesA light-hearted rom-com, Fifty First Dates describes someone whose long term memory is intact but is unable to form new memories. The film makes you realize that “you are your brain”.  If your brain cannot record your experiences, then you effectively are frozen in time.

 – Donna Dubinsky, CEO

 

Books

Anathem“A 2008 novel by Neal Stephenson (that is totally different from every other novel by Neal Stephenson)” This might be my favorite book. It is ambitious; I am in awe of the world-building. And it made me think, “Wow, Neal Stephenson really gets me.” The book touches on a lot of topics, including multiple memorable sections about the brain, with ideas that I had never considered before. I found the book inspiring — it’s like “Eye of the Tiger” for researchers. I look forward to re-reading it in a couple years. (And by “re-reading”, I mean “listening to the audiobook again.”)

– Marcus Lewis, Research Engineer

Tuxedo Park by Jennet Conant – This book was given to me by Robert Birgeneau, Physicist, and at the time, Chancellor of U.C. Berkeley. It is the story of a private research laboratory that played an important role in the development of radar in WW II. There is an obvious connection to the privately funded research we do at Numenta, but what I found fascinating were the non-scientific obstacles that the book’s central character, Alfred Lee Loomis, had to overcome to make the scientific and technologic advances that his research team achieved.

– Jeff Hawkins, Co-Founder

Stories of your LifeThe book is a collection of short sci-fi stories. Understand is about a man who takes a drug that improves his intelligence, and the repercussions that follow it. Another story from this book is Story of Your Life, which became a movie called Arrival (2016).

– Lucas Souza, Numenta Research Staff Member

Exhalation by Ted Chiang, particularly the story of the same name – Also a collection of short sci-fi stories. Exhalation is about a sentient automaton who riskily investigates how its own brain functions.

– Ares Fisher, Numenta Research Staff Member

How Emotions are Made  by Lisa Feldman Barrett – It ties in well with Numenta’s Thousand Brains Theory of intelligence. She talks about misconceptions about emotions in the brain and how emotions are represented throughout the neocortex.

– Matt Taylor, Numenta Community Manager

Behave by Robert Sapolsky – This book is about emotions through broad picture of our biology. It starts with the neurochemistry of our brain and zooms out to the wide lens of evolutionary biology. Along the way, it also describes the role of the old brain and asks of the new one “Dude, where’s my frontal cortex?”

– Michaelangelo Carporale, Numenta Research Staff Member

The Wright Brothers by David McCollough – This book tells the story of the role Wilbur and Orville Wright, and their unsung sister Katharine, played in the development of flight. The number of technical obstacles they overcame is inspirational, but they faced even greater obstacles in getting people to believe they had actually succeeded.

– Jeff Hawkins, Co-Founder

Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life by Dr. Michael Merzenich PhD – I am a big fan of Dr. Merzenich and his research and learning/therapy programs. Dr. Merzenich studied under Professor Vernon Mountcastle, whose work was hugely influential in ours.

– Teri Fry, Office Manager

TV Shows

Altered CarbonInteresting take on brain transfer in a sci-fi world of the future where the rich can pay to be immortal.

– Matt Taylor, Numenta Community Manager

The Brain with David EaglemanSeveral of us watched this 6-episode PBS TV show in the office a few years back over a series of lunches.

– Luiz Scheinkman, Research Engineer

Podcasts

Mindscape by Sean Carroll (specifically the interviews with Melanie Mitchell and Karl Friston) This is an excellent podcast on science, culture and other topics. The interview with Melanie Mitchell is about the current state and future of AI. The one with Karl Friston is about the free energy principle and predictive coding.

– Ares Fisher, Numenta Research Staff Member

Brain Inspired by Paul Middlebrooks – This podcast features interesting 1-hour discussions with neuroscience and AI researchers and thinkers.

– Lucas Souza, Numenta Research Staff Member

Videos

How to keep your brain healthy through exerciseThis short video is particularly relevant while we’re in social isolation. It explains how exercise has significant impact on the neocortex and the hippocampus, two areas at the center of the Thousand Brains Theory. Don’t forget to exercise!!

– Subutai Ahmad, VP Research

Music

We appreciate powerby GrimesIt’s a fun song about an AI taking over.

– Ares Fisher, Numenta Research Staff Member

Educational Program

Fast ForWorda unique brain-based adaptive reading and language program that targets the root causes of reading and learning difficulties.

– Teri Fry, Office Manager

Christy Maver • VP of Marketing

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