[Book Review] Surfing Uncertainty

Surfing Uncertainty is about predictive coding, the theory in neuroscience that each part of your brain attempts to predict its own inputs. Predictive coding has lots of potential consequences. It could resolve the problem of top-down vs bottom-up processing. It cleanly unifies lots of ideas in psychology. It even has implications for the continuum with autism on one end and schizophrenia on the other.

The most promising thing about predictive coding is how it could provide a mathematical formulation for how the human brain works. Mathematical formulations are great because once they let you do things like falsify experiments and simulate things on computers. But while Surfing Uncertainty goes into many of the potential implications of predictive codings, the author never hammers out exactly what "prediction error" means in quantifiable material terms on the neuronal level.

This book is a reiteration of the scientific consensus[1]. Judging by the total absense of mathematical equations on the Wikipedia page for predictive coding, I suspect the book never defines "prediction error" in mathematically precise terms because no such definition exists. There is no scientific consensus.

Perhaps I was disappointed with this book because my expectations were too high. If we could write equations for how the human brain performs predictive processing then we would be significantly closer to building an AGI than where we are right now.


  1. The book contains 47 pages of scientific citations. ↩︎

lsusr's Shortform

by lsusr 31st May 20204 comments