In 1994, Jeff Hawkins invented a slick little device called a PalmPilot, and started the company Palm Computing. Due to reasons we won’t discuss here, Jim sprouted off of Palm to found Handspring, now a competing, although compatible, device to Palm.
Interestingly, behind all of this successful entrepreneurial drive is really a deep interest in understanding how the brain actually works. Early in his career path, Jeff was a graduate student in biophysics hoping to be directly involved in neuroscience research in the academic world. His thesis was not accepted because he was working independently from a professor, and that was against the rules. So, he decided to go back to work in the real world, make a ton of money, and do neuroscience on his own later in life.
And that is exactly what he has done. Jeff went out and made a lot of money (and he surely still does). The ideas he studied in graduate school stayed very close at hand during his years of technology development, but his dream has now come true since founding the Redwood Neuroscience Institute in Menlo Park, CA in August of 2002.
The mission of this exciting research organization is to study and promote “biologically accurate and mathematically well-founded models of memory and cognition”. RNI primarily supports an in-house scientific team working on these issues, presumably anticipating start-up spin-off companies in the future, but also plans to fund external research through grants.
The following articles are interviews with Jeff Hawkins that discuss his interest in the brain and what he thinks is the most important routes to its understanding.