I've just finished reading On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins - the father of the PalmPilot and founder of both Palm and Handspring. I remember reading an interview with Jeff a few years back where he talked about how, despite his involvement in mobile, what he really wanted to do was get some of his theories about the nature of intelligence down on paper - and he's done a really good job.
In the book, he posits that building artificially intelligent machines is eminently possible - that there's nothing magical about intelligence itself that precludes this. In fact he sums this up beautifully in a chapter on consciousness, stating that "consciousness is just what it feels like to have a neocortex". He then lays out his theories for how the brain works: that basically, our minds use hierarchical structures of layers of neurons to constantly make predictions about the world our senses show to us, and feeding these predictions back into the input from our senses to evaluate them.
It's an interesting theory, and one I'm looking forward to discussing with the FP crew, 3 of whom came out of the Cognitive Science department of Sussex University and know much more about this stuff I. And I was all fired up by the epilogue, an enthusiastic call for students interested in the topic to get working on it - after decades wandering about the wilderness, Jeff is convinced that we're due for a burst of progress in this area in the next 10 years.
Thoroughly recommended - and there's an associated web site, of course.
Disclaimer: I'm a frustrated AI wannabe. Despite living in Brighton I avoided Sussex University, which has a great rep for such things, on the basis that I didn't want to spend my university years living in the family home... and I failed to get into Edinburgh, the other big UK AI centre, thanks to my dreadful maths.