Like many Software Engineers and Computer Scientists, I've always been interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI). When people outside of the field think about AI, they normally think about computers that can behave like humans in the real world. This branch of AI is called Artificial General Intelligence. And despite how popular it is in science fiction, in the real world there has been little progress towards the goal of creating an intelligent machine.
However, that hasn't stopped people from trying. In particular, to propose new comprehensive theories of how a synthetic brain would work. For example, by simulation of a real brain like the Blue Brain Project. Or arguing that it's an emergent property of highly interconnected networks, similar to what Christof Koch explains in this talk:
Ray Kurzweil has decided to contribute another theory in his new book, How to Create a Mind:
The book is coming up in November, so I haven't had the chance to read it yet. But a priori the model that he proposes seems reasonable: a self-organizing hierarchical system of pattern recognizers. I will post an update once I have the book in my hands.