We are Embodied Minds
As minds that are associated with particular physical systems, we are closely tied to the sensors and actuators of these systems.
Jack Kerouac described himself as "just another soul trapped in a body" -- and I've often felt that way -- but it's not the whole story.
We think with our hearts, lungs, digestive systems and genitals and so forth -- not just with our brains. If you took a human brain and connected it to a different sort of body -- or left it to cognize in a void with no body -- it would fairly quickly self-organize into something radically different that would only marginally qualify as "human" or as "the same mind" that came before.
Varieties of Memory and Cognition
We are also minds devoted to sensing and acting in environments. In order to do this we remember the environments we've experienced. And importantly, we remember them in multiple ways:
- episodically: remembering the essence of experiences, even if we forget the sensory details
- declaratively: abstracting general facts, beliefs and ideas from masses of (largely forgotten) experiences
- procedurally: remembering how to do things, even if we don't exactly remember the why of all the steps we take
- intentionally: we remember how we broke our goals into subgoals in various situations
- attentionally: we remember what sorts of things merited our attention
Each of these kinds of memory constitutes a different kind of pattern, and is associated with different kinds of dynamics for pattern recognition, formation, and combination. For example,
- declarative memory naturally ties in with reasoning
- procedural memory naturally ties in with what the psychologists and engineers call "reinforcement learning" -- learning via getting reward and punishment signals, and automatically adjusting one's behavior accordingly
- sensory memory (especially visual memory) naturally ties in with hierarchical structures for pattern recognition.
The human brain contains particular intelligent pattern manipulation dynamics corresponding to each memory type -- and AI systems may contain different dynamics serving similar purposes, with different strengths and/or weaknesses.
How much of this sort of humanlike brain architecture is specific to humanlike minds, and how much is characteristic of minds-in-general, is something we are still discovering.
Other sorts of minds, like those of cetaceans or distributed Internet intelligences, will likely still have memory and processing functions corresponding to the categories mentioned above -- but will likely carry out each of these functions very differently!