What the Mind Does Well – and What it Doesn’t

In our latest session we sat down to think over what the biological mind does well, and what it does not. Likewise, we considered what the extended mind does well and what it does not. Here are the results we brainstormed; coming up next week, the respective EM ones.

What the Mind Does Well

Creative Thinking

We still have to build a machine that is capable of genuine creativity. Whether this is a question of complexity, hidden variables or something we do not even yet understand is an open question. Nonetheless, biological mind is by far superior in creativity compared to technology.

Intuitive (Aschematic) Thinking

Same as above: machine intelligence is still for the most part schematic thinking, whereas intuitive thinking, at least according to some researchers such as Djiksterhuis and Nordgren, is aschematic.


Machine intelligence is paradigm-constrained, whereas human intelligence can reposition and view things from various perspectives. Also relevant to empathy.

Semantic Processing

EM is catching up here, but humans are still superior in understanding meaning.


I think this one will take too long to explain.


Directly relevant to the two of the above. Also to the first item: whether this is a question of complexity, or of something deeper is still an open question.


Same as above.


Do androids dream of electric sheep? This leads to a can of worms of a question with respect to AI and EM, that is to say, can even the most complex of machines have phenomenal consciousness?


Here too, technology is catching up fast, but biological mind still prevails.


Similar question as imagination.


Only an agent can have dogmas (i.e. axiomatic beliefs). Does this require a biological mind?

Image recognition

This is similar to semantic recognition: machines still have some way to go, but they are catching up.


Things the Mind Does Not Do Well

Tedious Tasks

We tend to get bored quickly with repetitive tasks.

Massive Information Storage

What did you have for lunch a month ago?

Trivial Declarative Just-In-Case Recall

What is the tenth digit of pi?

Volitional Recollection

See massive information storage.


What do you think about what you think about right now?


8433953 x 234235?

Task Management

This is an interesting tangent to EM in terms of information processing. Tasks consist of declarative memory items, and they are hard to recall volitionally.

Information Management

Like David Allen put it, a brain is a great place to have ideas, but lousy to store them in. The memory constraints apply to any management of large amounts of non-consolidated information, for example raw data.

Cognitive Multitasking

Here, the constraints of the working memory (the magical number seven) make it hard to focus on several processes at the same time.

Thinking by Negations

The biological mind seems to have hard time grasping the word no. Try not to think of the pink elephant.

Rational Thinking

Whether we like good old Aristotle or not, we are not really very rational animals. Human decision making seems driven by a huge number of cognitive biases and other effectors that have nothing to do with rational inference.


Directly related to the above. Also, even the most rigorous mind must commit to some axioms and make intuitive decisions on choosing rules of inference. Pure rational analysis just does not seem to be cut out for the human mind.


Next week, a similar breakdown of what the extended mind does and does not do well.


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