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The Mystery of Minds: Multi-facets & functions and Intuition

One of my best reasons why machines (including calculator, computer, and artificial intelligence (AI)) cannot simulate human minds lies in that human minds have multiple facets and functions whereas machines like computers and AI have only a few types of abilities.

Machines have strong memory and calculation (that supports logical and analytical thinking). Computers and AI totally depend on quantitative evaluation. Machines work powerfully and accurately (as long as electricity is supplied).

Unlike machines, humans don't have strong memory and calculation. Humans cannot maintain high concentration for many hours. As a result, making mistakes is inescapable. Our qualitative evaluation often leads to misjudgments because such evaluation often includes our biases and heuristics.

However, there are three crucial differences between machines and humans. The first point is that human minds are multi-facets. Multi-facets means we can have several feelings, emotions, ideas and even personalities simultaneously.

Actor or actress is a good example. In a movie, the actor and actress play roles of married couple though they are actually not. In daily life, we often have 'ambivalent feelings.' We say, 'I hate him, but like him. I'm not sure why....' In this point, computer and AI usually have simple thinking processes. It looks like the 'monolithic' mind.

The second point is multi-functions of mind. Memory and calculation are only the two of various functions of minds: Imagination, mental simulation, interpretation, comprehension, planning, sympathy, questioning, adaptation, negotiation, analysis, reasoning, abstract and concrete thinking, insight, awareness, sensemaking, .... Humans can adopt necessary functions at the necessary moment.

The third point is the uniqueness of intuition. Humans develop intuition through personal experience and training. The definition of intuition varies from researchers, but Gary Klein and his peers (Naturalistic Decision-making (NDM) community) defines it as 'Intuition depends on the use of experience to recognize key patterns that indicate the dynamics of the situation' (p.31).

They also figured out that intuition is a kind of combination of pattern-recognition and mental simulation.

The NDM community and I always point out that machines cannot simulate this mechanism of intuition. The reason is that human intuition is developed through personal experience. Our experience always entail five senses, human relations, core values and life philosophy, mental and physical features of the person, social and cultural backgrounds, etc. Such personal factors are special.

As our personal life is immersed in technology and as we live in the virtual world, our minds tend to become less sensitive. Technology makes our life much simpler. For instance, we can purchase the merchandises through online shops with one click. It does not mean such life style makes us much smarter.

In conclusion, we still need to investigate the nature and features of minds as we live with machines.


Klein, G. (1999). Source of power. How people make decisions. MIT Press. P. 31.


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