The body "is not just a way to get our heads to meetings" - Sir Ken Robinson
Shape and form contribute to thought.
In the past several years, the idea that intelligence requires a body has become much more widely accepted among philosophers of mind and scientists alike, so much so that it might be more accurate to say that flexibility in thought would be impossible without our bodies, which offer an emotional reservoir into which our thoughts can recline - or be aroused. Emotion-free reasoning doesn't liberate our thinking from unwanted contaminants. Rather, it diminishes our capacity to feel, to absorb, and, ultimately, to understand. Likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, thought consumed by feeling - no matter how justified - will eventually veer into a self-absorbed inability to change or accept new information. Sadly, many emotion-fueled "stands on principle" often lose touch with the facts of the matter.
New research, however, goes even further than this, suggesting that environment should be added to the brain and body as a third element of intelligence. A physical world, after all, is necessary for an intelligent being to generate predictions. In reviewing this research, the arXiv Blog at Technology Review appears to offer a framework within which divergent or creative thinking can be understood: it's what possible when the brain-body predictions based on one environment are "decoupled," or find themselves in, a different environment.
"Embodiment, Computation And the Nature of Artificial Intelligence:"
But today he and Hoffman go even further. They say that various low level cognitive functions such as locomotion are clearly simple forms of computation involving the brain-body-environment triumvirate.
That's why our definition of computation needs to be extended to include the influence of environment, they say.
For many simple actions, such as walking, these computations proceed more or less independently. These are 'natural' actions in the sense that they exploit the natural dynamics of the system.
But they also say it provides a platform on which more complex cognitive tasks can take place relatively easily. They think that systems emerge in the brain that can predict the outcome of these natural computations. That's obviously useful for forward planning.
Pfeifer and Hoffmann's idea is that more complex cognitive abilities emerge when these forward-planning mechanisms become decoupled from the system they are predicting. (emphasis supplied)
If this is true, then science might be closer to understanding how divergent, original thinking occurs in intelligent biological beings like ourselves - and how the same might be achieved in circuitry and silicon.