Hi Robert, Deb suggested I take a look at your post.
It seems to me that we cannot know the specifics of what we are, we will always remain a mystery in the specific, and it seems that we can get a reasonably useful model of what we are at the generalised level of systems.
It seems that we are a software entity experiencing a software model of reality that most of us think is actually reality.
It seems that the process of evolution by natural selection operating at the genetic level for some 4 billion years and at the mimetic level for some few million years has evolved the systems that allow each of us to instantiate into being as experiencing entities.
It seems that genetics supplies us with our brains, and the many levels of systems within them, and then culture overlays over that new levels and layers of systems and we each have our specific variations on these general themes.
It seems that our brains create a predictive model of reality that we get to experience as reality (rather than experiencing our senses directly). It seems to be this software on software aspect that delivers the qualia of our experience.
It seems that we have this ability to recognise ourselves as an aspect of memory. And we are very complex, at both the molecular and the software levels. There seems to be a lot of variation, and most people seem to be between 15 and 30 levels of cooperative systems delivering the experience and capacities of being that we are.
In a similar fashion to the fact that our bodies are continually exchanging the molecules of our being with the environment, yet our general form remains reasonably constant, so too our mental function can change, yet our memories and habits retain a certain recognisable similarity of form.
So I am clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that our being is a function of many levels of systems, software systems on hardware systems, and every level of system interacting with every other level. We are mind bogglingly complex entities, far beyond our simple modelling capacities to model in detail, yet well within our generalised capacities to model in general form.
It seems clear that most explanatory frameworks more than just a few decades old are so lacking in conceptual tools and relevant datasets as to be essentially meaningless in respect to what we are, though they may contain some very valuable insights into the sorts of strategies that work in practice in particular contexts.
It seems that all we are is very reliant on our physical form, however much we may evolve independently of it.