Extended Mind

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History

The concept of the extended mind was first raised in 1998, right around the time Google was born, by two philosophers named Andy Clark and David Chalmers. In 1998, they published a short essay called The Extended Mind in the journal Analysis. The essay asked, “Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?”[1] Most people might answer, “At the skull.” But philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers set out to convince their readers that the mind is not simply the product of the neurons in our brains, locked away behind a wall of bone. Rather, they argued that the mind is something more: a system made up of the brain plus parts of its environment.

The mind appears to be adapted for reaching out and making the world, including our machines, an extension of itself.[2]

Thus, Humans are “natural-born cyborgs,” and the Internet is our giant “extended mind”.[3] Cyborg Anthropology takes the stance of traditional anthropological methods, plus the fact that the presence of technology in the lives of humans can no longer be ignored. Most of us are low-tech cyborgs, which means that we spend at least some time each day interacting with interfaces and technologies.

For instance, many of us now use our cell phones as day planners, alarm clocks and social connectors. According to research group comScore, Google processed a little over 400 million queries per day in March 2012.[4]

Pieces of analog technology that use to serve us in these ways have suddenly merged into one liquid device. The ability for mobile devices to contain multiple functionalities makes them more valuable.

Portable electronic dictionaries and translators are now available as software on one device instead of multiple devices. The computer liquifies culture, breathing life into encyclopedias. Technosocial devices compress the space and time needed to connect to information sources. Wireless, Internet-enabled devices allow ubiquitous connectivity to a omnipresent net of data, from which we can call up any piece of data we desire.

No longer do we need to seek out the nearest phone booth or wait for a specific feature to play in a movie theatre – we can use mobile devices to play a clip, or use communication features to connect anywhere, at any time, in a variety of ways (both textual and auditory). Our ears can reach to the next neighborhood or tory, and many of us now have the ability to be omniscient and omnipresent at the touch of a button. This leads us to a unique moment in human history, the idea that many of us now have the abil-ity to be omniscient and omnipresent at the touch of a button. The omnipresent information net can snap data to us from almost anywhere. Information has become an extension of our brains into this connected, dynamic 4th dimensional field that we can only see when we ask for a part of it. The entirety of it cannot be felt or accessed at one time, and our interfaces are still limited in the fact that we can only access this data via flat, two-dimensional screens.

References

  1. 2009. Zimmer, Carl. How Google Is Making Us Smarter: Discover. http://discovermagazine.com/2009/feb/15-how-google-is-making-us-smarter
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2012/4/comScore_Releases_March_2012_U.S._Search_Engine_Rankings Accessed 14 August 2012.