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Cognitive Enhancement

An article from The AtlanticAllen Buchanan interviewed about his recent book.

I think that any appeal to the notion of human nature, on either side of the enhancement debate, is tricky and problematic and has to be handled with care. Yes, in one sense we might say that it’s part of human nature to strive to improve our capacities. Humans have done this in the past by developing literacy and numeracy, and the institutions of science, and more recently we’ve done it with computers and the Internet. So, yes, if an alien were looking at humanity and asking “What is human nature?” one of the ingredients is going to be that these beings seem quite concerned with improving their capacities and they seem to have a knack for doing it.

On the other hand, sometimes people say that we shouldn’t engage with these technologies because we could somehow damage our nature or interfere with our nature, and in doing so they seem to have a kind of rosy pre-Darwinian view about human nature and about nature generally. They tend to think that an individual organism, a human being, is like the work of a master engineer—a delicately balanced, harmonious whole that’s the product of eons of exacting evolution.

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Humanity 2.0: Steve Fuller takes an “extended” turn

Steve Fuller arguably the best-known social epistemologist in the sociological tradition seems to have taken an extended mind/distributed cognition/cyborgian turn. Steve by the way (as was Susan Haack in my previous post) most generous in participating in the first EPISTEME volume and conference, especially significant since he is the founding editor of Social Epistemology. The cover of Steve’s latest bears a striking resemblance to Andy Clark’s Natural-Born Cyborgs. Judging from the article it seems that Steve would have much in common with another major extended theorist – Rob Wilson and his What Sorts of People Should There Be? project.

In all this, it’s not so much that we’ve been losing our humanity but that it’s becoming projected or distributed across things that lack a human body.

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Chalmers’ TED talk on The Extended Mind

The Extended Mind – I think that this is the first time Dave has expanded the idea to social extension or networks. I recall that FB post he mentions.

And Dave is trailing on his website his forthcoming book Constructing the World (OUP). BIG NEWS!!

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Res cogitans extensa: A Philosophical Defense of the Extended Mind Thesis

Look out for Georg Theiner’s book (publisher, Peter Lang) that is about to hit the shelves. I’m reproducing the cover blurb from the preprint he so kindly sent me. Georg has already done some good work for an Extended Mind project and I’m looking forward to his contribution to the stigmergy issue.

Abstract for Res cogitans extensa: For Descartes, minds were essentially immaterial, non-extended things. Contemporary cognitive science prides itself on having exorcised the Cartesian ghost from the biological machine. However, it remains committed to the Cartesian vision of the mental as something purely inner. Against the idea that the mind resides solely in the brain, advocates of the situated and embodied nature of cognition have long stressed the importance of dynamic brain-body-environment couplings, the opportunistic exploitation of bodily morphology, the strategic performance of epistemically potent actions, the generation and use of external representations, and the cognitive scaffolding provided by artifacts and social-cultural practices. According to the extended mind thesis, a significant portion of human cognition literally extends beyond the brain into the body and its environment. This book aims to clarify the nature and the scope of this thesis, and to defend its central insight that cognition is not confined to the boundaries of the biological individual.

About Georg: Georg Theiner, born in Vienna, received his Ph.D. in Philosophy, with a Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and a Minor in History and Philosophy of Science, at Indiana University, Bloomington in 2008. His research interests are in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. During his tenure as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta, he worked on the extended mind thesis and socially distributed cognition.

Noë: Does Thinking Happen In The Brain?

Speaking of Andy Clark and Alva Noë in the previous posting, here is Noë writing for NPR set to continue in another installment.