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THE WEB-EXTENDED MIND

Well, this article was inevitable – first mentioned here). Francis Heylighen has been talking about this for a few years now as has myself in discussing Hayek, distributed cognition and co-evolved mind and sociality not to mention my ongoing interest in stigmergy which I argue is a species of EM.

Abstract: This article explores the notion of the Web-extended mind, which is the idea that the technological and informational elements of the Web can sometimes serve as part of the mechanistic substrate that realizes human mental states and processes. It is argued that while current forms of the Web may not be particularly suited to the realization of Web-extended minds, new forms of user interaction technology as well as new approaches to information representation do provide promising new opportunities for Web-based forms of cognitive extension. In addition, it is suggested that extended cognitive systems often rely on the emergence of social practices and conventions that shape how a technology is used. Web-extended minds may thus depend on forms of socio-technical co-evolution in which social forces and factors play just as important a role as do the processes of technology design and development.

Keywords: cognition, cognitive extension, cognitive technology, extended mind, Internet, linked data, Web science, World Wide Web.

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Agent-Based Computational Sociology

Check out this new book I’ve just come across – Wiley’s lists, across disciplines, is certainly looking very strong these days. Also check out two colleagues’ excellent Wiley offerings – Ted Lewis’ Network Science and of course Ken Aizawa’s and Fred Adams’ The Bounds of Cognition.

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Stigmergy: Special Issue of Cognitive Systems Research

Here is the line-up for the forthcoming special issue of Cognitive Systems Research Marge Doyle and I have just edited. It’s been a long time coming because of the highly technical nature of some of the papers not to mention the various disciplines involved.

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Stigmergy 3.0: From Ants to Economies – Margery Doyle, Cognitive Research Scientist/ Leslie Marsh, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Cognitive Stigmergy: A Study of Emergence of Social Structure in Small Groups – Ted Lewis, Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Naval Postgraduate School

Emergence in Stigmergic and Complex Adaptive Systems: A Formal Discrete Event Systems Perspective – Saurabh Mittal, Founder and Principal Scientist, Dunip Technologies, Tempe, AZ

Stigmergy in Human Practice: Coordination in Construction Work – Lars Rune Christensen, Global Interaction Research Initiative, Technologies in Practice Group, University of Copenhagen

Stigmergic Self-organization and the Improvisation of Ushahidi – Janet Marsden, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

Stigmergic Dimensions of Online Creative Interaction – Jimmy Secretan, Principal Scientist, Korrelate, Orlando.

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Getting to the Hayekian Network

Here is Troy Camplin’s intro to his paper for Hayek in Mind.

In many ways this paper is necessarily an introduction. I want to introduce away to understand F. A. Hayek’s ideas on both spontaneous orders and the brain by understanding network structures. More, I want to distinguish between networks that emerge top-down in organizations and cellular regulatory networks and those that emerge bottom-up in self-organizing systems and spontaneous orders, whose relations to each other follow similar patterns. Socialists argue, contrary to Adam Smith’s thesis that the economy selforganizes from the bottom-up (1776), that the economy should be consciously designed and given goals. Hayek modernized Smith with spontaneous order theory. At the same time, self-organization theory emerged in physics and chemistry, complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory emerged in biology, and network theory emerged in several disciplines; these are all in the same conceptual family as spontaneous order theory. Hayek was part of the 20th century revolution of bottom-up self-organization theorizing that sees the universe emerging on its own through natural processes. If everything in the universe is self-organized, where do we get this idea, resurrected by socialists, that conscious design is the norm? Humans, like most animals, evolved to immediately, instinctively recognize the signs of others of their species. With wolves, lions, and other strongly territorial species, scent signs mark territory to warn off others. But humans are more visual, so we leave visual evidence of order. As a consequence, we associate the presence of order with an orderer or designer, and the development of creationist theories to explain nature, soul theories to explain the mind, and governments to order society. Darwinism and self-organization theories replaced creationist theories (for most people); top-down soul theories, including Descartes’ homunculus theory, evolved into CAS theories of the brain’s network structures, out of which the mind emerges; top-down social theories (where the hierarchical structure of the Catholic church was reproduced in other Western social structures, for example) gave way to Adam Smith’s bottom-up self-organizing ‘‘invisible-hand’’ theory. While life and mind have continued to evolve toward theories of self-organization, our social theories took a u-turn when socialism emerged as a respectable theory of economic ordering. The designer fallacy, increasingly abandoned in theories of life and mind, was readopted in our social theories.

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Connectome

Here’s a recent WSJ article summing up the state of play in mapping brain connectivity. Here is Susan Bookheimer who holds the Joaquin Fuster Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience chair at UCLA – Fuster is off course a name many readers will recognise from my postings here and here. The images are from the Human Connectome Project.

“The study of connectivity is as hot as hot can get,” said Susan Bookheimer, a neuropsychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is the new head of the Organization of Human Brain Mapping, a large international professional society of neuroimaging researchers.

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Knowledge Has Always Been Networked

Here is a rather scathing review of David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.

The renaissance of Marshall McLuhan in the era of the Web is disappointing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its rather dull obviousness. There is little surprise that the quotable, evidence-free, technology-obsessed Canadian English professor would thrive in a technology-obsessed era where pithy quotes about the deep meaning of digital devices too often stands in for evidence. McLuhan, of course, was the master theorist of the medium; beyond the over-used “medium is the message,” McLuhan’s major insight was to argue that socio-technological systems — such as the media — operate on a grand scale, largely independent of the day-to-day interest us mere mortals might have in their actual content. McLuhan’s primary flaw, on the other hand, was to decouple this understanding of socio-technical system from any relationship to economics, politics, or society. As leading communications theorist James Carey put it, “McLuhan sees the principal effect [of communication technology] as impacting sensory organization and thought. McLuhan has much to say about perception and thought but little to say about institutions.”

German philosopher Martin Heidegger is less quoted in Silicon Valley than Marshall McLuhan, and not just because he was a Nazi. McLuhan and Heidegger are equally poor writers, but whereas McLuhan’s inscrutable prose has led to him being more read than he ought to be, unintelligibility has had the opposite outcome for Heidegger. A dazzlingly complex philosopher — probably the greatest of the 20th century — the most important aspect of Heidegger’s thought for our purposes is his understanding that human beings (or rather “Dasein,” “being-in-the-world”) are always thrown into a particular context, existing within already existing language structures and pre-determined meanings. In other words, the world is like the web, and we, Dasein, live inside the links.

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Hayek in Mind: Hayek’s Philosophical Psychology

The book was published today. Here is the publisher’s webpage and the Amazon page.