The Extended Mind's Fortuitous Spin-off

April 15, 2017

 

There's an interesting paper by Clark and Chalmers titled The Extended Mind. I did not pee on it. I was close, though.

 

In the aforementioned paper, the authors posit that the human mind does not end in its skull cage. They claim that, instead, by using devices such as pen and paper or a smartphone, human minds outsource thought processes and, henceforth, overspill their "physical prison". The latter, it follows, makes the extended mind a setup interwoven with what makes you, well, you.

 

This proverbial prosthetic memory, according to the authors (and everyone else wetting their knickers by extended cognition), comes to life based on its availability as and when required, reflective retrievability, and to the fluency in the dialogue with its biological counterpart. "So what?" you ask, while lazily turning the pages of a Le Monde Diplomatique  and gently stirring a 12-year whisky with the pinky finger. And that's a good question, indeed. So, light up that oak pipe brimful of Orlik Dark Strong Kentucky, because I'm about to give you a hint.

 

Sure, ferociously embracing materialism is as cringeworthy as its bizarro twin, getting horny by hardcore postmodernism. However, if one brushes aside the meta-cognitive-economy-in-the-digital-age hype, the ethical implication of taking seriously this extended mind thingy are of great concern. Think of someone, maliciously or by accident, who erases another person's smartphone memory. If you is no longer you but you plus the extended mind, an inane tinkering would no longer be solely mischief or property damage but battery or, why not, infliction of grievous bodily harm.

 

Do you want more hair raising implications of taking this joke too far? Think of the Oh-so-American! absurdity of the Hobby Lobby court decision. If corporations are considered persons, capable of having political and religious sensitivities, their 'extended mind' would creep out of their servers and all the way down to their proprietary algorithms crawling the world and whatnot. Stop for a second and think. Wonder. Be awestruck. How deep can this rabbit hole go?

 

I know it's lots of fun to use mental trickery in order to assemble tongue twisters; and, even more chic, to apply some big words and mind games to what's in, like VR or avocado and feta brunches. But unless you are aiming at being a celebrity philosopher and make a fool out of yourself, this is very dangerous and, quite frankly, a bit of a turn off. If one is going to play a bit with the mind and some fancy language, it is pedagogical and sexy to take one's ideas to their ultimate consequences and see if they hold water. Unless, of course, that is the whole point and you're a scoundrel.

 

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