Recombining The Brain And The World

Philosopher Andy Clark writes today in the New York Times about the question of cognitive prosthesis: If we use hearing aids and prosthetic legs and accept them as part of our physiological “network” or “circuit” (for hearing, for moving), then why don’t we think of iPhones and other mobile devices that effectively “extend” consciousness as simply prosthetics for the brain?

The issue is where does the self begin. As I wrote about for Pomp & Circumstance, the answer is less clear than you may suspect. Is the self your consciousness, or your whole mind? Your mind, or your brain? Your brain, or your body? Clark extends the problem into the tools the body uses. Why not extend it into the world affected by the brain and its tools?

Where is your mind, and how do you know it isn’t elsewhere—in its extensions, its constant low-level activities accomplished via other neurons, “silicon neurons” (Clark) such as those in computers and phones?

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