Exploring the extended mind

The Philosopher’s Magazine has an interesting interview with David Chalmers on the extended mind hypothesis – the idea that the mind exists not only in ourselves but is extended out to the technology we use.

However, the technology does not have to be computers and digital technology, something as simply as a notebook is enough:

‚ÄúThe central example in our original paper was an Alzheimer‚Äôs patient. We called him Otto. Like a lot of Alzheimer‚Äôs patients, to get around, he uses external tools to manage his life. In particular, he carries a notebook around everywhere with relevant information and consults it whenever he needs it. So, when a normal person thinks, ‘I want to go to the museum,’ they recall, ‘OK, the museum‚Äôs on 53rd Street’ and off they go. When Otto wants to go to the museum, he looks it up in his notebook, reads the museum is on 53rd Street and off he goes.

“We argue this is part of his memory all along. We would say that even before the ordinary person recalled the information, they believed the museum was on 53rd Street. Why? Because that stuff was there in their memory, available, so to speak, for them. Exactly the same is true of Otto: that information was there in his memory, in the notebook, available for him there when he wants it. So we argue even before he read the information from the notebook, he believed that the museum was on 53rd Street.”

It’s interesting to note that language, is, of course, a technology, despite the fact we tend to think of it as something largely internal.

Chalmers also goes on to discuss the limitations of the theory and discusses what the idea implies for our concepts of the mind as they relate to the brain and the material world.

Link to Philosopher’s Magazine interview ‘A Piece of iMe’.
Link to original Clark and Chalmers extended mind paper.

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