What is the Extended Mind – or Is There One?

A key question concerning the extended mind discussion is, in addition to what extended mind is, whether it makes even sense to speak of an extended mind. In our discussions, we have come up with at least four different angles to approach the question.

1. The Extended Mind

According to the original Clark/Chalmers hypothesis, the extended mind concerns the mind. In other words, it concerns that part of experience which is involved in such things as beliefs and knowledge. This, however, leads to rather radical conclusions. First of all, if I have information in a notebook, on the grounds of the EM hypothesis, that information constitutes a belief of mine. This is, of course, quite a radical conception.

In addition to the problems with the original EM hypothesis, the whole concept of the mind has also been contested by some in our think tank. It must be admitted that an adequate definition of what the mind is is as of the present moment wanting. Therefore we have sought alternative points of view.

2. The Augmented Mind

We could look at EM phenomena, such as ubiquitous information storage, rather from a more technological point of view. Like augmented reality, where the digital world is superimposed on everyday experience, augmented mind would simply mean that we experience increased cognitive capacity owing to the use of technology. One can “remember” a great deal of information by storing it in an Evernote database, and one can “know” a great deal of information by googling it up.

Here, too, the notion of mind, with related concepts such as knowledge, are still entertained. Perhaps we could do away with them altogether?

3. The Extended Cognition

The difference between mind and cognition is that the former relates to actual experienced cognitive processes, such as thinking. The latter concerns those processes themselves. Perhaps we could, then, refer to EM phenomena as extended cognition? In other words, regardless of experiential issues, what is central to EM is the ability to amplify and augment processes that are typically thought of as cognitive, such as thinking and innovation.

But perhaps there would be an even more simplified approach.

4. Accelerated Intelligence

Here, the notion of intelligence is brought to play. This should be construed broadly, rather in terms of multiple intelligences such as advocated by Howard Gardner, than as simply quantifiable IQ. A tentative definition for intelligence could be such capacity on the grounds of which we can quickly come up with working solutions to various problems.

EM technology certainly accelerates the rate of coming up with such solutions; a calculator enables one to perform complex calculations in seconds. Google enables access to a huge database of declarative information. And Evernote enables the ubiquitous access to information previously stored, if it would be needed in a task.

Each of the four positions has its merits; the first being most intelligible from a systems thinking point of view, the last being the most intelligible from a mechanistic point of view.

We have yet to reach consensus which of the four, if any, best works as the general umbrella concept under which EM phenomena can be wrapped.


One thought on “What is the Extended Mind – or Is There One?

  1. Pingback: Applications of the Extended Mind and the Mind « The Extended Mind

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