technology, thinking

Functions for the Extended Mind

A cornerstone of the extended mind hypothesis is to look at the mind from the point of view of cognitive functions. What are such functions that the EM should encompass? Here’s a quick taxonomy we are planning to use for our fall EM classes.

1. Seek

Looking up information is an obvious internet EM function. Services like Google and Wikipedia augment our access to new data significantly compared to offline access to data.

It is an interesting question what this does to the concept of knowledge. If information is accessible on the internet as fast as if it was memorized, is that information already knowledge? This would at first glance seem to follow from the original EM hypothesis. So do we already know what is on the internet? Opinions vary in our group for the time being.

2. Sort

Another function, especially for EM tech, is sorting out the massive amounts of information we can access. By using various web services, such as iGoogle and StumbleUpon, we can create interfaces that produce only relevant and interesting information.

I am looking forward to working augmented reality solutions that would also bear some sorting function for offline data. It would, for example, be fabulous to be able to replace advertisements with inspiring information, à la Vernor Vinge’s novel Rainbow’s End.

3. Store

Evernote has branded itself as your extended memory, and that is precisely what it does: extends your capacity to recall information. Accessing information on Evernote is massively different than accessing information on Google or Wikipedia, since that information is already processed by you.

In other words, information on Evernote has massively more significant semantic load than some piece of data you look up on Wikipedia. By storing information in notebooks and cloud services, we can expand our available reservoirs of useful information. We are already actually very close to never forgetting.

What happens when online cloud storage is coupled with smart semantics, and perhaps some augmented reality integration?

We live in interesting times.

4. Share

Finally, the cornerstone of swarm intelligence and social singularity (not to speak of distributing funny cat videos) is sharing. Social media is already making a huge impact on how information is accessed and processed. What happens, when we are able to share information more or less real-time?

There are still hurdles to cross. But nonetheless, we are advancing at an amazing rate at the time being. And we are looking at a very interesting future.

To recap: we live in interesting times.

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