Thursday, January 15, 2009

Do you have an iPhone mind?

The always engaging Jonah Lehrer today posts a provocative bit on David Chalmers' argument that we need to expand our definition of the mind:

"The key idea is that when bits of the environment are hooked up to your cognitive system in the right way, they are, in effect, part of the mind, part of the cognitive system. So, say I'm rearranging Scrabble tiles on a rack. This is very close to being analogous to the situation when I'm doing an anagram in my head. In one case the representations are out in the world, in the other case they're in here. We say doing an anagram on a rack ought be regarded as a cognitive process, a process of the mind, even though it's out there in the world."

This is where the iPhone comes in, as a more contemporary example of how the extended mind works.

"A whole lot of my cognitive activities and my brain functions have now been uploaded into my iPhone. It stores a whole lot of my beliefs, phone numbers, addresses, whatever. It acts as my memory for these things. It's always there when I need it."

Chalmers even claims it holds some of his desires.

"I have a list of all of my favorite dishes at the restaurant we go to all the time in Canberra. I say, OK, what are we going to order? Well, I'll pull up the iPhone - these are the dishes we like here. It's the repository of my desires, my plans. There's a calendar, there's an iPhone calculator, and so on. It's even got a little decision maker that comes up, yes or no."
So what do you think? Is the iPhone just a phone? A microcomputer that talks? Or has it truly become an extension, an annex to your brain? For some, the game room perhaps? I know that I've come to regard my Touch is much more than a pocket computer. I'm not sure if I consider it an extension of my mind so much as a faithful companion/assistant. I'll have to think on that.

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