With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals
Oct19

With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals

Share BY JASON DORRIER   OCT 19, 2014   In recent years, the surprising idea that we’ll one day merge with our technology has warily made its way into the mainstream. Often it’s couched in a combination of snark and fear. Why in the world would we want to do that? It’s so inhuman. That the idea is distasteful isn’t shocking. The imagination rapidly conjures images of Star Trek’s Borg, a nightmarish future when humans and machines melt into a monstrosity of flesh and wires, forever and irrevocably leaving “nature” behind. But let’s not fool ourselves with such dark fantasies. Humans are already technological animals; tight integration with our inventions is in our nature; and further increasing that integration won’t take place in some distant future—it’s happening now. To observe our technological attachment, we need simply walk out the door. It’s everywhere, all around us—on the bus or train, at work, at home, in the bathroom, in bed—people gazing into screens, living digital lives right next to their ordinary ones. In the Matrix, the experience is involuntary, a tool of control and oppression. In our world, it’s voluntary, and mostly about freedom, expansion, and expression. As Jason Silva recently noted, our devices augment our brains, like cognitive prosthetics. In his latest video, Silva says we should go easy on those fervent fans lining up for the latest smartphone, “These are not trivial things, these are not fashion accessories—these are mindware upgrades.” The newest smart devices speed information processing, better organize our thoughts, more efficiently connect us with others. Silva says a simple telephone collapses time and geography in a kind of “technologically mediated telepathy” as termed by David Porush. Smartphones and other connected devices do the same thing, of course, and at very nearly the speed of light. But the word smartphone fails to convey that the phone part is far less than half the equation. Referring to Andy Clark’s book Natural-Born Cyborgs, Silva says, “The modern mind emerges in the feedback loops between brains and these tools that we create and the environment in which we create them. We’re thinking through our iPhones and Samsung phones. We’re thinking on the internet. We’re thinking on the page.” This isn’t a physical merger with technology, but it is surely a psychological one. And this deepening union of brains and devices—Silva’s feedback loops and mindware upgrades—is just the latest round. Man has been “merging” with technology since the beginning. It’s more or less our modus operandi. We exude technology. We live in it. It lives in us. So, why is the concept so foreign? When technology is accepted and absorbed into the culture, we no longer think of it as technology. Consider...

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