The Extended Mind

The Extended Mind

Prof Andy Clark
The University of Edinburgh


The extended mind hypothesis claims that the effective circuits of human thought and reason are not entirely ‘in the head’, and invites us to consider technologies, social networks, and institutional structures as proper parts of distributed organs for thought. This is increasingly important, as we are entering an age of widespread human enhancement. The technologies range from wearable, implantable, and pervasive computing to the humble but transformative smartphone. But what really matters is the way we are, as a result of this tidal wave of self- re-engineering opportunity, just starting to know ourselves: not as firmly bounded biological organisms but as reconfigurable nodes in a flux of information, communication, and action. This gives us a new opportunity to look at ourselves, and to ask the fundamental question: Where does the mind stop, and the rest of the world begin?


Further questions

  1. What are the mechanisms of neural plasticity at play when we integrate new resources to form extended cognitive systems?

  2. What is it about us humans that makes us so good at extending our own minds?

  3. What, if anything, limits the range of all this snowballing self-reinvention?

  4. Is the underlying machinery of human emotion and consciousness apt for extension too, or are emotions and experiences more deeply locked to our neural or biological natures?