Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence
||Author: Andy Clark|
List Price: $26.00
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Publisher: Oxford University Press (01 April, 2003)
Sales Rank: 61,945
Average Customer Rating: 4.67 out of 5
Customer ReviewsRating: 4 out of 5
How much 'nature' is in our 'natures'?
Andy Clark has a bold - no, a really bold - thesis: our minds and our selves are not limited to our 'biological skin bag' called the brain or even our biological selves. We, in reality, are cyborgs in the sense that we are merging with a world of technology so much that where 'it' begins and 'we' end is becoming a fuzzy line - a line that we might be best to dispense with altogether. Quite literally, our brains can be called only part of our mind.
Curious yet? I know I was. So, here is my experience with the book: I read it, raised my eyebrows quite a bit (and mumbled some under-my-breath "Wow"s) and remained unconvinced that we are LITERALLY cyborges in the sense that Clark has in mind. Whatt I did come away with (the reason for the 4 stars) is a new lens with which to view the world. Every time I see someone talking on their cell-phone, saving data to their hard-drive for retrieval later on, or even driving their cars, I will now be asking questions like, "How much can this piece of technology be said to add to her nature?"
Still sounds weird? Clark's method of argument is to argue that the brain - what we sometimes call the seat of the self - is suprisingly malleable and accomodating to outside influences. Even our own image of what is and is not 'part of ourselves' is radically flacid. His case is suprisingly powerful. For an appetite whetter, though, just think of yousrelf driving a car. When you are driving, you usually do not think about driving as such: "I need to turn left, and to do that, I move my steering wheel left which moves this external car, with me in it, left." You almost feel like the car and the steering wheel is an extension of you in that controlling the car becomes 'second-nature' - turning left becomes as natural [check the metaphor] as moving your left arm.
From here, Clark talks about how it is human nature, seemingly, to use tools to aid us: from pen and pencil to store thoughts, to wristwatches helping us coordiante time, to the internet allowing us to communicate farther and farther distances - that's just what we do; adding that the 'we' in that sentence is no longer simply biology, but actually includes the technologies that we use.
All this, to me, was convincing in the sense that there is much more continuity between our brains and technologies than we usually realize, and that they do help change our natures. But, it does not follow that because the self is a concept that easily adapts to technology (that is becoming constantly smaller, more invisible, and human friendly) that this means literally that we now have 'cyborg' natures: that we are not still biologal selves with ever-increasing relationships with technology. If Clark used the phrase 'our cyborg natures' metaphorically maybe I could go along (and as convincing as the book is, probably would have). But he means it literally, and he is not as convincing as he needs to be.
Buy and read the book though. Lilke me, you may remain unconvinced by his larger point but you might well be swayed by some of his smaller points. Really learning to appreciate how integral a part of our goals, natures, and every-day lives technology is, is an exciting thing. Postulating how technology could change us in the future and even eradicate or alleviate many of our limitations is not something to be feared or scoffed at, but to be embraced.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Bio-technological unions are evolving faster and faster
Philosophy and cognitive science blend in a survey of what makes humans different from other species. The mental capacity of human thought and its ability to perceive non-biological resources, growing more aware of the world through technology and invention, makes for a fascinating survey of mental and physical advances in human achievement. Bio-technological unions are evolving faster and faster: In Natural-Born Cyborgs, Andy Clark deftly argues that the line between user and tool continues to grow thinner, and speculates to where this all might lead.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Excellent cognitive science
This is a well-written and accessible book. The focus is not on technology per se, but on cognitive science and the philosophy of mind. Clark touches on a wide range of emerging technologies, but with the purpose of exploring how they will transform us. The picture on the cover might imply that these technologies would necessarily involve Borg-like implants, but Clark soon disabuses us of that notion through a number of arguments and entertaining examples (even including a magic trick). One of his arguments is that the way we (can) think depends on the tools we use, and the tools are becoming qualitatively different, both more closely coupled and adapted to us.