Cognition Distributed: How cognitive technology extends our by Itiel E. Dror, Stevan Harnad

By Itiel E. Dror, Stevan Harnad

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Additional info for Cognition Distributed: How cognitive technology extends our minds (Benjamins Current Topics, Volume 16)

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Or perhaps, historians say, the human mind was conceived (in its modern form) with an eye on the only truth-finding system known at the time — courts of law. Either proposition would explain the analogy. But the question remains: Is this mere analogy or is there more substance to the claim that there can be supra-individual systems to which one can attribute ‘distributed cognition’? Some are quite content to view companies as cognitive systems of sorts, possessing institutional memory (which, like ours, may be tacit or explicit, declarative or procedural), decision capacities, creativity, and so on (Nonaka and Tekeuchi 1995; Hutchins 1996).

1) We need to define cognition in a way that is not chauvinistic, for instance by tying cognition to human manifestations of cognition. Cognitive systems may need sensors, but they do not need ours (including their felt qualities). Cognitive systems may live in an environment, but they do not need our physical environment, even less our own ecological niche, in order to survive. Cognitive systems 29 30 Pierre Poirier and Guillaume Chicoisne may need warning signals that tell them something is going on that threatens their integrity, but they do not need our warning systems (pain, anxiety, fear, stress).

So where does this leave the question of distributed cognition? 10 Could “cognitive technology” be the brain’s way of off-loading some of its otherwise far greater encoding and processing burden? If so, then the worldwide web, a distributed network of cognizers, digital databases and software agents, has effectively become our “Cognitive Commons,” in which distributed cognizers and cognitive technology can interoperate globally with a speed, scope and degree of interactivity that generate cognitive performance powers that would be inconceivable within the scope of individual local cognition alone.

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