Extended Thoughts

The Brainbound view of mind, which has dominated western intellectual thought for over 500 years, insists that our thoughts are located inside our skulls. This has been challenged recently by a new framework from cognitive science, and philosophy of mind called the Extended Mind. This emphasises thinking that takes place outside of the brain, using the body to think and offloading information processing onto other people and things in our environment. As we communicate across many devices and platforms, our thinking is becoming increasingly decentralised and distributed.


Thinking with her thumbs and phone


The idea that our stomachs and heart have a say in how we think and feel and that Google is now part of our brains may not seem that controversial, but the extended mind goes further than that.  Some researchers argue that as a mathematician attempts to solve an equation on a white board, their thinking actually takes place on the white board itself.


A blind person, thinking and seeing with their stick.


Gregory Bateson, gave the example of the blind man, making the point that his stick was an extension not just of his senses but also became part of his cognitive system.

Extended mind fundamentally challenges our understanding of how we think and where our thinking takes place.

This project is motivated by a desire to understand how this effects how we think about ourselves, the spaces we share and how we communicate with each other. It aims to explore how things would change if instead of inanimate objects, we used autonomous systems to describe our thoughts.

What kind of relationship would we develop with our thoughts if they were technologically extended, given agency to respond to each other, their environment and subject to the input of other people?

Next: Synthetic Psychology