1st European Workshop on the Cognitive, Epistemic and Ethical Dimensions of the Internet June 2nd 2015
Speakers and Titles:
- Cognition and the Internet: Extended, Transactive, or Scaffolded? presented By Richard Heersmink
- The Web: Cognitive Boon or Burden? presented by Paul Smart
- Shapers or Makers: Should we want to Extend our Minds with Cognitive Tools? presented by Robert Clowes
Recent work in the philosophy of cognitive science has placed emphasis on the central role of tools in human intelligence. The web, cloud technology, data-centric applications, wearables and mobile devices, all represent a new environment in which individual and group human cognition take place. According to the framework of the Extended Mind (Clark and Chalmers, 1998), the tools and artefacts we use can become actual parts of our minds. Other embodied perspectives on mind also hold that technologies and artefacts can be central shapers of mind. The question of what these frameworks might mean for actual human cognition as we lead ever more on a new ranges of devices is seldom broached. Much popular discussion has debated the ‘impact’ these technologies might have on our minds, and has often worried that we are in danger of undermining central human cognitive and social abilities with our use of internet technologies.
This workshop (the first of a series) will especially emphasize the embodied, embedded, extended and enactive frameworks for understanding cognition to help theorize what we might expect for human knowledge, morality and cognition as we become ever more deeply dependent on a new regime of cognitive technologies. It will also attempt to plumb the new intellectual resources coming from contemporary philosophy and cognitive science to shed new light on the popular debate that mainly emphasizes the risks of the internet for human cognition, e.g., in books such as Nicholas Carr´s The Shallows.
This workshop will bring together some of those who have been most active in theorizing the theoretical possibilities and practical consequences of human minds in the context of a new regime of cognitive technology to attempt to achieve a clearer understanding of how these ideas can be shaped up.
The workshop Will take place from 10.00am - 16.30pm on Tuesday 2nd of June, Sala Multiusos 3, at the ID building FCSH, Lisbon, Portugal.
It is hosted by IFILNOVA and the ARGLAB and organised by the Lisbon Mind and Cognitive Group.
We would like to express our thanks for organisational support and consultation to
Organised by Robert. W. Clowes, João Fonseca.
Cognition and the Internet: Extended, Transactive, or Scaffolded? presented By Richard Heersmink, Macquarie University, Sydney.
In the historical-evolutionary development of external information-storage systems, the Internet presents a significant change in terms of accessibility and amount of available information. This constant access to various kinds of online information has far-reaching consequences for the way we think and remember. Philosophers and cognitive scientists have recently started to examine the interactions between the human mind and the Internet, mainly focusing on the way online information influences our biological memory systems. In this article, I use concepts from the extended cognition framework and transactive memory theory to analyse the relation between humans and the Internet. I first argue that neither of these approaches apply neatly to human-Internet interactions, but both offer useful concepts to describe certain aspects such interactions. I then conceptualize the relation between the Internet and its users in terms of cognitive integration, arguing that the Internet lacks the capacity for deep integration and is better seen as a permanent scaffold for our semantic and episodic memory. I conclude this article with some normative reflections on possible future consequences of external information-storage.
Title: The Web: Cognitive Boon or Burden? presented by Paul Smart, University of Southhampton, UK.
In recent years there has been an ongoing debate in both the popular press and a number of academic circles regarding the effect of the Web on our cognitive and epistemic profiles. To a large extent, the Web has not fared well in this debate. Writers such as Nicholas Carr, for example, have championed the view that the Web is exerting a largely negative effect on our cognitive capabilities, undermining our ability to think, read and remember. In this seminar, I will argue that such fears are founded on a conception of the human mind that is ill-suited to deal with the transformational effects of technology (both old and new). I will suggest that even if the evidence was available to support Carr’s views that the Web is changing our brain-based cognitive capabilities and altering the profile of our neurological processing, it still does not follow that the Web should be seen as undermining our cognitive and epistemic capabilities. Drawing on research in neuroscience, cognitive science and contemporary epistemology, I will outline an alternative conception of the human mind that sees many of our advanced cognitive capabilities (and conscious experiences) as rooted in information loops that factor in the contributions of a variety of extra-cranial and even extra-corporeal resources. This establishes the basis for ‘Web-Extended Minds’ whose capabilities are not those of what we might call ‘Brain-Based Minds’. I will argue that the general trend of technology development in the domain of the Web is largely compatible with this vision of Web-based forms of cognitive extension. I will also argue that the cognitive effects of the Web should not be limited to its potential effects on individual human agents. Instead, I will argue that the penetration of the Web into all areas of society opens up a range of new opportunities for the development of novel forms of machine intelligence. In particular, I will propose that the Web should be seen as a route to the creation of forms of ‘Human-Extended Machine Cognition’ in which the cognitive, behavioural and physiological properties of human agents serves as part of the realization base for machine-based ‘cognitive’ capabilities. The result of accepting these views is a more optimistic vision of the cognitive and epistemic effects of the Web; one which sees the future of both human and machine cognition as firmly rooted in the kinds of bio-technological merger that the emerging Web makes possible.
Title: Shapers or Makers: Should we want to Extend our Minds with Cognitive Tools? presented by Robert Clowes, New University of Lisbon, Portugal.
The idea that cognitive artefacts might not just shape our minds but extend them, has been behind some of the most interesting accounts of the cognitive and epistemic implications of the Internet. It may even be shaping the design process of the contemporary mobile and wearable cloud-enable resources that are now part of everyday life for millions of people
Yet, whether tools are considered as potential parts of our minds or merely their environment has important implications for the enlightened design of internet based tools. This talk shall first consider some considerations about whether internet enabled cognitive artefacts are best seen as potential mind-extenders or merely a new cognition shaping environment.
It will then consider some design considerations that appear to arise from these ontological concerns and explore some reasons for considering each the best way of understanding our use of cognitive technologies.