Enhanced mental performance thanks to your iPhone

Enhanced mental performance thanks to your iPhone

Here’s an interesting piece (exerpt below) from the New York Times arguing that our mind is a set of tools used inside and outside our heads, and that devices that help us do cognitive work – like PCs and mobile devices – are logical extensions of our minds.

It’s a compelling argument coming from Andy Clark, a very well-credentialed professor of logic in the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language at Edinburgh University  He is also the author of “Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension.

The Bulletproof® Executive is about any and all technologies and techniques that help you to do more, create efficiency, and have the staying power without negative health effects.  Most of us extend our mental processing using computers, but how well we do it can have a big impact on productivity and free time.  For instance, if you don’t know how to type, or you spend extra time on software you don’t know very well even though you use it daily, you can give yourself a “brain boost” just by spending a half hour watching YouTube videos that teach you how to do it.  Do you really use keyboard shortcuts as well as you should?  How many minutes every day do you spend right-clicking instead of typing?

There’s much more to productivity on a PC.  Have you tried Evernote?  OneNote ? Or my all-time favorite, Mindjet MindManager? Have you thrown out your tree-killing paper notebook yet?  I did 4 years ago.

These are immediate-payoff, high-impact, cognitive enhancers that deserve your attention long before you consider smart drugs, nutrition, or one of my favorites, EEG-based brain hacking, the kind that raises IQ by 12 points. But that’s another post for another time! 🙂


Where is my mind?

The question — memorably posed by rock band the Pixies in their 1988 song — is one that, perhaps surprisingly, divides many of us working in the areas of philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Look at the science columns of your daily newspapers and you could be forgiven for thinking that there is no case to answer. We are all familiar with the colorful “brain blob” pictures that show just where activity (indirectly measured by blood oxygenation level) is concentrated as we attempt to solve different kinds of puzzles: blobs here for thinking of nouns, there for thinking of verbs, over there for solving ethical puzzles of a certain class, and so on, ad blobum. (In fact, the brain blob picture has seemingly been raised to the status of visual art form of late with the publication of a book of high-octane brain images. )

There is no limit, it seems, to the different tasks that elicit subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, different patterns of neural activation. Surely then, all the thinking must be going on in the brain? That, after all, is where the lights are.

As our technologies become better adapted to fit the niche provided by the biological brain, they become more like cognitive prosthetics.

But then again, maybe not. We’ve all heard the story of the drunk searching for his dropped keys under the lone streetlamp at night. When asked why he is looking there, when they could surely be anywhere on the street, he replies, “Because that’s where the light is.” Could it be the same with the blobs?

Is it possible that, sometimes at least, some of the activity that enables us to be the thinking, knowing, agents that we are occurs outside the brain?

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