Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence

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Overview

In Natural-Born Cyborgs, Clark argues that what makes humans so different from other species is our capacity to fully incorporate tools and supporting cultural practices into our existence. Technology as simple as writing on a sketchpad, as familiar as Google or a cellular phone, and as potentially revolutionary as mind-extending neural implants - all exploit our brains' astonishingly plastic nature. Our minds are primed to seek out and incorporate nonbiological resources, so that we actually think and feel through our best technologies. Drawing on his expertise in cognitive science, Clark demonstrates that our sense of self and of physical presence can be expanded to a remarkable extent, placing the long-existing telephone and the emerging technology of telepresence on the same continuum. He explores ways in which we have adapted our lives to make use of technology (the measurement of time, for example, has wrought enormous changes in human existence), as well as ways in which increasingly fluid technologies can adapt to individual users during normal use. Bio-technological unions, Clark argues, are evolving with a speed never seen before in history. As we enter an age of wearable computers, sensory augmentation, wireless devices, intelligent environments, thought-controlled prosthetics, and rapid-fire information search and retrieval, the line between the user and her tools grows thinner day by day. "This double whammy of plastic brains and increasingly responsive and well-fitted tools creates an unprecedented opportunity for ever-closer kinds of human-machine merger," he writes, arguing that such a merger is entirely natural.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cyborgs have long been a part of America's cinematic imagination (think Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator), but Clark says they're very much a reality. Not only that; pretty much everyone is a cyborg already, according to the author, who heads up Indiana University's cognitive science program. With our laptops, cell phones and PDAs, we're all wired to the hilt and becoming more so every day. As Clark points out, "the mind is just less and less in the head"; when we need information, we usually fire up our PC and access it elsewhere. Clark is at his best when he's writing for a wide audience, distilling arcane technological advances into their essential meaning. But sometimes his sheer enthusiasm for the subject takes over, and the book feels as if it's intended only for tech wonks who can appreciate the minutiae of various mind-machine experiments. Clark gives a passing nod to the negative consequences of an increasingly cyborg world-social alienation, information overload-but retains his essentially positive take on the "biotechnological merger" that is transforming so many people's lives. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
One of science fiction's most frightening images is that of the cyborg-a creature made up of part flesh and part machine whose abilities extend beyond a human's. But Clark, a prolific writer and director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University, posits that we are all cyborgs, using technology to enhance our natural abilities and to expand our conception of the world. Our brains are naturally malleable, and we change and incorporate new technologies as they are made available. Some of them are unacknowledged, such as our precise sense of time courtesy of the omnipresence of watches. Others are obvious, such as biotechnical devices like the pacemaker and cochlear implant that extend life or reverse deafness. While Clark's basic thesis is not original (see Douglas Hofstader's Godel, Escher, Bach, for example), it is different in that it recognizes the positive and negative potential of human-machine interaction and gives excellent examples that will be easily understood by students and the general public. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Nora Harris, Harris Indexing Svc., Novato, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A book that is at once profound, ground breaking, and delightful reading. Clark, more than anybody, understands how human nature is shaped by the technology and culture through which it finds expression. Bravo!" --Jerome Bruner, University Professor, New York University, and author of Making Stories

"Highly interesting, provocative and easy to read.... Natural-Born Cyborgs is impressive and entertaining, giving the book a potentially wide audience that includes those interested in cognitive science, performance art and the philosophy of mind."--Nature

"In this lively and provocative treatise, Clark declares that we are, in fact, 'human technology symbionts' or 'natural-born cyborgs,' always seeking ways to enhance our biological mental capacities through technology, an intriguing claim he supports with a brisk history of biotechnology mergers, which currently range from pacemakers to the way a pilot of a commercial airplane is but one component in an elaborate 'biotechnological problem-solving matrix.'"--San Diego Union-Tribune

"This is a marvelous book, one I intend to use and reuse. I want to teach a course using it. I want to tell my friends. The neatest part is that it is both fun and deep, a hard trick to pull off, but Clark managed wonderfully. He combines a broad array of insights and stories into a charming, yet profound, excursion into what it means to be human as more and more we rely upon--and may even be coupled to--our technology. I read it in a day, but I know I will return to it often."--Donald Norman, Professor of Computer Science, Northwestern University, and author of Emotional Design

"Andy Clark has given us an exciting yet realistic vision of what lies ahead. If you've ever wondered what Cyborgs are really all about, this is where you will find your answers." --Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics, University of Reading, and author of I, Cyborg

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195177510
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/9/2004
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 646,243
  • Product dimensions: 0.40 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 9.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Andy Clark is Director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University. His books include Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together and Mindware.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Ch. 1 Cyborgs Unplugged 13
Ch. 2 Technologies to Bond With 35
Ch. 3 Plastic Brains, Hybrid Minds 59
Ch. 4 Where Are We? 89
Ch. 5 What Are We? 115
Ch. 6 Global Swarming 143
Ch. 7 Bad Borgs? 167
Ch. 8 Conclusions: Post-Human, Moi? 197
Notes 199
Index 221
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