Does the Cloud Signify a New Kind of Wide Mind?

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Does the Cloud Signify a New Kind of Wide Mind?. KNEW Workshop in Kazimierz , Poland in association with Robert Clowes IFL, New University of Lisbon Tuesday 20 th of August,. Cognitive Technologies have been with us for a long time.
Does the Cloud Signify a New Kind of Wide Mind?KNEW Workshop in Kazimierz, Poland in association with sintelnet.euRobert ClowesIFL, New University of LisbonTuesday 20th of August,Cognitive Technologies have been with us for a long timeMany technological developments, from writing to cooking can bring with them changes in the modes or scope of human thinking. Some Important Discussions: Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the Modern Mind. Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press. Gregory, R. L. (1981). Mind in Science: A history of Explanations in Psychology. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press. Luria, A. R., & Vygotsky, L. S. (1992). Ape, Primitive Man and Child: Essays in the History of Behaviour: Simon and Schuster.Synopsis
  • Cognitive technologies, their history and pre-history.
  • The current technological conjunction of the Internet (Cloud-Tech and E-Memory) and four cognitive properties.
  • Memory TechnologiesThe history of the human race is in part the history of how our organic memory systems have been undergoing a constant process of elaboration and adaptation as we have created wave after wave of extended memory technologies. But how should we theorize this change?What are Cognitive TechnologiesAccording to Donald Norman: “A cognitive artefact is an artificial device designed to maintain, display, or operate upon information” (Norman, 1990). Norman, D. A. (1990). Cognitive artifacts: Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego.Cognitive ArtefactsI’ve defined Cognitive Artefacts as: “artificial devices which either, perform functions that, were they carried out in the brain should count as cognitive, or significantly support, extend or complement such functions.” Clowes, R. W. (Forthcoming). Thinking in the Cloud: The Cognitive Incorporation of Cloud-Based Technology. Philosophy and Technology.Cloud-TechBy Cloud-Tech, I refer to “the cloud” of distributed Internet mediated data-technologies and associated devices that provide wireless network services to us through, and with, artefacts and devices that we carry and increasingly wear. The cloud can be seen as a central part of the current material realization of ubiquitous computing (Weiser, 1991) whereby computer processing technology has come to be an ever-present part of our lives. The distinctive form this cloud technology takes is a bunch of highly personalised data-services and associated applications which we can access and which track us through a variety of devices including our personal computers, but now most especially, our mobile and smart phones.E-MemoryI use the term E-Memory to refer to a heterogeneous bunch of digital devices and systems which fulfil similar functions either by replacement, extension or augmentation to biological memory systems. One recent study (Sellen & Whittaker, 2010) details how E-Memory systems can support a range of human memory functions, including what the authors call the five Rs, namely: recollecting, reminiscing, retrieving, reflecting and remembering intention.A Shallow(s) CritiqueInstead of looking at the purported cognitive effects (or impacts) of the technologies, I’ll instead concentrate on the cognitive affordances of these technologies.Four Factors in Cognitive TechnologyI’ll argue there are four aspects of E-Memory and Cloud-Tech which conjointly pick out the main novel cognitive properties of the technologies:
  • Autonomy.
  • Incorporability.
  • Totality.
  • Entanglement.
  • But before that ...Two FrameworksHow should we theoretically grasp the role of artefacts in mind. Two broad frameworks are on offer.
  • The Hypothesis of the Extended Mind.
  • Cognitive Scaffolding.
  • The Extended MindThe framework of the extended mind says cognitive technologies can and should - under certain circumstances – count as actual parts of our minds.Cognitive ScaffoldingSterelny offers an alternative framework where technologies can structure, augment, scaffold or operate as a cognitive niche for mind, but generally shouldn’t count as an actual part of our minds.They deserve cognitive credit but are parts of the environment.Sterelny, K. (2010). Minds: extended or scaffolded? Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 9(4), 465-481.So back to the four factors:They are:
  • Autonomy.
  • Entanglement.
  • Totality.
  • Incorporability.
  • I originally developed these looking at E-Memory technologies but have (hopefully) deepened the concepts by relating them to what I call Cloud-Tech.1 - AutonomyThe diary and intimate reflectionWhen the paper and pen diary was the imitate reflection technology of choice, one could reasonably expect that any record one made would tend to last.This is no longer the case ...We now expect that whatever “memory traces” we store in the cloud to be in various ways, data-mined, categorised, enhanced, re-colerized, expurgated and in various open-ended ways transformed.This reverses the historical trend to toward more indelible “exograms” (Donald, 1993)Donald, M. (1993). Precis of the Origins of the Modern Mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 16, 737-791.Autonomy (more formally)E-Memory repositories increasingly do not merely store data but actively process it. Thanks to tagging, indexing and AI systems resident on our devices and in the cloud, we can expect E-Memory systems to not merely store and retrieve memory-traces and other information, but process, restructure and re-present them in ways that are independent of, but tightly coupled to, our native cognitive profile.The Autonomy of E-Memory and Cognitive Opacity.As E-memory systems become ever more Autonomous (and Entangled )we are likely to understand less about how they work. Even as they become more transparent-in-use to us – we use them more easily as skilled tool users – we tend to become more cognitively opaque.2 - EntanglementConsider EdgeRank.EdgeRank is facebook’s proprietary technology for deciding which of your ‘friends’ updates (or edges) you see in your newsfeed.Any Edge gains its rank (probably) by summing the factors of Affinity, Weight and Time Decay.For most users facebook while transparent in use is rather cognitive opaque., Robert W. 2013. The Cognitive Integration of E-Memory. Review of Philosophy and Psychology (4):107-133.EdgeRank and Deep EntanglementImagine using something like the EdgeRank algorithm to find your own Memory Traces. What you would remember with such a system would depend heavily on how others have connected to you.Clowes, R. W. (2013). The Cognitive Integration of E-Memory. Review of Philosophy and Psychology(4), 107-133.Entanglement (more formally)E-Memory often tracks interactions between people (or people and organisations). Many of the cloud services we use rely on collective data-storage and interactions collected from a mass of users. However it is presented back as narrowcast and tightly coupled to the activities of us as individuals. The data that composes many E-Memory stores and cloud services is inherently two sided in relying on the interaction of these collective and individual dimensions  3 - TotalityGordon Bell 1934 - PresentViktor Mayer- Schönberger Gordon Bell claimed in 2009 “Within five years, our personal computers will be able to store everything we read, write, hear, and many of the images we see” Gordon Bell wants to remember everythingGordon Bell 1934 - PresentBell in his 7th decade has set about trying to vastly expand his biological memory with digital prosthesis. He attempts total capture and total recall.Bell’s quest is based on a revolution in digital encoding, storage and – increasingly – recall.Bell sees his project in the light of a neo-delphic quest for self-knowledge. Bell’s projec t raises interesting questions about the nature of self-knowledge.Bell, CG, and J Gemmell. 2009. Total recall: how the E-memory revolution will change everything: Dutton.The need to forgetMayer-Schönberger, V. 2011. Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age: Princeton Univ Pr.If Memory is no longer effortful we may be faced with a new problem: how to forget.Viktor Mayer- Schönberger argues that forgetting is central to our ability to develop and maybe even our human essence. He argues we should strive to reintroduce forgetting for at least some of our E-Memories.The comprehensiveness of E-Memory poses questions about what we really care about.Do you feel like you’re being watched?A totality engine –a technology which makes possible the twin goals of total capture and total recall – could quickly be put into the hands of the masses with Google Glass. Its cognitive implications?Totality (more formally)E-Memory and Cloud-Tech promise total capture to record our everyday activities on a scale and with a fidelity and completeness that would have been practicably unimaginable under previous regimes of memory technology. Cloud Tech promises an ever-present repository of “memory traces” that can be retrieved and brought to bear on ongoing cognition as and when needed: total recall.Is Cloud Tech a Complementary Technology?Totality is a factor that appears to be very different to human memory – but interestingly Autonomy, and Entanglement seem more like aspects of biological memory in some respects. Should they then be seen as competitors rather than complements of our organic resources?Sutton, J. (2010). Exograms and interdisciplinarity: history, the extended mind, and the civilizing process. In R. Menary (Ed.), The Extended Mind (pp. 189-225). London, England: Bradford Book, MIT Press.4 - Practical Cognitive IncorporabilityE-Memory and Cloud-Tech are rapidly becoming the constant context to many of cognitive processes. The devices which present this technology increasingly possess a transparency of use that makes them competitors (or complements) with certain of our internal resources. It is often as easy, or easier, to rely upon these technologies to carry out certain cognitive tasks than internal organic resources. They are thus poised for deep and pervasive integration with our organic cognitive systems .  Does Incorporability imply the Extended MindIncorporable technologies will typically meet the conditions set on technologies ripe for inclusion as parts of our extended mind.Constancy: A cognitive technology should be relatively constantly accessible and, where appropriate, accessed by an agent. Where information it contains would be so useful that the agent rarely takes action without consulting it.Facility: The cognitive technology can be accessed with ease and the information it makes available can be incorporated into ongoing cognition without great difficulty.Trust: Upon Retrieving information the agent automatically endorses it.Prior Endorsement: The information a cognitive technology presents has been consciously endorsed or accepted by the agent at some time in the past.Trust and the real barriers to incorporationGiven the entangled and autonomous nature of these technologise trust seems to operate as a barrier to true incorporation.Extended Mind-like incorporation or extension might really be limited by current institutional arrangements and also by entanglement. The paradox of credulity is of interest here: The more credulous we are the more our minds seem to expand.So does this imply that Cloud-Tech should count as parts of our extended mind?Cloud-Otto and Cloud-Inga“Imagine not only that Inga and Otto are using a map-producing Web site that allows users to add annotations and corrections, a sort of wiki of maps. Inga, noticing that the main entrance to the Museum of Modern Art is closed temporarily due to construction and so the entrance has moved a block, add this annotation to the map, correcting the error as regards where the Museum of Modern Art should be. This correction is propagated at speeds very close to real-time back to the central database behind the Web site. ( … ) This active manipulation with updating of an external representation lets Inga and Otto possess some form of dynamically-changing collective cognitive state.”Halpin, H., Clark, A., & Wheeler, M. (2010). Towards a philosophy of the Web: representation, enaction, collective intelligence.Personalisation and EntrenchmentSterelny argued for a fifth Condition on counting on the Extended Mind: Entrenchment and Personalisation.For a cognitive technology to count as part of an agent’s Extended Mind it needs to be customised to an agent’s individual usage and at the same time the agent’s own cognitive routines and predispositions are altered to incorporate the thus personalized artefact.Sterelny, K. (2010). Minds: extended or scaffolded? Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 9(4), 465-481.Cloud-Otto and Cognitive ScaffoldingSocial web Otto appears to meet the original four conditions but not Sterelny’s extra restriction. Interestingly the web-map is heavily entrenched but not personalised. But even if he does should such cloud-resources count as part our extended mind?Maybe Otto just accesses a Cognitive Commons.Dror, I. E, and S Harnad. 2008. Offloading cognition onto cognitive technology. In Cognition Distributed: How Cognitive Technology Extends Our Minds, edited by I. E. Dror and S. Harnad. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.Epistemic Responsibility and Extended MindMore worryingly (it seems to me) is that if we endorse the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition (HEC) approach to Cloud-Otto’s mind, it is as though much of what he knows is farmed out to the social web. It is as though Otto no longer has cognitive responsibility for much of his own mental life. This suggests a problem with the application of HEC.How do we take epistemic responsibility in this way?Clowes, Robert W. Forthcoming 2013. Thinking in the Cloud: The Cognitive Incorporation of Cloud-Based Technology. Philosophy and Technology.Our future upgrade path
  • Certain real-world issues are likely to condition whether E-Memory And Cloud-Tech should be considered as deeply incorporated in our minds. Among these are:
  • Issues of trust and security (Entanglement and Autonomy more generally).
  • The trade-off between cognitive opacity and transparency-in-use.
  • The extend that we really entrench as well as personalise our technologies.
  • Issues of Epistemic Responsibility and Possession.
  • How the properties play out in the discussion of the Extended Mind.Totality (in virtue of complementarity) might imply we will tend to make deep cognitive use of the technologies. Deep incorporability implies that we will, well ... Incorporate these technologies deeply.But Entanglement and Autonomy imply we should at least be careful about how we should incorporate these artefacts into our everyday lives.The properties pull in different directions then.Diminishment or ...Diminishment vs Enhancement vs Augmentation is by no means a straightforward question and interacts heavily with our theoretical outlook.What a HEC theorist may see as a cognitive enhancement, a scaffolding theorist may see as augmentation and a traditionalist theorist as diminishment.There appears to be important ethical (and hopefully empirical) questions here but how to decide them.The work presented here is supported by the Portuguese Government FCT grant :SFRH/BPD/70440/2010 and in association with the FCT project Cognitive Foundations of Self project: PTDC/FIL-FCI/110978/2009.Draft of this work were also discussed in detail with other members of the Cognitive Foundations of Self Project. Special thanks to John Sutton, Kirk Michaelian, Mark Bishop, Yasemin Erdin, Dina Mendonça, João Fonseca, Klaus Gärtner, and António Marques.Some of it is published here:Clowes, R. W. (2012). Hybrid Memory, Cognitive Technology and Self. Proceedings of AISB/IACAP World Congres 2012. Y. Erdin and M. Bishop.Clowes, Robert W. 2013. The Cognitive Integration of E-Memory. Review of Philosophy and Psychology (4):107-133.
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