Could iPhones be part of our minds?

ElephantHow do our engagements with the everyday world contribute to the way we both go about it and think about it?  Could such contributions feed back upon and bootstrap our own capabilities, and in part form new and different ways of interacting with the world?  The situation of one Patrick Jones asks just these questions, and further seems to be an interesting case study in the on-going debate around the Hypothesis of the Extended Mind (or HEM, for short).

Patrick Jones suffers from the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury, of which there are many causes and effects.  In Patrick’s case, he suffers from extreme short-term memory loss.  But what is interesting about Patrick is the way in which he has employed Evernote; software that allows users to upload notes, pictures, and documents to a cloud server, which can then be accessed anywhere and at anytime by palm-pilots, computers and iPhones.  When Patrick runs into everyday problems, like dealing with email exchanges or attempting to remember what to buy at the grocery, he consults Evernote installed on his iPhone or Mac computer, and searches for relevant keywords and tags to help him connect the dots and form a reliable understanding of the situation he finds himself in.  In more philosophical vernacular, without a reliable biological short-term memory system, Patrick relies on a hybrid of internal/external and biological/technological resources instead.

Continue reading “Could iPhones be part of our minds?”

“‘Spooky’ Action-at-a-Distance” in the Brain Explains Memory… or Does It?

Spooky...

Metaphysicians of causation have been known to ponder the possibility of causal action-at-a-distance: that  is, whether or not it is possible for one event to causally influence another over a spatio-temporal gap. It was common among Early Modern philosophers to insist that causation requires a ‘nexus’ – roughly, a point of contact between cause and effect. (This thought under-wrote many of the objections of principle contemporary critics to Cartesian Interactionism.) Such a  view, indeed, is not unreasonable: the idea of causal influence crossing a spatio-temporal gap ‘unmediated’ by some force or other is, to put it bluntly, spooky. On the other hand, however, potential cases of action-at-a-distance have been postulated in certain Quantum Mechanical experiments, most notably the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen/Bohm experiment. Naturally, the interpretation of the observations in such experiments are debated, but nevertheless a prima facie case for spooky action-at-a-distance exists.

Now, however, a recent article in New Scientist suggests that the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, much like that which seems to occur in the EPR/B experiment, has been observed to occur between groups of neurons in the brain. Furthermore, it is suggested that this may explain the combining of information from different sensory modalities into a single memory. Continue reading ““‘Spooky’ Action-at-a-Distance” in the Brain Explains Memory… or Does It?”

The LHC: a victim of sabotoge from the future?

The New York Times recently published an essay about a new theory in physics, according to which the Higgs Boson is so abhorred by the universe that the future is conspiring to prevent the Large Hadron Collider from going online.  The physicists Holger B. Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya argue that what looks like simple bad luck (or the expected complications with such an enormous project) is really evidence of the future arranging itself so as to prevent the experiment from testing for the Higgs particle.

Nielsen and Ninomiya point out that the fundamental laws of physics (at least those of Einstein and Newton) are time-symmetric.  They argue that this symmetry allows for influences from the future as well as the more familiar influences from the past.  We can contrast their view Continue reading “The LHC: a victim of sabotoge from the future?”