Panel: Don’t Anthropomorpise Me: Electronic Performance Tools, Automatons and The Vanity Apocalypse
The hypothesis of the extended mind developed by philosopher Andy Clark posits that the cognitive processes of the mind extend beyond the brain or physical embodiment to co-opt the objects and actions we habitually use. With the careful reasoning of the philosopher he argues that a notebook can be functionally equivalent to memory, when it is carried around constantly and referred to so frequently that it become indispensable to the owner. For contemporary thinkers how much more so an extension of the mind than a notebook are the technological fetishes of laptop, tablet or smartphone. Maverick 20th C psychologist Julian Jaynes posited that the development of what we term conscious experience was a historically recent event, and that before around 1000 BC minds were compartmentalised or bicameral. Jaynes posits that these bicameral minds used objects such as idols as an aid to communication between these compartmentalised aspects of the mind. These ‘ancients’ literally spoke and walked with their gods, but in many ways they were automatons. On some levels anthropomorphism is hardwired into the human psyche. Speculating from the ideas of Jaynes and Clark about the nature of the technological art object – it is hard not to view personal technology as an extension or prosthesis of the mind. In front of my laptop I am a different creature in command of knowledge and a factual personal history, to the one who daydreams as he walks the dog through the bush. If an aspect of technology is the evolution of cognitive artefacts then personal and pervasive computing must constitute a dramatic leap. Similarly it is tempting, as does art historian Barbara Stafford, to see artworks as cognitive objects. Cognition in the view of Neuroscientist Antionio Damasio involves emotion and physical sensation as much as it does logic or mental reasoning. I would hypothesise than when we engage or are immersed in an artefact we participate in an act of communion or communication with it, it becomes part of our thoughts. This is a step beyond I think where Clark would go. The combination of these two ideas suggests that autonomous technological art objects could fulfil a powerful dream by combining both aspects of prosthesis and communion. What would be the conditions that would allow this to happen, is it desirable or inevitable?
- Dr. Bill Hart is a lecturer in Electronic Media at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He has been working with computing technology for 30 years, firstly as a physical scientist, and for the past fifteen years as an artist, in 2008 he completed a PhD examining expressive programming, language and realtime imaging.
Full text (PDF) p. 1127-1129