Dror, I. and Harnad, S. (2009) Offloading Cognition onto Cognitive Technology. In: Cognition Distributed: How Cognitive Technology Extends Our Minds, John Benjamins. (In Press)
Abstract: “Cognizing” (e.g., thinking, understanding, and knowing) is a mental state. Systems without mental states, such as cognitive technology, can sometimes contribute to human cognition, but that does not make them cognizers. Cognizers can offload some of their cognitive functions onto cognitive technology, thereby extending their performance capacity beyond the limits of their own brain power. Language itself is a form of cognitive technology that allows cognizers to offload some of their cognitive functions onto the brains of other cognizers. Language also extends cognizers’ individual and joint performance powers, distributing the load through interactive and collaborative cognition. Reading, writing, print, telecommunications and computing further extend cognizers’ capacities. And now the web, with its network of cognizers, digital databases and software agents, all accessible anytime, anywhere, has become our ?Cognitive Commons,? in which distributed cognizers and cognitive technology can interoperate globally with a speed, scope and degree of interactivity inconceivable through local individual cognition alone. And as with language, the cognitive tool par excellence, such technological changes are not merely instrumental and quantitative: they can have profound effects on how we think and encode information, on how we communicate with one another, on our mental states, and on our very nature.