Cover image for Natural-born cyborgs : minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence
Natural-born cyborgs : minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence
Clark, Andy, 1957-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 229 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
T14.5 .C58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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From Robocop to the Terminator to Eve 8, no image better captures our deepest fears about technology than the cyborg, the person who is both flesh and metal, brain and electronics. But philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark sees it differently. Cyborgs, he writes, are not something tobe feared--we already are cyborgs. 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 aspotentially revolutionary as mind-extending neural implants--all exploit our brains' astonishingly plastic nature. Our minds are primed to seek out and incorporate non-biological resources, so that we actually think and feel through our best technologies. Drawing on his expertise in cognitivescience, 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 weenter 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 andincreasingly 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. A stunning new look at the human brain and the human self, Natural Born Cyborgs reveals how our technology is indeed inseparable from who we are and how we think.

Author Notes

Andy Clark is Director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Cognitive scientist Clark believes we are liberating our minds, thanks to our penchant for inventing tools that extend our abilities to think and communicate, starting with the basics of pen and paper and moving on to ever more sophisticated forms of computers. 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. Cell phones, Clark explains, are a prime, if entry-level cyborg technology, as are Internet search engines. As Clark clearly and cheerfully discusses cognitive processes, how we build better worlds to think in, opaque versus transparent technologies, and the fluidity of our sense of self and adaptation to environmental changes, he offers hope that our brainy species can use its ever-evolving powers in beneficial ways. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Clark (director, Cognitive Science Program, Indiana Univ.) offers several examples of connections between biological entities and electronic devices, including auditory prostheses and other implanted chips. These comport with the traditional understanding of the "cybernetic organisms" of the title. Most of the book, however, is an extended argument that humans have already been using technologies to extend their intelligence, from evolving language through keeping time to communicating by cell phone; this discussion includes interesting philosophical speculation and findings from neuroscience. Clark hopes his argument will preempt denial of and resistance to technological enhancement of human beings, but his repeated references to humans as "skin bags" could have the opposite effect, and the chapter on potential drawbacks is brief and somewhat naive. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. C. J. Van Wyk Drew University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 3
Chapter 1 Cyborgs Unpluggedp. 13
Chapter 2 Technologies to Bond Withp. 35
Chapter 3 Plastic Brains, Hybrid Mindsp. 59
Chapter 4 Where Are We?p. 89
Chapter 5 What Are We?p. 115
Chapter 6 Global Swarmingp. 143
Chapter 7 Bad Borgs?p. 167
Chapter 8 Conclusions: Post-Human, Moi?p. 197
Notesp. 199
Indexp. 221