"Author's Reply" to symposium on Natural-Born Cyborgs.
Thought happens. Here I sit, sipping coffee, scribbling on paper, accessing files, reading and re-reading those four wonderful, challenging, yet immaculately constructive reviews. And somewhere, and to my eternal surprise, thought happens. But where, amidst the whirl of organization, should we locate the cognitive process? One possibility is that everything worth counting as (all or part) of any genuinely cognitive process hereabouts is firmly located inside the head, safe behind the ancient fortress of skin and skull. All the rest, according to this surgically neat view, is scene setting: preparing and maintaining the pitch upon which the great thinking organ performs. Richard Feynman may well have disagreed. Upset by an interlocutor’s remark that his extensive notes and scribblings were merely the record of his work, he acidly replied: “No, it’s not a record, not really. It’s working. You have to work on paper and this is the paper, ok?” Natural-Born Cyborgs was an extended meditation on this simple theme, leavened (as the title suggests) with a measured dose of techno-futurism. The human mind, I wanted to argue, is naturally designed so as to co-opt a mounting cascade of extra-neural elements as (quite literally) parts of extended and distributed cognitive processes. Moreover (and hence the techno-futurism) this ancient trick looks poised for some new and potent manifestations, fueled by innovative work on human-machine interfaces, swarm intelligence, and bio-technological union. Let’s start, then, by re-visiting that opening gambit. Thought happens. But how?