Extended Computation: Wide Computationalism in Reverse

Proceedings of the 13th ACM Web Science Conference (Companion Volume) (2021)
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Arguments for extended cognition and the extended mind are typically directed at human-centred forms of cognitive extension—forms of cognitive extension in which the cognitive/mental states/processes of a given human individual are subject to a form of extended or wide realization. The same is true of debates and discussions pertaining to the possibility of Web-extended minds and Internet-based forms of cognitive extension. In this case, the focus of attention concerns the extent to which the informational and technological elements of the online environment form part of the machinery of the (individual) human mind. In this paper, we direct attention to a somewhat different form of cognitive extension. In particular, we suggest that the Web allows human individuals to be incorporated into the computational/cognitive routines of online systems. These forms of computational/cognitive extension highlight the potential of the Web and Internet to support bidirectional forms of computational/cognitive incorporation. The analysis of such bidirectional forms of incorporation broadens the scope of philosophical debates in this area, with potentially important implications for our understanding of the foundational notions of extended cognition and the extended mind.

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Paul Smart
University of Southampton


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