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Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195148664
ISBN-10: 0195148665
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195148665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195148664
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 0.9 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on November 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
What is the future of humanity? Is the next phase of human evolution the merging of humans and machines? Or perhaps, are we humans already merged with machines and have we been for centuries? These and other questions are ones that occupy Andy Clark, director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University and author of this thought-provoking book written for an informed but lay audience. Clark makes the case that long before cyborgs became the villains of so many popular films--the "Terminator" and "Matrix" series, "Blade Runner," and "2001: A Space Odyssey" come immediately to mind--humans had become inextricably linked to machines in a way that ensured that they could not survive without them. Accordingly, even without electronic implants Homo Sapiens are cyborgs, and have been as far back as the first time one of our ancestors picked up a tree limb and used it as club. Clark argues that the human-technology symbiosis is totally natural and has been for millennia. The speed with which the merging of human and machine is advancing expanded greatly in the twentieth century as such technologies as pacemakers, artificial hips and knees, prosthetics, and other electronic implants have enhanced and sometimes prolonged the lives of millions of people.

Andy Clark explores this increasingly close relationship of humans and machines--the "cyborg-ization" of humanity--in eight chapters. Beginning with the argument that we are already cyborgs dependent for our lifestyle on all manner of technologies, he moves through a succession of possible steps into the future that will find us more and more closely tied to the technologies we have created. Eventually, we will reach a post-human state.
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Format: Hardcover
Andy Clark has a bold - no, a really bold - thesis: our minds and our selves are not limited to our 'biological skin bag' called the brain or even our biological selves. We, in reality, are cyborgs in the sense that we are merging with a world of technology so much that where 'it' begins and 'we' end is becoming a fuzzy line - a line that we might be best to dispense with altogether. Quite literally, our brains can be called only part of our mind.
Curious yet? I know I was. So, here is my experience with the book: I read it, raised my eyebrows quite a bit (and mumbled some under-my-breath "Wow"s) and remained unconvinced that we are LITERALLY cyborges in the sense that Clark has in mind. Whatt I did come away with (the reason for the 4 stars) is a new lens with which to view the world. Every time I see someone talking on their cell-phone, saving data to their hard-drive for retrieval later on, or even driving their cars, I will now be asking questions like, "How much can this piece of technology be said to add to her nature?"
Still sounds weird? Clark's method of argument is to argue that the brain - what we sometimes call the seat of the self - is suprisingly malleable and accomodating to outside influences. Even our own image of what is and is not 'part of ourselves' is radically flacid. His case is suprisingly powerful. For an appetite whetter, though, just think of yousrelf driving a car. When you are driving, you usually do not think about driving as such: "I need to turn left, and to do that, I move my steering wheel left which moves this external car, with me in it, left.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written and accessible book. The focus is not on technology per se, but on cognitive science and the philosophy of mind. Clark touches on a wide range of emerging technologies, but with the purpose of exploring how they will transform us. The picture on the cover might imply that these technologies would necessarily involve Borg-like implants, but Clark soon disabuses us of that notion through a number of arguments and entertaining examples (even including a magic trick). One of his arguments is that the way we (can) think depends on the tools we use, and the tools are becoming qualitatively different, both more closely coupled and adapted to us.
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Format: Paperback
In this accessible, provocative, and thought provoking text Andy Clark argues nothing less than what the title suggests: Human nature is predisposed and especially adapted to create and interact with technologies in a way which advances human cognition. Thus, "human-machine symbiosis" is not only a fact of our future; it is that of our present and our past. We are, in a phrase, "natural-born cyborgs". The arguments that Clark presents to establish this are in fact persuasive, and I encourage anyone interested in the relationship between human beings and technology to read this book. For, whether the reader has at anytime in the past considered this complicated relationship or not, they are not likely to look at it the same way after coming away from the text.

That is not to say that all is well in Professor Clark's analysis, for he tends to take what has been referred to as a techno-enthusiast approach to technology, blatantly negating any undesirable consequences that may arise from such an intimate acceptance of technology into our everyday lives. This despite the fact that he devotes an entire chapter to supposedly addressing some of the potential negative impacts that technology poses. Yet, these are so minimized that it is obvious that for Andy Clark no price is too high for what he sees as the inevitable evolutionary advance of the human species. In addition, Clark tends to overlook the political aspects of technology involving the decisions over what sorts of technologies will be developed and how they will be implemented. Without going in to too much detail it is suffice to say that Clark's analysis is in no way comprehensive and tends to overlook the ethical dimensions of the question of technology.
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