Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Human Than Human

Here's a very interesting news item about monkeys and robot arms. Long story short: the monkeys tested demonstrated neurological evidence that their brain structures are adapting to treat the robot arm as if it were their own appendage. It could be used at the same time as their natural arms OR instead of them. Extrapolated, this implies that the usage of tools of any sort temporarily incorporates said tools into our body concept. I pick up a hammer and pound a nail, that hammer is part of me while using it. This might seem almost common sensical to some of us, since the idea of targeting the hammer, or the gun, or the joystick, involves spatial relations, controlled force, and eye-hand coordination, that almost always lead to a feeling of connection between us and our tools. However, it is also the premise of an interesting book that Marc and Di gave me for Xmas 2004: Natural Born Cyborgs.

The author, Andy Clark, asserts that we don't have to go so far as to have electronics or machinery physically incorporated into our bodies to fit the definition of a cyborg. That we are already functioning cyborgs, with things like eye glasses, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs, (and even watches and cell phones) serving the purposes of science-fiction-like implants, however temporary. When we're using them, they are part of us. It's a very nice book that makes some interesting claims about conceptions of self and personal identity that could easily be incorporated into a discussion of consciousness and what makes a human being human.

Or what makes a monkey a monkey, for that matter.

No comments:

Post a Comment