Andy Clark: Generative Models, Extended Minds, and the Future of Human Intelligence


Suppose that human brains are organs of prediction, in which a generative model delivers predictions of sensory flows. How might brains like that breed extended minds? And what happens when we then populate our worlds with artificial systems (Generative AIs) whose bedrock operating principle is also generative-model based prediction – typically applied to very large data sets? Do they become parts of our extended minds too? In this talk, I explore this territory via three observations. First, the fundamental drive to use perception and action to minimize long-term average prediction error neatly merges epistemic (knowledge-seeking) and practical concerns from the very start – so acting to gain information and acting to achieve a goal are generated in exactly the same way and for the same reasons. This is why predictive brains breed what I have sometimes called ‘extended minds’ – minds whose machinery extends beyond that of the biological brain. Second, in advanced agents this fundamental merging of practical and epistemic concerns slowly synergized with the use of sketches, diagrams, material symbols, and (more broadly speaking) culture and science. Third, these new tricks opened up whole new realms as advanced agents also learn ways to encounter, refine, and challenge their own internal predictive models by turning them into public objects apt for sharing, stress-testing, and ‘productive breaking’. Art, science, and culture emerged as key tools for both hacking our own predictive brains. Hacking the predictive brain while creating extended thinking systems (potentially involving generative AIs in both key roles) poises human thought and reason for an unlimited journey.

David J. Chalmers: tbd

Gloria Andrada & Richard Menary: Cognitive Injustice
Do unfair social systems harm human cognition? Recent research on epistemic injustice claims that it does. In this paper we introduce a form of injustice that we call cognitive injustice  and that has been overlooked in the literature. We consider cognitive injustice to be continuous with epistemic injustice, but quite distinctive in nature. Cognitive injustice happens when unjust social and material environments attenuate the cognitive abilities that an agent develops in virtue of the process of enculturation. It is fundamental because it affects the very formation of cognitive abilities. We argue that cognitive injustice can take at least three different forms: i) Cognitive abilities are not developed, ii) they are not developed properly, and  iii) the environment is such that agents cannot exercise those abilities.

Ned Block:

Guido Cassinadri & Marco Fasoli:
Given the explanatory stalemate between ‘embedded’ (EMB) and ‘extended’ (EXT) cognition, various authors have proposed normative arguments to overcome such a deadlock in favour of EXT. According to what we call the “extended narrative” (EXT narrative, see Cassinadri 2022), we should embrace EXT and dismiss EMB, because the former leads to morally preferable consequences with respect to the latter. In this article we argue that two crucial arguments provided by these authors fall short and that, given the current lack of "a mark of the cognitive”, their failure prompts us to provisionally embrace EMB when assessing tool users. In sections 1.1 and 1.2, we present respectively King (2016) and Vold’s (2018) ‘argument from assessment of capacities’ (AAC) and Clowes (2013), Farina and Lavazza’s (2022a) ‘cognitive diminishment argument’ (CDA). The former states that EXT is better at attributing cognitive credit to individuals with learning disabilities who use assistive tools to complete their learning tasks, whereas the latter states that EMB implies the cognitive diminishment of the agent. In section 2.1, we argue that AAC and CDA assume a flawed characterisation of EMB based on a ‘principle of intracranialism’ (PI), which ignores the complex dynamics involved in cognitive integration. Moreover, in section 2.2, we argue that AAC and CDA suffer from the ‘agential bias’, by failing to acknowledge that human agency and cognition are characterised by a relational dependence on external resources. In section 3.1, we present more complex scenarios of tool-use in order to demonstrate that the EXT narrative is uninformative in addressing these cases, since its deployment of EXT effectively produces a black box. To conclude, in section 3.2 we argue that AAC and CDA fail to present EXT as descriptively and normatively superior to EMB.

Frederique de Vignemont:

Zoe Drayson:

Luis Favela: Empirical Evidence for Extended Cognitive Systems
We present an empirically supported theoretical and methodological framework for quantifying the system-level properties of person-plus-tool interactions in order to answer the question: “Are person- plus-tool-systems extended cognitive systems?” Nineteen participants provided perceptual judgments regarding their ability to pass through apertures of various widths while using visual information, blind- folded wielding a rod, or blindfolded wielding an Enactive Torch—a vibrotactile sensory-substitution device for detecting distance. Monofractal, multifractal, and recurrence quantification analyses were conducted to assess features of person-plus-tool movement dynamics. Trials where people utilized the rod or Enactive Torch demonstrated stable “self-similarity,” or indices of healthy and adaptive single systems, regardless of aperture width, trial order, features of the participants’ judgments, and partici- pant characteristics. Enactive Torch trials exhibited a somewhat greater range of dynamic fluctuations than the rod trials, as well as less movement recurrence, suggesting that the Enactive Torch allowed for more exploratory movements. Findings provide support for the notion that person-plus-tool systems can be classified as extended cognitive systems and a framework for quantifying system-level proper- ties of these systems. Implications concerning future research on extended cognition are discussed.

Keith Harris: Extended Cognition and Cognitive Integration
The hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC) alleges that human cognitive processing is sometimes partially realized in features of the agent’s environment. Epistemologists have recently begun to consider the possibility that human agents might extend their cognitive abilities by use of external tools. This possibility is particularly significant for virtue reliabilists, who maintain that the attainment of knowledge requires the exercise of one’s cognitive abilities. HEC thus seems to allow for the development of virtue reliabilism, and to raise the prospect of extended knowledge. Moreover, it is sometimes argued that the marriage of HEC and virtue reliabilism is necessary for virtue reliabilism to account for knowledge attained through use of instruments.

HEC also raises a puzzle for virtue reliabilism. When does a part of the world partially realize one’s cognitive abilities? If no plausible and HEC-friendly answer can be given, this puzzle can become a problem for those who wish to marry virtue reliabilism with HEC. Philosophers have offered various answers to this question but, as I argue, parts of the world external to the human organism never partially realize the cognitive abilities of human individuals. I then argue that virtue reliabilism can be developed not through HEC, but through the related thesis that cognitive processes, not attributable to human individuals, may be realized in systems of human organisms and external props. Thus, there may be knowledge that is produced by cognitive systems comprising human individuals and features of their environments but is not attributable to human individuals.

Mariel Goddu & Beate Krickel: Cognitive ontology through the lens of biology: How an evo-devo approach shows that cognitive capacities are extended

In recent years, thinking about how to carve up the mind into different cognitive capacities has become popular in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience under the heading of “cognitive ontology”. In this chapter, we will connect the cognitive ontology literature with a recent proposal to think about cognition in terms of cognitive characters (Figdor 2022). We will argue that this connection will show that the criteria for individuating cognitive capacities are essentially extended, i.e., include factors outside the organism’s brain and body.

The character concept is an important analytic tool taken from evolutionary-developmental biology. Characters are biological properties that constitute relevant units of evolutionary selection and heritability: they are biological properties that could in principle be shared by various species and have a certain kind of stability that makes them traceable through the phylogenetic tree. The stability and traceability of characters is explained by the existence of specific so-called character identity mechanisms (ChIMs) (Di Frisco, Wagner, Love 2021). Character identity mechanisms are units in developmental processes that are necessary and non-redundant causes of characters. In other words: the causal topology of developmental processes that give rise to characters has a bow-tie structure (Ross, 2021), where the knot of the bow tie is the ChIM. Characters, thus, are determinables of character states (the determinants) that result from mechanisms that have a bow-tie topology. 

We will apply this idea to identify cognitive capacities. We will argue that an important class of cognitive ChIMs are feedback loop learning mechanisms that include elements of the environment as crucial components. Thus, the identity of some cognitive characters will depend on environmental factors––and thus, some cognitive characters are extended. We will show how this conclusion differs from similar views such as passive externalism, active externalism, as well as Khalidi’s (2022) recent account of extrinsic cognitive capacities.

Holger Lyre:

Albert Newen:

Lawrence Shapiro:

Shannon Spaulding:

David Spurrett: The Extended Cuckoo
Arguments that cognition or minds can be extended regularly invoke an analogy with Dawkins’ argument that phenotypes can be extended. I argue here that there are two neglected ways in which that pair of boundary-breaking theses are complementary. A large part of the argument of The Extended Phenotype concerns phenotypes expressed in the behaviour of other organisms. But the options Dawkins considers for this extended manipulation are cognitively internalist. If we view cognition as extended we can recognise a wider range of vulnerabilities for exploitation. On the other hand the analogies drawn with Dawkins almost always emphasise the benefit to the individual agent in being cognitively extended. Taking Dawkins’ concerns about manipulation and exploitation more seriously leads to a more contested, less optimistic picture of extended minds. This second line of thinking follows Sterelny’s lead (2003) but I argue that hostility presents worse and more pervasive problems that he allows.

Deborah Tollefsen:

Karina Vold:

Sven Walter: Situated Affectivity and Mindshaping: Lessons from Social Psychology
Proponents of situated affectivity hold that “tools for feeling” are just as characteristic of the human condition as are “tools for thinking” or tools for carpentry. An agent’s affective life, they argue, is dependent upon both physical characteristics of the agent and the agent’s reciprocal relationship to an appropriately structured natural, technological, or social environment. One important achievement has been the distinction between two fundamentally different ways in which affectivity might be intertwined with the environment: the “user-resource-model” and the “mind-invasion-model.” The twofold purpose of this paper is to complement the debate about situated affectivity in general and about “mind invasion” in particular by, firstly, connecting it to situationist research in social psychology and, secondly, broadening the perspective to not only accommodate decidedly detrimental “invasions” but also potentially beneficial forms of “mind shaping” that include the manipulation of an agent’s experiential life and behaviour through the moulding of both the agent’s environment and the agent’s body.