Brain, Mind and Internet: A Deep History and Future by David J. Staley (auth.)

By David J. Staley (auth.)

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Extra resources for Brain, Mind and Internet: A Deep History and Future

Sample text

We have always – at least as long as we have been homo sapiens – connected to a vast network of symbols residing outside the brain. It is just that the scope and nature of that network and the manner in which we connect to it has changed over time. I am reminded of the image of ‘St Jerome in his Study,’ one of the iconic visual metaphors of Western culture. In various visual representations, the great scholar sits alone among his books, globes and calipers. Far from being alone within the cathedral of his mind, I view those portraits of St Jerome as a man whose mind consists of both his brain and the technical apparatus of his study.

Our minds seem to flit about like a gnat when we are surfing this new external symbolic storage system. The Internet would appear to be structured to function in a nonlinear and associative manner, in contrast to a book which is organized to be linear and logical (even if it is not always read in that fashion). One of the chief concerns about the Internet and the electronic communications system generally is that it stands in contrast to The Book, which, since the development of the printing press, has served as Western culture’s symbolic representation of the human mind.

That is, the World Brain does not initiate thought but instead offers up knowledge in response to our queries. In effect, the dream of a World Brain (World Encyclopedia) has been fulfilled with the Internet. Query any topic you like, and you receive an immediate response, as our Doonesbury character does in his class. With the Internet, we have off-loaded some of our cognition, we have supplanted our limited memories onto a vast World Encyclopedia, as immediately accessible to anyone carrying a portable memex.

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