All that we touch

“Humans are the tool makers of the world” is a well known trope. At the AAAS meeting yesterday, neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis asserted that this concept doesn’t go far enough in describing the nature of humans.

Speaking of the brain’s relationship to the body, he said: “We are not just tool makers, We are tool assimilators.” Specifically, as we use our brains to make tools, those tools become extensions of our bodies. A human brain operates by continually extending its concept of “body”, mentally assimilating ever more of the world to form a more powerful virtual body.

Any that tool we craft or use becomes part of this extended body — a hammer, a piano, an automobile, a computer. As our brains create a mental map of each new tool, that tool becomes part of the brain’s ever extending reach, like another set of hands.

Over time, whatever we can manipulate becomes absorbed into our brain’s virtual body, and all that we touch becomes us.

3 thoughts on “All that we touch”

  1. Getting into cyborg theory there!

    Also of note and worth mentioning, each tool we make gives us the capabilities to make new tools based on those capabilities, which is how we got from a stick and stone hammer to the Internet.

  2. Which leads to the following question about future techno-evolution: as the stick and stone hammer is to the Internet, the Internet is to what?

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