“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.