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How to Become a Neo-Cartesian Cyborg

Last tended on July 12, 2020
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In September of 2019 I went through the Building a Second Brain courseAnd took illustrated notes that you can take a look at here – an enormously popular online guide to improving your "Personal Knowledge Management" system.Or PKM as it's commonly known, is a novel name for an old concept. The art of filtering, curating, and cultivating what you read and encounter. And then being able to turn it into "useful output" of some variety. The course did wonders for my information streams and note taking organisation, but the core ethos left me with questions.

What does it mean to build a "second brain," and why do we think that's a Good and Valuable thing to do?

What strange historical and cultural paths led us to this cerebral cyborgian dream?

Many of these questions and themes align with concepts I explored in Tracking Humanity - my anthropology thesis on the Quantified Self movement.

Luckily I have a small community of fellow BASB-enthusiasts here in London to explore these questions with.
At our March 2020 meetup I put together a lightening talk exploring how Second Braining relates to our notions of cyborgs, our embodied experiences, and the historical legacies that landed us here.

The Talk

Slides and Notes

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Books Mentioned in the Talk


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Natural-Born Cyborgs

Andy Clark

Philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark proposes that what makes humans so different from other species is our capacity to fully incorporate tools and supporting cultural practices into our existence.

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Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

Antonio Damasio

Through a series of neuroscience case studies, Antonio Damasio challenges traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. Damasio shows that emotions are not a luxury, but an essential part of rational thinking and normal social behaviour.

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Metaphors We Live By

George Lakoff & Mark Johnson

The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Lakoff and Johnson argue that metaphor is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to map our physical and social experiences onto countless other subjects.

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Philosophy in the Flesh

George Lakoff & Mark Johnson

Lakoff and Johnson philosophically examine our historical understanding of minds, bodies, and reasoning through a radically new and detailed understandings of modern cognitive science. They re-examine the basic concepts of the mind, time, causation, morality, and the self.

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Maggie Appleton © 2020