Thinking in the cloud: The Cognitive Incorporation of Cloud-Based Technology

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56 Citations (Scopus)


Technologies and artefacts have long played a role in the structure of human memory and our cognitive lives more generally. Recent years have seen an explosion in the production and use of a new regime of information technologies that might have powerful implications for our minds. Electronic-Memory (E-Memory), powerful, portable and wearable digital gadgetry and “the cloud” of ever-present data services allow us to record, store and access an ever-expanding range of information both about and of relevance to our lives. Already, for a decade we have been carrying around expansive gadgetry which allows us to collect, store and use what would have been almost unimaginable amounts of digital information only a short time ago. Now, thanks to the wireless internet adding vast processing and storage potential to the powerful portable devices which many of us carry constantly or wear, this information can be accessed and customised in an ever-greater variety of ways. How should we assess the implications of the new portable and pervasive cognitive technologies on offer? Does E-Memory and the wider panoply of cloud-enabled cognitive technologies really promise (as some see it), or threaten (as others do), a radical change to the human cognitive abilities and perhaps the very nature of our minds? If so, how are we to assess the possibilities and attempt to understand whether they offer a hopeful or dangerous turn in the human condition? This investigation is structured around four related factors of the new technology: Totality, Practical Incorporability, Autonomy and Entanglement. We use these factors to inquire into the implications of this cloud-based memory technology for our minds and our sense of self.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261–296
Number of pages35
JournalPhilosophy & Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Extended cognition, Cognitive scaffolding, Cognitive penetration, Cognitive augmentation, Cognitive diminishment, Unity of mind, Epistemic possession, Extended memory, Cloud computing


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