I was reading an article not so long ago – How Google is making us smarter – which in turn was almost looking to counter a previous article – Is Google making us stupid? You can check out either or both at your leisure, but the former got me thinking.
In How Google is making us smarter, the author Carl Zimmer talks about the extended mind. This concept was first raised in 1998 by two philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers (an Aussie). In their essay “The Extended Mind” they posed the question “Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?” In it they posited that someone who keeps something in their memory and someone who keeps the information stored elsewhere, but at hand, (eg. on computer, in a notebook etc), are the same. The external source that the individual uses to hold information is part of their extended mind. Interesting viewpoint right?
So how does that relate to Librarians and evolution? Librarians are phenomenal miners of information. We can find information on a vast array of topics and when we do, we somehow take note of the content itself or where it can be found. Librarians have already taken the idea of the extended mind way beyond the boundary of where I am sure Clark and Chalmers imagined it would be. How many times have friends and family been amazed at you knowing some amazing details, or being able to find out something in a very short time and with minimal difficulty. (I am notorious for finding the answers to retrospective questions – born curious and therefore a born reference librarian)
The article goes on further to comment about how humans are proving to be very good at merging mind and machine. Look at how we drive cars – our perception of distance adjusts to the edge of the car, as it becomes an extension of ourselves. Clark and Chalmers also argue that there is further evidence, in the form of study results that prove that our minds are constantly seeking to extend themselves.
If that is the case, then aren’t librarians at the forefront of that extension? And if that’s how humanity will continue to grow and develop, then as we are already out there on the cutting edge, doesn’t that make the librarian the next step for many on the evolutionary road?
Can you imagine it? Evolution leads to a superhuman being – the librarian! Gotta love the image.