Andy Clark probably has the coolest, and certainly longest-lived, title of any of the people David Pescovitz and I talked to: he holds the Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University, in Scotland.
Andy first caught my eye when I happened upon his wonderful book, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence. (He's also written a ton of other stuff.) It makes the argument that this ability of humans to merge with technologies is one of the things that makes us human: that we are, in other words, natural-born cyborgs. (I interviewed Andy a couple years ago about his book.)
Here's his take on the big question:
Recall, if you will, the Orgasmatron from Woody Allen's movie Sleeper. "Orgasmatron" was a delightfully clumsy word. It immediately conveyed the right idea, then stuck in your head like a permanent thorn.
With this role model in mind, I suggest that the new word for that multi-layered space in which people, things, and computational and communicative overlays conspire to create a richer place to be should be The Interactatron. All there is, all reality ever was, is a space of interaction possibilities of various shapes and kinds.
Cyberspace made sense when our electronic outreach was distinctive and confined, was mainly about word and picture based interactions. But those limits are passing fast. We reach and are reached at in so many different ways. It's one big machine out there, and interactions, brute-physical, social, intellectual and artistic, are what its about.
So…. There we are….
To me, the really big question Andy's nomination, and his earlier work, raises is this. Natural-Born Cyborgs does a great job of showing how much cognitive flexibility we have when it comes to adapting our brains to use certain tools, and how that flexibility can affect such fundamental (and even apparently biological and physical) things as our sense of our own bodies. What happens when cognitive flexibility meets not eyeglasses or hand-held tools, but information-charged versions of physical devices? or combinations of technologies that let you see information in spaces?
Sherry Turkle made a name for herself documenting the evolution of The Second Self (a self that was quite dependent on the sense of computers constituting a separate geography in which we could do things like create new personas). Will there be a comparable– or even more powerful– story to tell about the fate of the self in the post-cyberspace age?