October 26, 2018

Tools as extensions of the mind


Let’s dig deeper into the definition of a tool we mentioned in our previous post.
 
A tool is anything that can give us a mental unit that our mind can build skills upon. With this definition, tools include language, words, math symbols and equations, bicycle, pen, car, computer, smartphone, algorithm, and much more. Tools let us move to more complicated problems within the domain of possibilities that the tools provide, offset by an individual’s ability to use it. After we learn how to drive, we only think about where to go. Once we learn how sorting works and what it achieves, we incorporate it, (sometimes unconsciously) as a step, in a more complex problem we're trying to solve. A computer or digital device is more special in the case that its domain of possibilities can be changed in a single click of a software update, or even, real-time. An innovation also gives a whole new realm of possibilities.
 
"Smartness" in terms of tools
 
We can explain "smartness" as an ability to use mental units. You can build new mental units out of previous ones, wielding them as tools. Those math guys seem to have an order of magnitude more mental units for maths than us. They coin their concepts and terms no one else uses, whether or not they realize their existences.
 
Aside, we can see the notion of intelligence and smartness stops to make sense. It is too ambiguous and vague even to use it in everyday lives. It assumes some kind of common knowledge that certain groups of people possess. One simply knows something, or one does not. Or if you like, one simply knows how to use a specific tool to do something, or one does not. It doesn’t imply anything other than that. If you want to be the former ones, you only need to practice the tools, or better, invent new ones.
 
Once we arrive at this umbrella definition, an important question arises.
 
Is there anything that is not a tool?
 
Is a cup of coffee a tool? Is a shirt a tool? Are our hands, our body, our brain, tools?
 
All these things seem to give us mental units, although varying in their domains. Unless you’re a toddler, you need very little to none practice to grab a cup of coffee. Once we find a comfortable hand resting position and able to sip, we don’t think about it anymore. We exceed that cup’s domain of possibilities. 
 
With the same line of reasoning, we exceed many everyday things’ domain of necessary possibilities. From our bodies to clothes, to a cup of coffee. Our mind is already capable of wielding many tools we don't realize.
 
Note on the jargon: Why “necessary possibilities”? They are subdomains of possibilities that each people need from a tool to survive. Dancers will possess more possibilities of (controlling) their bodies to do movements, while we only need to walk, eat, write, etc. Realizing that we're operating in some subdomains of possibilities is a good way to start learning things, e.g., to go outside the so-called “comfort zone."
 
Funny how everything we operate on seems to be tools in this definition. There’s no boundary anymore. No mind-body-physical separation. Through our mind, it works continuously as a whole. Any of what we do are done via some tools. Anything that a mind can realize can be an extension of the mind. ☐