Minds and Brains' phenomenology of driving
reveals how cognitive technology simplifies the external.
When we first start driving, we haven’t learnt to ignore details by relying on cognitive technology to reduce the computational load. We need to ignore a massive amount of information if we are couple our attention with the road guidelines. Forgetting information is thus more important in driving than storing it. Doing so reduces the computational load and allows us to deploy our attentional resources on defensive driving and vigilance. Everytime I drive on the highway I am amazed at how easy it is to drive a 2 ton heap of metal at 80 miles per hour in the dark with maybe 160 ft range with lowbeams on. The cognitive unconscious effortlessly couples our hands with the guidelines such that can keep our conscious mind on other activities, such as talking with the passenger, changing the music, or looking for an exit.
If we examine the phenomenology of driving, we can extract a general principle of cognitive computation: we simplify by externalizing. This principle is ubiquitous in everyday human dwelling. We externalize problems onto pen and paper, calculators, computers, GPS navigation, iphones and ipads, recipes, blueprints, books, etc. Cognitive technology can be found at all levels of human-world interaction. Even language itself can be seen as a form of cognitive technology.