Thinking Doesn't Just Happen
There was a kid named Joe in my high school math class who was one of these "human calculators." You could ask him questions like "Joe, what's 1,567,893 divided by 87.6" and in less than five seconds he could spit out the correct answer, usually to at least three decimals. It never ceased to be impressive.
What makes it impressive? Is it the reliability and accuracy of the output? No doubt, these criteria matter. If he was only correct once in a while, or only in the rough ballpark of the correct answer, it wouldn't be so impressive. But there's something more here that accuracy and reliability don't capture. Joe is doing something skillfully, and for that he is creditworthy.
Here's another scenario: you ask me the same math question and I quickly consult my calculator and tell you the right answer. Is this equally impressive? Equally creditworthy? I would argue no. Even though I am able to reach the correct answer with equal (likely greater) accuracy and reliability as Joe, I did not execute an equally creditworthy cognitive act. Joe is rightfully praised for a distinctive kind of cognitive achievement. Ascribing the same achievement to me doesn't make sense.
What if the calculator was a tiny brain-machine interface (BMI) device, small enough to be directly implanted in my brain, like Elon Musk's Neuralink? When you ask me the complex math questions, the device receives the inputs and the answer just pops out of my mouth. From the outside, it looks no different from Joe. Same cognitive achievement? Same creditworthiness?
I still argue no. Why not? Because in a very important sense I'm not doing anything whereas Joe is most definitely doing something. In my technologically augmented and enhanced mind, the calculation happens. It would not be correct to say that I calculated anything. Whereas in Joe's case, he calculated. Calculation is a kind of action.
Actions can be performed more or less skillfully. Happenings aren't actions. Skillfulness, and thus creditworthiness, do not apply to mere happenings.
The Extended Mind
*Su gentile concessione (granting) di Philip Walsh