Distributed Cognition

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Distributed Cognition is a concept that allows humans to re-envision their relation with media technologies. The invention of writing allowed individuals to free their memory and direct the brain to other tasks. Computers have allowed humans to take this process to an entirely new level by allowing one to store information in a medium that can be accessed anywhere. All media can be understood as augmenting humanity's basic cognitive structure, both in the concrete sense of literally re-wiring one's brain and in the more figurative sense of displacing certain tasks to other forms of media. The internet combined with search platforms could be considered the collective cognition of the human species, or the "noosphere"[1].

The noosphere is a closely related concept developed by a rogue Jesuit theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard de Chardin saw the world as being comprised of the geosphere (the sphere of rocks and inorganic matter), the biosphere (the sphere of organic material), and the noosphere (the sphere of the mind). A stout believer in evolution, Teilhard de Chardin made an argument for life becoming more complex and conscious as evolution progresses, eventually culminating in maximum complexity and consciousness, which is understood as God. Teilhard formulated his theories with explicit reference to the possible cognitive abilities of computers, making his cosmology and messianism a strangely beautiful hybrid of Catholic theology and modern techno-scientific utopianism.[2]


  1. Krippendorff, Klaus. Noosphere. Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems. Principia Cybernetica Web. Publish date unknown. Accessed April 2011. http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ASC/NOOSPHERE.html
  2. Krippendorff, Klaus. A Dictionary of Cybernetics. 80 p. unpublished report dated Feb. 2, 1986. Mentioned in the Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems. Publish date unknown. Accessed April 2011. http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ASC/Kripp.html