“Technology as Extension of the Human Body”

“Technology as Extension of the Human Body”

When most people contact one another there is only a combining of exteriors. Few occasions develop when two people make a significant contact of interiors. James Baldwin put it succinctly when he said “mirrors can only lie”. The mirror exposes only the exterior and says nothing about the interior; I find that, as I grow older, I have less and less exterior about which to communicate and communication about the interior seems much easier with total strangers on the Internet than with those close to me.

Marshall McLuhan “The High Priest of Pop-Culture” in the mid twentieth century was the first to announce the existence of the ‘global village’ and to express that “we become what we behold”. McLuhan sought to understand and express the effects of technology on modern culture.

McLuhan was particularly interested in “Technology as Extension of the Human Body”. “An extension occurs when an individual or society makes or uses something in a way that extends the range of the human body and mind in a fashion that is new. The shovel we use for digging holes is a kind of extension of the hands and feet. The spade is similar to the cupped hand, only it is stronger, less likely to break, and capable of removing more dirt per scoop than the hand. A microscope or telescope is a way of seeing that is an extension of the eye.”

Going further in this vein the auto is an extension of the foot. However there are negative results from all such extensions. “Amputations” represent the unintended and un-reflected counterparts of such extensions.

“Every extension of mankind, especially technological extensions, has the effect of amputating or modifying some other extension… The extension of a technology like the automobile “amputates” the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence. These are a few examples, and almost everything we can think of is subject to similar observations…We have become people who regularly praise all extensions, and minimize all amputations. McLuhan believed that we do so at our own peril.”

McLuhan was concerned about man’s willful blindness to the downside of technology. In his later years McLuhan developed a scientific basis for his thought around what he termed the tetrad. The tetrad is four laws, framed as questions, which give us a useful instrument for studying our culture.
“What does it (the medium or technology) extend?”
“What does it make obsolete?”
“What is retrieved?”
“What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?”

McLuhan’s gravestone carries the inscription “The Truth Shall Make You Free." We do not have to like or even agree with everything that McLuhan said. However, we would be wise to remember that his was a life of great insight and it was dedicated to showing wo/man the truth about the world we live in, and especially the hidden consequences of the technologies we develop.

[b]In the book “The Birth and Death of Meaning” Earnest Becker provides us with a synthesis of the knowledge about the extensions of the human body that McLuhan spoke of and science certified through research.

Becker informs us that the “self” is in the body but is not part of the body; it is symbolic and is not physical. “The body is an object in the field of the self: it is one of the things we inhabit…A person literally projects or throws himself out of the body, and anywhere at all…A man’s “Me” is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his mind, but his clothes and house, his wife and children, [etc].” The human can be symbolically located wherever s/he thinks part of her really exists or belongs.[/b]

It is said that the more insecure we are the more important these symbolic extensions of the self become. When we invest undue value onto such matters as desecrating a piece of cloth that symbolizes our nation is an indication that our self-valuation has declined and this overvaluation of a symbol can help compensate that loss. We get a good feeling about own value by placing value in the pseudopod (Pod—an anatomical pouch) as the flag.

In conceiving our self as a container that overflows with various and important extensions that our technology provides us we might appear like a giant amoeba spread out over the land with a center in the self. These pseudopods are not just patriotic symbols and important things but include silly things such as a car or a neck tie. We can experience nervous breakdowns when others do not respect our particular objects of reverence.

Do you think of yourself as being extended as a result of using technology? Do you think such extensions are a representation of reality? Do you think that consciousness of such claims to be useful?

Some quotes from:

Great, Great post. Long but i read every word.

I agree with Marshall McLuhan and Earnest Becker that told of the consequences of extention, but i wonder what a bionic limbs, literal extentions of the body will mean, especially if they allow us to jump 20 feet, like I’ve seen miltary projections of future fighters. What will the bionic body replace, when coupled with AI. The body it self? Man? The human race?

Also the comment of putting “Me” out there due to insecurity is a facinating observation. I’m writing a book of fiction and its loaded with “Me” since its loosely based on my life. And I wonder if I’m shouting out about my self-image.

I like the global village aspect because i see virtual worlds opening up to us. Thats why in threads like, “What is your role at ILP?” I say i’m in charge of going to get water at the water well. My little joke that probably went unlauged at.

I hope my post wasn’t too off topic. I plan to look up those two men and read their books. Thanks for introducting them to us.

The important question to ponder is what is amputated by this extension.

“However there are negative results from all such extensions. “Amputations” represent the unintended and un-reflected counterparts of such extensions.”

Good post. The objects we own are basically an extension of us. That is why we work harder not to lose something than to gain it.

During most of our evolution, our mind couldn’t do something unless our body was capable of it in the first place. For instance, we couldn’t use our mind to manipulate things with our fingers until our fingers were dexterous enough in the first place. But now, it is slowly changing. We’re starting to shape our body to what is ideal to our mind instead of the other way around.

Yes, there are large opportunity costs to using technology. But we’re pretty much stuck with it because of competition.

The comparison factor. How we see ourself depends on the mirror. If we compare ourself to our more athletic older sibling,… then we are in danger of saying, “I am not athletic, I must be the opposite.” While on the other hand, if we compare ourselves to TV,… we will only evaluate the universal and impulse orientated side of us.

All you are is what you do in life. If you do calloused and evil things,… then the nature of your actions become your heart. IE, turning your back on your fellow man in order to get a short gain. Thus, you become calloused from practice. ARK = act of random kindness. Practice this, for this philosophy is very true for opening up your heart.

Technology is great for making remedial tasks gone. I don’t want to evolve into a mundane robot or repetition. Technology can open up the world to us. I’d invest in photo recognition technology for factory jobs. People don’t need mindless repetition. They don’t need office jobs with no satisfaction from completing jobs. They are just a cog in a heartless sterilized world. Where we suffer 30% to gain 10% more. (30% = a compounding percent factor of giving ten percent more all the time. When jobs will cut lunches to 20 minutes for the “greater good”. And everything of this mentality. Try working with no weekends and tell me how your demeanor suffers. This demeanor equals life relations failing.)

When technology owns you,… where you’d give up life for the love of technology,… that’s where faults rise. Look at people who drifted through school with social anxiety, then laid underdeveloped until the internet became their new friend. Sure the anonymity allows you to poor out feels more,… but do you really know people that way? The common interests bond them together,… but would they suffer for their friends? When segways took away the need to walk,… do we fail our society by endorsing laziness and underdevelopment? When McDonalds became the cheapest food to make, did they suffer the world by calling it a meal? When life reasoning was turned into a preordained beaurocracy, did we fail the world in ways of learning common sense,… Now we have to live in fear of making mistakes and limit options, because 5% failed. No inner office relationships because some people couldn’t learn to handle their problems. So ignore the problem. Failures producing failures. Your God is paying people to think for you in how to baby proof the world. That is really hate and unforgiveness for your fellow man.

The mascot mule for the future’s world fair, showcasing the latest in progress and advanced technology!!!


I would push further to ask why the human body is central to anything. Why is this more central than all the apparatuses used to detect, calculate, and respond to information?

In the end, technology can render itself all the abilities to completely nullify our impact on their efficiency and application. To insist on their human inclusion is more an aesthetic preference to a practical one. If the purpose is in something such as “exploration, contemplation” there is nothing special about the human mind which will make technology accomplish those such things depending on the human mind. If anything, our will to drive technology to remain under our influence is an act of fear to develop past our current corporeal selves. To abhor change. We could develop the capacity to regrow our own limbs. Why not take it a step further and clone ourselves in a sense of immorality? If cloning, why not use our biotechnological abilities to “improve” on the clone. If any improvements, why not scrap the human altogether and develop something new.

Human beings are a lump of dust in my eye. What we should be asking is what we can create to BE. Not what we can create for US. It is the ultimate fear of selfishness. One I fear we will refuse to accept until our legacy is taken away by force.

As far as what our mind can do with technology, the military is trying to perfect mind-to-aircraft control. This way the pilot can free his hands to do other things, while telling his jet to drob a certain kind of bomb by thinking it.

Here is some examples of mind tech
nwbotanicals.org/oak/newphys … htele.html

I saw a sciece program where they showed a bionic man/solider jumping twenty feet over a cliff.

Brace yourself for a brave new world.

Interesting article, lots to read and digest in there.

In my view technology is not the extension of the body but rather it is the extension of dreams, fictions and whole imaginations.

Some will say those are natural physical attributes but does nature or the cosmos itself dream, fictionalize or imagine anything on it’s own? It doesn’t. So what are we then in the cosmos but an anomaly?

Things that dream, fictionalize or imagine receive a 1 in computer code

Things that dont dream, fictionalize or imagine receive a 0 in computer code

Is that what you mean by anomaly. Neo in the Matrix was called the anomly.


Thanks for the epiphany Joker & Nano…

Human existence is an anomaly, because theoretically according to science the ‘objective’ universe is not conscious of itself. However, living beings are a part of that universe (through the mind-body unification) and we supposedly dream. It’s like human consciousness gazed upon a mirror at some point in time.

It was the universe looking back at itself.

So, is the universe closed or open, finite or infinite???

:astonished: :astonished: :astonished:

We are part of the universe. We are the conscious part of it.

i’ve heard someone say the universe is shrinking. The big shrink, he called it.