Consider all those things we surround ourselves with: all the buildings, vehicles, widgets, tools, decorative knick knacks, artefacts, images, words, symbols, appliances, devices and the like. It is quite possible that material culture in some sense performs computation, even if it is not immediately obvious. There are inputs, there are outputs, there are various transition states, compression libraries, recursive functions and subroutines.

Human beings tend to compare their own mental lives and function to that of the most advanced technologies of their time. For now, it is the computer; but what if it was not merely that intimate darkness between your ears that performed a natural and emergently complex computational process? What if material culture and the gestalt collection of artefacts and devices or information systems themselves which performed computation? A distributed and subjectivity-free information processing presence like this is perhaps not really all that surprising – the laws of physics that underlie our material reality appear very much to be engaged in computation and logical information processing.

A question which arises, and which seems perfectly natural to me, is that while we generally imagine that material culture is a consequence of the individual and collective mental processes and information manipulation occurring within our brains – to what extent are the information patterns or conceptual contents and cognitive grammars of our brains and our inner lives merely the inverse consequences of the information and energy-processing that is the external world and all of it’s shifting, scintillating diversity and effervescent kaleidoscope of metamorphosis and reflexive self-propagating shockwave of cascading and rippling computation? Does the plausible and probable distributed computation of the hyper-extended cognitive technologies of our material culture generate us just as much as we generate it?

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