At their best, mobile phones are essentially exocortices. If that sounds like something from science fiction, that’s because it pretty much is. An ‘exocortex’ is essentially a brain outside your brain that can extend your thinking and that can help you to accomplish mental tasks that you otherwise simply wouldn’t be able to.
Generally when the concept of an exocortex comes up, it is in relation to ‘transhumanism’ – the concept of technology designed to extend the capabilities of the human form. Transhuman technology is anything that’s intended to make people permanently faster, stronger or smarter, or to extend their abilities. It’s anything that makes us ‘better than well’ which can include cyborg attachments and implants, genetic engineering and more. An exocortex is usually imagines as a brain chip that would allow us to store more information, or to speak in any language.
That’s the usual picture of the exocortex, but in many ways you can argue that transhumanism is already here, and you can argue that the humble mobile phone is essentially an exocortex to all extents and purposes. But you’ll only find that it takes on this kind of powerful function if you’re smart about how you use it. This means designing it to truly be an extension of your brain, and that means organising it in such a way that it will reflect the way you naturally think and give you access to the things you need quickly at the press of a button. If you set up your phone to essentially mirror the way your brain is laid out, then it can become a powerful exocortex… Here are some tips that will help you get started.
One function of an exocortex is to expand your knowledge and give you access to more information as and when you need it. This is something you can do on any mobile phone, though it can sometimes involve a slow process of finding a browser and loading up Google/typing on an on-screen keyboard. The best way to use a phone to quickly access useful information then is to set-up Google Now to be immediately available – perhaps by double tapping the homescreen for instance. This way you can immediately launch a voice search and in seconds gain access to all the information you might possible need. Pub quizzes will be a synch with that setup.
The launcher is the page that you return to when you turn your phone on or when you exit another application, and it’s where you find links to other apps. This is where you will head when you want to jump into another function then, so it’s important and useful to make sure that you’ve organised your launcher to put the things you use most at the forefront. In other words, you should be able to launch the camera, the browser, your RSS feeds and anything else you might want quickly and easily.
The best launchers though are those that let you use folders. This way you can group together apps that you’re likely to need at specific times – a great example might be to create a ‘work folder’ for instance, which you would use to keep apps that you would need for work only. That way you could rapidly bring up a selection of different apps that you need while doing work or when getting into the office and this would save you a lot of time.
But it’s not just apps that are useful for quick reference when you’re trying to enhance your cognitive performance with a phone. Also useful is to have access to the files you need in those. Thus a file manager with similar organisation for the files and folders therein can also be a very handy tool – allowing you to quickly look in the folder of your phone you need, just as you might access a memory by referring to a certain part of your brain.
There are many more examples of how you can make your phone ideal for enhancing your brain, and this becomes even more interesting when you consider using one therapeutically to help with a condition such as autismor others…