New! This Aeon article considerably revises and extends my take on brain-to-brain interfaces, showing how language makes us human and arguing that it will always keep reinventing itself — if we let it:

Dingemanse, M. (2020, August). The space between our heads: Why language remains the most flexible brain-to-brain interface. Aeon. Retrieved from https://aeon.co/essays/why-language-remains-the-most-flexible-brain-to-brain-interface

My original chapter, a more academic take on the same topic, introduces the idea that selection and negotation are two things that explain how language makes us human:

Dingemanse, M. (2017). Brain-to-brain interfaces and the role of language in distributing agency. In N. J. Enfield & P. Kockelman (Eds.), Distributed Agency (pp. 59–66). Oxford: Oxford University Press. PDF

Brain-to-brain interfaces, in which brains are physically connected without the intervention of language, promise new ways of collaboration and communication between humans. I examine the narrow view of language implicit in current conceptions of brain-to-brain interfaces and put forward a constructive alternative, stressing the role of language in organising joint agency. Two features of language stand out as crucial: its selectivity, which provides people with much-needed filters between public words and private worlds; and its negotiability, which provides people with systematic opportunities for calibrating understanding and expressing consent and dissent. Without these checks and balances, brain-to-brain interfaces run the risk of reducing people to the level of amoeba in a slime mold; with them, they may mature to become useful extensions of human agency.

Download the paper (PDF) or check it out in the context of the Distributed Agency book at Oxford University Press.


Read on… (PDF)