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.

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