If you lived in the United States during the 1980s, then you probably remember the famous Your Brain on Drugs ad campaign. Created by the government to combat drug abuse, the ad compares the damaging effects of using drugs to frying an egg.
So what about bugs, as in software bugs? More than just a lame rhyme, it turns out that bugs may have a negative effect on our brains as well – if you believe the Extended Mind hypothesis. Stick with me here.
The Extended Mind hypothesis says that our minds are more than what is contained inside our skulls. When we create or use tools, then we are effectively creating extensions of ourselves. For example, that would mean that there’s no difference between remembering the capital of the state of Kentucky and looking it up on Wikipedia. (Here’s a link to help you remember.)
A recent study suggests that there may be some validity to this, a fact discovered by creating a simple software bug and seeing how people respond. From a recent article in Wired:
An empirical test of ideas proposed by Martin Heidegger shows the great German philosopher to be correct: Everyday tools really do become part of ourselves.
The findings come from a deceptively simple study of people using a computer mouse rigged to malfunction. The resulting disruption in attention wasn’t superficial. It seemingly extended to the very roots of cognition.