Computer security expert Paul Syverson has argued that there is a computer security equivalent of gaslighting: where a clever adversary could convince some system that some component that is not really a part of the system is in fact a part of the system. If non-biological items from our environments (or even pieces of our environments themselves) can be part of our minds (the standard Extended Mind hypothesis, EM), they are therefore part of our selves, and therefore subject to Syverson’s worry about boundary in a way that has not been explored before. If some version of EM holds, then what were once security concerns surrounding various systems or devices become those same concerns but writ large for our cognitive processes, the core of mind and thought. Philosophers and critics have long been worried that if EM is true, selfhood bleeds out of the nicely-contained package of skin and skull. Criticism has been offered that argues if we allow some of the environment to count as genuinely part of our minds, it seems to threaten the existence of our phenomenal feeling of ownership over our own bodies, and the worry persists that selfhood itself becomes threatened with dissolution. Yet if we agree with Clark and understanding selfhood as fundamentally dispersed and therefore only imperiled by the more traditional view of some core, persistent notion of self, the security worry remains. No matter how we adjust our foundational metaphysics to account for the extended mind hypothesis, we are stuck with the security concerns, and we must start to catalog and account for the challenges before we see actual adversarial attacks on the actual devices constituting the minds of real people. Thinking about the very nature of the mind turns out to provide insight into how we think about security, and vice versa.
Zebrowski, R. L. (2019). Hacking the Extended Mind: The Security Implications of the New Metaphysics. Paper presented at the CEPE (Computer Ethics - Philosophical Enquiry) Conference, Norfolk, VA. 12 pp. doi:10.25884/sy6p-ch18