Mind extension software

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Mind extension software is a hypothetical computer program or suite of programs that would act like an extension of its user's mind. It would become fully integrated with its user's daily life, tracking and planning all their activities and needs. After a while, the user might no longer perceive it as a tool, but as a part of themselves.[1]

As of 2018, no program of this sort is known to be in development. However, they have been featured in science fiction stories.


At first a mind extension program could function as a virtual assistant, helping its user by performing many simple, dull, or stressful tasks,[2] like tracking their finances. For many situations, it would summon pre-written scripts telling the user what to do.[3] More speculatively, it could start to monitor and record what its user was doing at all times,[4] perhaps evolving from a lifelogger device, and use personality testing software to learn its user's interests and goals. The user could help by recording some of their life events and interests in a personal encyclopedia or a virtual memory palace. Then the mind extension software could create and maintain a comprehensive to do list, and plan out everything its user needs to accomplish over time,[5] both daily repeating actions and more ambitious long term goals.


Mind extension theory claims that the human mind is not confined to the brain, but that memories are stored in the surrounding environment. Extended mind theory claims that this environment includes language, which extends brains into minds capable of handling shared human concepts.[6]

Mind extension software would create a virtual extended environment for its user, where knowledge would be automatically organized and made more accessible. By combining insights learned from many different users, mind extension programs could analyze and detect deep patterns in users' lives,[7] determine their wants and needs, and change their virtual environments to improve their lives. An early benefit could be an improved user interface, reducing cases of interface rage.

If such a program becomes intelligent enough, it could perform some of its user's thinking. When the mind extension becomes fully integrated, it might effectively raise its user's intelligence.[8][9]

Early efforts

Alexa and Siri already provide very basic life management services. As of 2018, concept and mind-mapping software can only help people plan and carry out specific projects. It does not attempt to create a model of all its user's actions and priorities. Specialized examples include FreeMind and MindManager and Effexis[10]. TheBrain is a program that helps users organize and keep track of their "digital memories".[11] Online services like search engines[12] are starting to make mankind's digital knowledge available in a primitive extended mind. More speculatively, shared human knowledge could be organized in a knowledge core.

Fictional depictions

  • The short story "Clarity Didn't Work, Trying Mysterianism" by Scott Alexander features a personal assistant with unlimited intelligence that constantly tells its users what to do to improve their lives, making it a type of Oracle machine. The problem in the story is that after a while the users brains begin to atrophy, even as their extended minds appear to thrive.

Also see


  1. subjective short essay (retrieved July 1, 2017) https://www.apstudynotes.org/stanford/ubiquity/
  2. https://www.wired.com/brandlab/2017/06/welcome-age-ai-based-super-assistants/
  3. Dave Gershgorn (Dec 1, 2015) http://www.popsci.com/gabriel-will-be-personal-assistant-that-whispers-into-your-ear
  4. Early efforts include CALO | https://www.technologyreview.com/s/409120/software-that-learns-from-users/
  5. Early efforts include Tempo (app)
  6. Robert K. Logan (2007) "The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture"
  7. Vivek Wadhwa (Jun 17, 2016) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/06/17/the-amazing-artificial-intelligence-we-were-promised-is-coming-finally/
  8. Early discussion of software that can make people appear smarter | David Creelman (Apr 22, 2014) https://www.eremedia.com/tlnt/tech-insights-software-that-just-makes-us-a-lot-smarter/
  9. Agnes King (Sep 16, 2015) http://www.afr.com/business/accounting/artificial-intelligence-makes-accountants-seem-smarter-20150910-gjjchc
  10. Effexis official site (2013, retrieved Jun 23, 2017) http://www.effexis.com/achieve/life-planning.htm
  11. (retrieved Jul 1, 2017) https://www.thebrain.com/
  12. Stephen Shankland (Jul 16, 2012) https://www.cnet.com/news/how-google-is-becoming-an-extension-of-your-mind/ | Commentary: http://www.kurzweilai.net/how-google-is-becoming-an-extension-of-your-mind