The Experience Machine

How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality

Andy Clark is known for “The Extended Mind,” an influential essay published in the late nineties that argued that our minds extend beyond the skull to include all the stuff (notebooks, computers, Gibsonian neural implants) we use to think. Here, he builds off of that theory to posit that the mind predicts what it will perceive and corrects its predictions if (or when) its experience fails to comport to expectations. I’m uninterested in his proofs of this theory (which strike me as convincing, but then I’m not qualified to judge), but I am very interested in the notion that what we perceive is an amalgamation of our senses, experience, memories, and narratives—if for no other reason that it directs us toward fruitful avenues for changing that perception. As Clark asks, “What is your relationship to the reality you perceive? In what ways do you shape it, and, by extension, in what ways do you shape yourself, often without even knowing it?”