Artefacts, so to say, constitute human intelligent activity by providing ”artificial limbs” (“prostheses”) that artificially expand natural human intellectual resources (Clark, 2003). Tools of external representations, ranging from paper and pen to digital computer, function both as metaphorical and literal prostheses of intellectual activity that allow intellectual accomplishments otherwise completely beyond the scope of the primate mind. These artificial tools get so deeply fused with the activity system through long-standing practice that one may not be at all aware of the constitutive, supporting role provided by them. Only when there are major disturbances or breakdowns (e.g., a computer freezes or network breaks down) so that the prostheses supporting our activity are not available or functioning in their proper place, may we realize how much out of our agency and intelligence we owe to the artefacts.

See also Cognition, Cognitive Tools, Cognitive Trails.


Clark, A. (2003). Natural-born cyborgs: Minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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