Magic words: How language augments human computation

In Peter Carruthers & Jill Boucher (eds.), Language and Thought: Interdisciplinary Themes. Cambridge. 162-183 (1998)
Abstract
Of course, words aren’t magic. Neither are sextants, compasses, maps, slide rules and all the other paraphenelia which have accreted around the basic biological brains of homo sapiens. In the case of these other tools and props, however, it is transparently clear that they function so as to either carry out or to facilitate computational operations important to various human projects. The slide rule transforms complex mathematical problems (ones that would baffle or tax the unaided subject) into simple tasks of perceptual recognition. The map provides geographical information in a format well-suited to aid complex planning and strategic military operations. The compass gathers and displays a kind of information that (most) unaided human subjects do not seem to command. These various tools and props thus act to generate information, or to store it, or to transform it, or some combination of the three. In so doing, they impact our individual and collective problem- solving capacities in much the same dramatic ways as various software packages impact the performance of a simple pc
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Andy Clark (2006). Material Symbols. Philosophical Psychology 19 (3):291-307.

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