COGS 100: Cyborgs now and in the future (Winter 2017)

Course website:


David Kirsh (Professor)

Office Hours: M 12-1, or by arrangement in CSB 175

Lucas Chang (TA)

Office Hours: W 3-4 in AP&M Annex 2839, Access by bridge from the 2nd floor of AP&M near the main elevators

Michael Allen (TA)

Office Hours: Tu 5-6 in CSB 229

Niel Bezrookove (IA)

Krystle Tham (IA)

Course Description

“Cognitive processes extend beyond the boundaries of the person to include the environment, artifacts, social interactions, and culture. Major themes include the theories of situated, distributed, enactive, and embodied cognition. Explains how cyborgs are a natural consequence of our current understanding of embodied minds embedded in culturally shaped niches; how mental systems can be distributed over other people and things.

We'll ask whether your iPhone or google glasses are part of your mind, whether shoes are cyborg parts, how tools and computers make us smarter, and what might happen as human technology carries us beyond ourselves.

By the end of the course, you'll have new theoretical tools for thinking about what cognition is and where cognition occurs; you'll have exposure to some of the cutting-edge empirical research on embodied, embedded, extended, and distributed cognition; and you'll be able to apply these skills and this knowledge both to analyze the cognitive systems in which we’re embedded such as cars and classrooms, and to think about the design of possible new technologies.


All readings can be found here

Course Details and Policies

You can access the full course syllabus here.

Course Communication

Please enroll at: to receive communication and ask questions of the TAs. 

Requirements and Evaluation

This course requires regular in-class participation, four brief article reviews, five reading quizzes - one midterm, a final exam – and submission of a cyborg journal in which you find and discuss cyborg parts. It’s not a lot of work, necessarily, but it’s spread throughout the quarter. This is on purpose. It helps you learn.

Breakdown of Final Grade

·       Engagement and Participation                                                    2%

·       Reading Summaries  (4  x 2 pages)                                              8%

·       Reading Quizzes (4 with the worst thrown out)                           15%

·       Cyborg Journal                                                                          20%

·       Midterm                                                                                    25%

·       Final exam (cumulative)                                                            30%

Additional details on assignments and exams will be provided in class and on the website.

Engagement and Participation (25%)

Objective: Critical reflection is crucial to understanding and mastery. To encourage genuine engagement, a quarter of your grade will come from:

·       peer-discussion during lecture (2 points)

·       reading summaries and quizzes, designed to encourage timely reading (23 points) 

Here’s the deal: we want you to put in the effort to read, reflect, and participate during lecture. In return, you can earn these easy points toward your final grade.

In class Activities: An important part of each lecture involves you doing in class research, discussion and presentation.  Activities will vary from class to class.  Early on you will be asked to find examples of cyborg parts.  Each class will have a theme.  For instance, in the first class we will explore cyborg parts for vision.  What counts as a cyborg visual part?  Obviously artificial retina, but do glasses?  

In groups of three you will discuss and collect examples of such parts: images, video, schematics.  You will post your media and brief explanatory caption to a class google presentation and the TA’s will review them and identify interesting ones for discussion by Prof Kirsh the whole class.  In your cyborg journal you will choose the best of your own media and cyborg parts and comment on it in greater detail. The journal will have several other parts including one where you invent a new part and provide the appropriate evidence for its motivation and design.

You will use peer studio to grade each other’s cyborg journal.

Exams (25% for the midterm; 30% for the cumulative final)

Exams cover material from both lectures and readings. For the assigned readings and lectures, you should be able to articulate: the general topic, the hypotheses or research questions, the methodology (or methodologies) employed, the main claims or results, and a critical assessment of any of these parts. All exams will include a combination of multiple choice, true-or-false, and possibly short answer. The final exam is cumulative.

Grading Rubric

Course grades will be assigned according to the following scale:

≥ 97%: A+        ≥ 93%: A          ≥ 90%: A-         ≥ 87%: B+        etc.

If this produces a distribution of grades with a median or mean lower than 80%, a curve will be applied to bring grades up.  


Details of assignments and key activity dates can be found here.

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Readings Due dates Notes & Assignments
1 Mon Jan 09 Intro      
Mon Jan 09 Introduction     List of all assignments and dates
Wed Jan 11 Cyborgs and Technology

Fragment of Kirsh (Pages 3.1-3.3) 2013

  Reading questions
Fri Jan 13

What is the Body?

Maravita & Iriki 2004   Reading questions

2 Mon Jan 16 MLK - Holiday     Reading Assignment 1
Wed Jan 18 Brain spills out to body (click for lecture slides)

Shapiro – 2007

Reading questions

Fri Jan 20 Epistemic Action Kirsh and Maglio 1994

Reading Assignment 1 Due Reading questions
3 Mon Jan 23 Gesture and Thought Beilock & Meadow 2010   Reading Questions
Wed Jan 25 Cognitive Artifacts Norman 1991 In-class reading quiz Reading Questions
Fri Jan 27 Embedded Cognition  Braitenberg 1986  

Reading Assignment 2
4 Mon Jan 30 Extended Mind -Online Lecture Part 1 Clark & Chalmers 1998 Submit cyborg journal AS DRAFT to PeerStudio

Click for in-class activity
Wed Feb 01 Extended Mind -Online Lecture Part 2 Clark 2008

Reading questions
Fri Feb 03 Criticism Part 1 Stereleny 2010 Submit journal AS FINAL on PeerStudio Reading questions

5 Mon Feb 06 Criticism Part 2 Fodor 2009 Provide 2 peer reviews on PeerStudio Reading Questions

Wed Feb 08 Brain Computer Interfaces - guest lecture Ginny De Sa Graimann 2009   Reading Questions
Fri Feb 10 D-Cog 1 – swarms  Mataric 1993 In-class reading quiz 2 (on 1/30, 2/1, & 2/3 readings) Reading questions

6 Mon Feb 13 D-cog Cultural Cognition - Guest Lecture Nan Renner Hutchins 2008   In-class activity 1 - greeting

Wed Feb 15 D-Cog 3 – cockpit – case study Hutchins 1995   In-class activity

Fri Feb 17 MIDTERM 1     Review outline

7 Mon Feb 20 Presidents' Day Holiday      
Wed Feb 22 Coordination Kirsh 1999 Section 1 Parts 5-8 Journal Submission to PeerStudio In-class activity
Fri Feb 24 Embodied Cognition Kirsh 2013 Sections 3,4,6,7 Peer-review journal

Reading Questions
8 Mon Feb 27 Joint activity and method - Federico Rossano Sebanz 2006   Reading Questions
Wed Mar 01 Vision and Distributed and Affordance - Brad Voytek Gilbert 2013   Reading questions
Fri Mar 03 Enactivism Noe Chapter 1 2004 In-class reading quiz Reading questions

9 Mon Mar 06 Interactive Cognition Kirsh 2014   Reading Questions
Wed Mar 08 Perceptuo-motor anticipation and ‘projection’ - Douglas A Nitz Anderson 2010

Section 2 Journal Instructions
Fri Mar 10 Interactive Cognition (cont)  

10 Mon Mar 13 Interactive Cognition (cont)      
Wed Mar 15 Interactive Cognition (cont)  

In-class reading quiz

Quiz 4 Answers + explanations
Fri Mar 17 Cyborgs – so where do we stand?  Bostrom   Quick summary of topics since midterm