Pieces of Me: On Identity and Information and Communications Technology Implants

Part of the Information Technology and Law Series book series (ITLS, volume 23)


Ever since the dawn of mankind, we have used artefacts to extend our physical abilities or to overcome our bodily shortcomings. We use a stick to reach the apples on the highest branch of a tree, or a lever to lift things that are heavier than our own bodies. And we use microscopes and telescopes to see things beyond the natural range of our visual system. Several twentiethcentury philosophers have pointed out that when humans use artefacts and technologies, these often tend to become extensions of their bodies: they become incorporated into the user’s body schema. Most of us can flawlessly park a car or write with a pen because of this principle. Technologies, although ‘other’, can become ‘part’ of a user’s bodily repertoire, even if they are not embedded into the human body. At the same time, it is interesting to note that in some cases technologies can be experienced as ‘alien’, or that they can even lead users to feel ‘alienated’ from themselves. The former may happen when we are new at using a technology, or when it malfunctions or breaks down. The latter has been shown to occur, for example, in patients who undergo Deep Brain Stimulation. After treatment, these patients sometimes state that they feel estranged from themselves, that they no longer feel they are the same person. In this chapter we use some of the central ideas from philosophy of technology to clarify these two (seemingly contradictory) perspectives.


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.eLaw Center for Law in the Information SocietyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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