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Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Humanby Michael Chorost
Synopses & Reviews
Michael Chorost became a cyborg on October 1, 2001, the day his new ear was booted up. Born hard of hearing in 1964, he went completely deaf in his thirties. Rather than live in silence, he chose to have a computer surgically embedded in his skull to artificially restore his hearing.
This is the story of Chorost's journey — from deafness to hearing, from human to cyborg — and how it transformed him. The melding of silicon and flesh has long been the stuff of science fiction. But as Chorost reveals in this witty, poignant, and illuminating memoir, fantasy is now giving way to reality.
Chorost found his new body mystifyingly mechanical: kitchen magnets stuck to his head, and he could plug himself directly into a CD player. His hearing was routinely upgraded with new software. All this forced him to confront complex questions about humans in the machine age: When the senses become programmable, can we trust what they tell us about the world? Will cochlear implants destroy the signing deaf community? And above all, are cyborgs still human?
A brilliant dispatch from the technological frontier, Rebuilt is also an ode to sound. Whether Chorost is adjusting his software in a desperate attempt to make the world sound "right" again, exploring the neurobiology of the ear, or reflecting on the simple pleasure of his mother's voice, he invites us to think about what we hear — and how we experience the world — in an altogether new way.
Brimming with insight and written with dry, self-deprecating humor, this quirky coming-of-age story unveils, in a way no other book has, the magnificent possibilities of a new technological era.
"Chorost had been severely hearing impaired since birth when, one morning in 2001, his remaining hearing suddenly and inexplicably shut down. Fortunately for Chorost, cochlear implants have progressed to the point where people formerly isolated from everyday sounds can hear leaves rustle as they walk through them. A tiny device, the technological equivalent of a 286 computer, was surgically implanted behind the author's left ear. A magnetic headpiece sticks to his head over the implant, with a wire connected to a speech processor on his belt. As Chorost makes clear, his hearing wasn't restored; it was replaced. His body is now part 'machine.' The implant was only the first step of the author's learning to hear again, as his brain struggled to interpret the new electrical signals it was receiving. Chorost, who conducts research in educational technology, faced problems with activities most people take for granted: talking on a cell phone or carrying on a conversation in a crowded room. He recounts with candor and humor his struggles with relationships, both casual and intimate. Readers will find much food for thought on the implications of medical technology and what constitutes our humanity in this beautifully written debut. Agent, Michael Carlisle at Inkwell. (June 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An artfully frank account, Chorost's story will vitally engage people interested in the increasingly prevalent surgical procedure." Booklist
"Chorost's graceful, poetic turns of phrase and dry, self-deprecating humor take what could have been a dry technological story and breathe life into it..." Library Journal
"A real marvel is Michael Chorost...he brings to his fascinating subject great intellectual clarity...compelling." Jenny Davidson, The Village Voice
"Funny and thoughtful...[Chorost's] awareness of life's fragility...strikes me as the perfect answer to opponents of implants...invaluable." Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, The Los Angeles Times
"Deeply enjoyable...Chorost is at the vanguard of where most baby-boomers will end up — part human and part machine." Rodney Brooks, author of Flesh and Machines
"Chorost takes us on an amazing intellectual journey...[and he] has a fine ear for language...A lovely book." Robin Marantz Henig, author of Pandora's Baby and The Monk in the Garden
"Moving...The most hopeful thing I've read in quite a while." Annalee Newitz, San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Rebuilt is a heartfelt exploration of technologically mediated perception...Chorost's journey is that of humanity itself." Andy Clark, author of Natural-Born Cyborgs
"Rebuilt offers a fascinating look at what it means to be wired in a wired world." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"With wit and candor, [Chorost] welcomes us to the debate and shows us what it's like to struggle to hear." The Arizona Republic
Chorost chronicles his journey from deafness to hearing, from human to cyborg, and how it transformed him. Written with self-deprecating, dry wit this volume explores hearing, sound, and software that can now mend the senses.
After Michael Chorost suddenly lost what was left of his hearing, he took the radical step of having a cochlear implant — a tiny computer — installed in his head. A technological marvel, the device not only restored to him the world of sound but also could be routinely upgraded with new software. Despite his intitial fear of the technology's potentially dehumanizing effects, Chorost's implant allowed him to connect with others in surprising ways: as a cyborg, he learned about love, joined a writing group, and formed deeper friendships. More profoundly, his perception of the world around him was dramatically altered.
Brimming with insight and written with charm and self-deprecating humor, Rebuilt unveils, in personal terms, the astounding possibilities of a new technological age.
About the Author
Michael Chorost has a B.A. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He lives in San Francisco, where he writes, teaches, and consults.
Table of Contents
1 : Broken 1 2 : Surgery 23 3 : Between Two Worlds 39 4 : Activation 49 5 : Forget About Reality 67 6 : The Computer Reprograms Me 80 7 : Upgrading 102 8 : The Logic I Loved and Hated 117 9 : A Kinship with the Machines 145 10 : A Kinship with the Humans 158 11 : The Technologies of Human Potential 171 12 : Mike 2.0 184 Appendix: 1,113,636 Bits per Second 199 Notes 209 Bibliography 217 Acknowledgments 222 Index 225
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