Capital Consortium for Neuroscience: Ethical, Legal and Social Issues

Friday, February 19, 2010
12:00 – 1:00 PM

Cyborg Ear, Cyborg Mind

What is a bionic ear, and what is it like to hear with one? Dr. Chorost went deaf in 2001 and was received bilateral cochlear implants. In this lecture, he will present his lived experience with one of the most advanced neurotechnologies on the market. Using simulations of sound filtered through a cochlear implant, Chorost will enable the audience to expereince a likeness of what it is to "hear through bionics". Will you be able to interpret the output of a four-channel cochlear implant? Eight channels? Sixteen? Dr. Chorost will illustrate the notion of progressive bionic integration through highlights from his forthcoming book, World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans and Machines, that deals with the prospect of “reading” conscious experience of the brain through the use - or misuse - of implanted devices. Recent advances in technologies such as optogenetics are beginning to make this conceptually feasible. Dr. Chorost will offer a general schema of how memories and perceptions are encoded in the brain, and suggest how they might be “read out” and sent to another brain. The networking of brains also suggests the possibility that they might become more than the sum of their parts. If human beings formed a hive mind, what might it think and do?

Speaker Information

Dr. Michael Chorost (VA, USA)

Dr. Michael Chorost is a science writer and cochlear implant user. His experience getting the implant was chronicled in his first book, Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). It won the PEN/USA Book Award for Creative Nonfiction in 2006. His second book, World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans and Machines is about the prospect of mind-reading with implanted devices and will be published by The Free Press in October 2010. Dr. Chorost was born with a severe hearing loss due to rubella. He didn’t learn to talk until he received hearing aids at age 3½. Dr Chorost received a B.A. in English from Brown University, and was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. His dissertation addressed the use of database-driven websites to enable students to collaborate on projects online. After receiving his doctorate he lived in the Bay Area for ten years, during which time he worked at SRI International and then became a freelance writer. He has written for The Washington Post, Wired, The Futurist, The Scientist, Technology Review, Sky, the Stanford Medical Report, and The Best American Science Writing 2006. He screenwrote a TV special on brain implants titled The 22nd Century, which aired on PBS in January 2007. Dr. Chorost was a visiting professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. His website is

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