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Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human

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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 - 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. For more information about Michael Chorost and Rebuilt, visit http: //www.rebuilt-thebook.com.


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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 - 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. For more information about Michael Chorost and Rebuilt, visit http: //www.rebuilt-thebook.com.

30 review for Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

    Okay, I FINALLY finished this one. As I suspected I would, I came out of it with extremely mixed feelings, much of them due to my personal knowledge of the subject matter. Full disclosure: I am a cochlear implant (CI) user, one of the first few hundred children who received an implant after the FDA approved it for use in children. I was six and had spent all of my life up to that point signing and deeply involved in the Deaf community. I still consider myself Deaf, with or without my CI. This rea Okay, I FINALLY finished this one. As I suspected I would, I came out of it with extremely mixed feelings, much of them due to my personal knowledge of the subject matter. Full disclosure: I am a cochlear implant (CI) user, one of the first few hundred children who received an implant after the FDA approved it for use in children. I was six and had spent all of my life up to that point signing and deeply involved in the Deaf community. I still consider myself Deaf, with or without my CI. This really affects my perspective on Chorost's story. I'll admit to being instantly repulsed by his view of his deafness. He goes as far to state that "deaf" is next to "dead" in the dictionary. His view--probably due to his heavily oral background--of his deafness is shrouded with darkness and negativity. This is in dramatic contrast to my view of my own deafness, which is an element of my personality and worldview. I wouldn't take it away for anything. Another thing that put me off about this book was its obvious effort at "being deep and stuff." Chorost is clearly a very talented writer and an intelligent guy, but the constant references to cyborgs, Shakespeare, and such, just felt ... forced. I ended up feeling like he was trying really hard to prove that he was, in fact, smart. This book, titled "How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human" is somewhat misleading. What he does is chronicle how he has gone full-force into dating as he learned how to deal with his cochlear implant. A lot of what he learned about relationships and relating to women are very apt things, but not really related to his cochlear implants. One could make the argument that the cochlear implant enabled him to talk--and hence have these realizations--to women, and that would be partly true, but Chorost's biggest problem with people was never his hearing. He admits to being very socially awkward and plagued with self-doubt ... all things that simply hearing doesn't solve. He has a tendency to blame his hearing loss for all of his problems, which fortunately, he learns not to by the end of the memoir. His writing about the technology behind the CIs was one of the highlights of the book. Great, impeccable writing (although sometimes it did get a bit too technical). I appreciated that Chorost does his very best to give the Deaf culture a fair shake in the CI debate. He even comments on the psychological benefits of the Deaf community: its intimacy, its closeness, its /tightness/. As an outsider, we can't blame him for the distant tone that he adopts as he discusses the problems that the Deaf community faces (he even uses the lower-case 'd' which isn't in keeping with the cultural norm). He speaks of Deafness--the emotional, cultural component of deafness--as an abstraction. He doesn't even appear to speak to any Deaf people face-ot-face, always observing them from afar (unlike children with CIs and CI manufacturers). He also doesn't address one of the reasons why the Deaf culture is outraged: Audio-Visual Therapy (AVT), the most prominent and used methodology for teaching children with CIs spoken language, actively /discourages/ sign language to the point that some parents are afraid that if they teach their children ASL, it'll interfere with their spoken language. There are a lot of other little things like that. In the end, I feel like I read a prolonged stream of complaints about women from this dude who just happened to have gotten a cochlear implant. Not quite the book I expected.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Derrick and I both read this shortly after we found out Lola was deaf, and we had decided on a cochlear implant. This is a fascinating book to hear from an adult what it's like to have an implant since Lola will never be able to tell us about it versus life without it. Very interesting. Derrick and I both read this shortly after we found out Lola was deaf, and we had decided on a cochlear implant. This is a fascinating book to hear from an adult what it's like to have an implant since Lola will never be able to tell us about it versus life without it. Very interesting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    This book changed my life. After reading it, I took up American Sign Language and started volunteering at the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. The students and staff there have inspired me profoundly.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kaylee Beauprez

    I thought this book had great insight about what it is like to get a cochlear implant. the first three chapters were great, but he put too much emphasis on how a CI made him more like a cyborg... too it overboard

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jon Hurd

    A very enjoyable read, and the best description of how the ear works that I have ever read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This is an odd book. Some information and insight is good. So many things about deafness and cochlear implants I didn’t know. Some of the writing is good some is dreadful! His sexual exploits are totally unnecessary. My son who wears hearing aids was assigned a this by his speech coach to pull quotes and create a performance piece. Glad I read it to discuss with my son but the writing made it an absolute slug to get through.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    A fascinating account of the author’s experience in the world of the deaf and hearing impaired and adapting to life with a cochlear implant.

  8. 4 out of 5

    William Robles

    Eye opening and a great read for a potential cochlear implant candidate.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I thought this was an excellent book, especially as I'm looking forward to being evaluated next week for a hybrid implant. Maybe it's because I'm an ex-computer programmer and a techie, but I really enjoyed this book. The New York TImes, in a review of his current book, said "He's shared too much intimacy, too many confessions," but I disagree. That, to me, made the book all the better. It made Michael Chorost more human to me to read his thoughts about cyborgs and his forays into the dating wor I thought this was an excellent book, especially as I'm looking forward to being evaluated next week for a hybrid implant. Maybe it's because I'm an ex-computer programmer and a techie, but I really enjoyed this book. The New York TImes, in a review of his current book, said "He's shared too much intimacy, too many confessions," but I disagree. That, to me, made the book all the better. It made Michael Chorost more human to me to read his thoughts about cyborgs and his forays into the dating world. If you're looking for a dry book about the mechanics of cochlear implants, find another book. The facts are stated by Mr. Chorost, but mixed in with personal experiences that make the book all the more enjoyable. ****** The first time I read this book, I was about to be tested for CI qualification. For various reasons, I didn't qualify until more than four years later. I reread this book to see if I had different reactions this time. I liked the personal experiences related in this book the best. I liked one incident in which the author was dating someone new, and his processor magnet fell off during the good-night kiss. Without losing a beat, his date reached down, and put his magnet back on. I also loved the stories about his cat, Elvis. This time, I did not appreciate the discussion about cyborgs. Perhaps I might have liked it better if I'd gotten a clear understanding of why the discussion was important; it felt like a discussion for discussion's sake.

  10. 5 out of 5

    cochlearimplantHELP

    I read this book in four hours. Each page a delight and wonder as Michael Chorost takes us into his ‘realm of change’. A young insecure hearing impaired man who loses his remaining hearing within hours. Blossoming over time into accepting his deafness, he also accepts what cochlear implant technology can give him. Using amazing intelligence and insight, Michael Chorost gives us a birds-eye view of the brain/CI connection wrapped up in such a way you can’t wait to see what’s on the next page! As a I read this book in four hours. Each page a delight and wonder as Michael Chorost takes us into his ‘realm of change’. A young insecure hearing impaired man who loses his remaining hearing within hours. Blossoming over time into accepting his deafness, he also accepts what cochlear implant technology can give him. Using amazing intelligence and insight, Michael Chorost gives us a birds-eye view of the brain/CI connection wrapped up in such a way you can’t wait to see what’s on the next page! As a cochlear implant user myself, (I have the same device), I have read many books on the subject that gave me a good idea of what to expect. I have yet to read a “CI” book that reflected such deep emotions and struggles and fears. Michael’s abstract grasp of his fears in being a “cyborg” has been artfully woven into this book. Madly humorous at times, his love life takes on a life of its own as he deals with his “speech processor”. There are no guarantees with a cochlear implant. There is tantalizing promise. “Rebuilt” takes you along on a journey of that promise, I have lived it myself and am still in awe of it today. -Deb McClendon

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The story written here, of a man experiencing complete, sudden deafness for the first time, is a great mix of science, human behavior and social interaction. Having met the author, it only reinforces his extraordinary tale of taking loss and wielding it to accomplish a gain. I was wary at first as to how he would handle the argument of cochlear implants amongst the deaf community. He took on the subject with grace and sensitivity, while also accomodating for changing views as the technology and The story written here, of a man experiencing complete, sudden deafness for the first time, is a great mix of science, human behavior and social interaction. Having met the author, it only reinforces his extraordinary tale of taking loss and wielding it to accomplish a gain. I was wary at first as to how he would handle the argument of cochlear implants amongst the deaf community. He took on the subject with grace and sensitivity, while also accomodating for changing views as the technology and societies have progressed. This is not a deaf culture book, and is not simply about deafness. It is a journey of a man reconnecting with the human world, as one of his primary senses is taken over by technology. I think the original subtitle "How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human" should have been retained for the paperback edition. That subtitle makes so much more sense of the author's intent than the current subtitle: "My Journey Back to the Hearing World". His story is so much more than that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Interesting. This is an memoir written by a guy who was congenitally hard of hearing, who abruptly lost the rest of his hearing as an adult, and subsequently got a cochlear implant. He chronicles his experience with surgery and learning to hear again, and some of the frustrations and joys he experiences with his new implant. He really brings home the fact that a cochlear implant is not a magic cure for deafness - at best, it is a tool that helps him hear some of the time in some situations. I wi Interesting. This is an memoir written by a guy who was congenitally hard of hearing, who abruptly lost the rest of his hearing as an adult, and subsequently got a cochlear implant. He chronicles his experience with surgery and learning to hear again, and some of the frustrations and joys he experiences with his new implant. He really brings home the fact that a cochlear implant is not a magic cure for deafness - at best, it is a tool that helps him hear some of the time in some situations. I wished that I had read this book before I saw the documetnary "Sound and Fury" - if this is a topic that interests you, look it up!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    While this is far from the best written or even most compelling book I've ever read, I rank it highly because it's both interesting and unique. Technology has allowed us to actually take outside sound and change it into input that can directly stimulate the auditory nerves. This is one person's experience with dealing with having this strange computer be a part of them and their experience of the world. One of the most powerful images he conjures up is when he plugs the implant into a walkman... a While this is far from the best written or even most compelling book I've ever read, I rank it highly because it's both interesting and unique. Technology has allowed us to actually take outside sound and change it into input that can directly stimulate the auditory nerves. This is one person's experience with dealing with having this strange computer be a part of them and their experience of the world. One of the most powerful images he conjures up is when he plugs the implant into a walkman... and is hearing sounds that never existed as air molecule vibrations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Chorost's insights into the world of the hard of hearing through his research into cochlear implants and his own experience are thorough, and for the most part, engaging. While in parts his narrative is fascinating and easy to read, at other times he becomes deeply enmeshed in his own philosophical ramblings. These sections are wordy and dense, and while most of the time they are worth the read, other times I was left thinking, "what is he talking about?" Still, worth the read, and more matter o Chorost's insights into the world of the hard of hearing through his research into cochlear implants and his own experience are thorough, and for the most part, engaging. While in parts his narrative is fascinating and easy to read, at other times he becomes deeply enmeshed in his own philosophical ramblings. These sections are wordy and dense, and while most of the time they are worth the read, other times I was left thinking, "what is he talking about?" Still, worth the read, and more matter of fact than most medical memoirs, which I appreciated.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennette Forager/sl

    I picked this book up because I am always trying to stay in touch with my husband's deteriorating hearing and assumed that it was a tech-based assessment of a potential alternative. Instead I found a poet for all that face dramatic life changes. Michael smart about the geek stuff and also connected to his evolving emotions which made for a wonderful read and many thoughtful discussions with friends. I look forward to reading his subsequent works. I picked this book up because I am always trying to stay in touch with my husband's deteriorating hearing and assumed that it was a tech-based assessment of a potential alternative. Instead I found a poet for all that face dramatic life changes. Michael smart about the geek stuff and also connected to his evolving emotions which made for a wonderful read and many thoughtful discussions with friends. I look forward to reading his subsequent works.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    There's a lot to like here-- humorous, clear and humble writing and a host of interesting thoughts to boot. Chorost takes his deafness and later receipt of a cochlear implant and turns them into more than just a story of the miracle of modern science; he delves deeply into the philosophical implications of the condition of the cyber-organism and ultimately presents a vision of how humans and machines will come to be intimately and often physically bound to one another in the near future. There's a lot to like here-- humorous, clear and humble writing and a host of interesting thoughts to boot. Chorost takes his deafness and later receipt of a cochlear implant and turns them into more than just a story of the miracle of modern science; he delves deeply into the philosophical implications of the condition of the cyber-organism and ultimately presents a vision of how humans and machines will come to be intimately and often physically bound to one another in the near future.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This was one of the required texts for my disability studies course, and I actually really enjoyed it! Before this book I really had no idea what cochlear implants were or really anything about how we perceive sound. I loved the way he described his experience and I feel I gained some perspective about what hearing impaired people go through. Overall an awesome memoir. I'm glad I was forced to read it! This was one of the required texts for my disability studies course, and I actually really enjoyed it! Before this book I really had no idea what cochlear implants were or really anything about how we perceive sound. I loved the way he described his experience and I feel I gained some perspective about what hearing impaired people go through. Overall an awesome memoir. I'm glad I was forced to read it!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maria Holt

    This book is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Someone close to me has a hearing loss that has been remedied by an ossicular implant. This is an implant of the middle ear, quite different from Michael Chorost's implant in the inner ear. This is his journey and it's funny, touching and very well written. I highly recommend it. This book is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Someone close to me has a hearing loss that has been remedied by an ossicular implant. This is an implant of the middle ear, quite different from Michael Chorost's implant in the inner ear. This is his journey and it's funny, touching and very well written. I highly recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joe Quirk

    The best combination of touching memoir and meditation/analysis of what it means to be human in a world where experience is mediated by technology. This affable narrator will give you new insights on the nature of intimacy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    This book was just okay. Parts of it I found really interesting -- when Chorost focused on the cochlear impact and the ups and downs of hearing with it. I did not like when he would go off into relaying details of his dating excursions - they just didn't seem to fit. This book was just okay. Parts of it I found really interesting -- when Chorost focused on the cochlear impact and the ups and downs of hearing with it. I did not like when he would go off into relaying details of his dating excursions - they just didn't seem to fit.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leafsong

    Perfect combo of science and memoir for me. Just picked it off of a library-used sale shelf while on vacation for a dollar because I ran out of books, so it was hit or miss, but it definitely turned out hit.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    A little too technical for me-really just wanted to read more about the decision to get a cochlear implant and the difference in sound between that vs hearing aids. Also, this book was written 10+ yrs ago, so probably a bit outdated as far as technology goes anyway.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Wonderfully written! If your nerdy/geeky at heart you may enjoy this book even more. Michael gives us a chance to be in his shoes while going through his hearing journey. If you have interest in a cochlear implant, I highly recommend this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alan Kelly

    Exactly seven years ago to this day, this was my "can't put it down" book, reading of the author's world in exquisite details of a hearing-turned-deaf world, and through time to a tuned-in world. Some hearty laughter, too. Worth another read! Exactly seven years ago to this day, this was my "can't put it down" book, reading of the author's world in exquisite details of a hearing-turned-deaf world, and through time to a tuned-in world. Some hearty laughter, too. Worth another read!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Grittner

    The author gets a cochlear implant. Fascinating to read about the process and what he actually "hears." The author gets a cochlear implant. Fascinating to read about the process and what he actually "hears."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Sloe

    Engaging and quick read from a cochlear implant recipient who analyzes his sense of self. Provides some interesting anecdotes on hearing, technology and what it means to be human.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eclarep

    Presents Cohorst's journey through deafness and back into the hearing world after getting a cochlear implant. Interesting but I'm still not racing to get a cochlear implant. Presents Cohorst's journey through deafness and back into the hearing world after getting a cochlear implant. Interesting but I'm still not racing to get a cochlear implant.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I definitely recommend this memoir from a man who had a cochlear implant. It is very well written. He makes you think about hearing from so many perspectives.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    It's fantastic view on cochlear implants that helped me to change my mind and see some of the benefits that CI brings as well as other negatives. It's fantastic view on cochlear implants that helped me to change my mind and see some of the benefits that CI brings as well as other negatives.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    intriguing perspective and insights about the philosophical as well as practical implications of cochlear implant

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