Wednesday, May 28, 2008


From Wikipedia:

Some theorists cite such modifications as contact lenses, hearing aids, or intraocular lenses as examples of fitting humans with technology to enhance their biological capabilities; however, these modifications are no more cybernetic than would be a pen, a wooden leg, or the spears used by chimps to hunt vertebrates.[5] Cochlear implants that combine mechanical modification with any kind of feedback response are more accurately cyborg enhancements.

My take on it: I mentally went, "Yay!" and smiled when I read that those with an implant are "more accurately cyborgs." I've always liked having something unique, and this is definitely unique.

What's interesting to me is that even though implants have been around for awhile, the notion of cyborgs still seems so "new" when applied to humans in today's modern world, even though many instances of "bionic" people have been found in Star Trek, comics (Iron Man), movies (Terminator, anyone?) and books dating as old as 1843 (Edgar Allan Poe, among some others).

Perhaps it is that nuance of meshing man and "machine" that seems so foreign. In this age where practically every white collar person seems to have a bluetooth, where a great majority of homes have their own wifi networks, and kids as young as 7 have their own cell phones, it is still a shock to the mind to think of combining two such different organisms.

My ear right now, despite its apparent deadness is nevertheless still pulsing with warm wet tissue and energy, expediting trillions of cells a day. My body, with its own intricate system and its rapid-fire neurons, could be seen to be a form of computer.

My body doesn't speak in zeros and ones, however.

The implant does. It is hard, strong, and designed to go for my whole life without having to rebuild itself constantly as my body does every minute. IT speaks in zeros and ones. It screams in high-speed binary, highly more supreme than my body has shown itself to be.

My ears- The ears that probably have not heard below 30db ever, the ears that I used to imagine were struggling to "wake up" its nerves in some contrived yet noble attempt to restart, those ears will not be the same again. And who is to thank? Many scientists, researchers, and coders.

Not only does it take doctors to fix me, but it takes programmers to dream up and stimulate the fragility of sound.

One line of code messed up, and I will hear only the high frequency hisses of the orange electric lights overhead.

I did computer programming for a short time, and in that short amount of time, I learned how much there was to getting a program to do something as simple as produce one line of input: "Hello."

How many lines of code does it take to transform my ears?

I don't know, but I do know it takes only one line of code to make me bionic.

The military has long envisioned a possibility of meshing machine with man, to make better, faster, more dangerous soldiers. But it is the regular civilians that are making these strides more often.

It is the infant that recognizes its mother's voice for the first time. It is the old grandfather that gets an implant and can finally hear more clearer than he has in years. It is the 20-somethings that saw the whole wide world open to them, only to be dismayed at the fact their own world was closing up to them slowly due to their hearing loss. It is the people that realized their ears just weren't cutting it for them. It is me finally deciding to see what an implant could do for me, at barely 19.

We are desperately envisioning a new standard for ourselves, even if they are "ordinary" standards. We long to hear music, wind, laughter, birds, words and in the process we become more than just organic matter. In a sense: more than "human." We adjust our programs to fit with our environment. They are real programs that can be wiped out to have newer, more innovative ones placed in them. We are constantly facing being "out of date."

When I get this implant, I face the fact I WILL become part-machine. My ears could be outdated, just like my laptop will probably be obsolete in a few years. But what's more likely is even if I become "outdated," my bionic ear will continue to work.

I know many people who still use Windows 2000, and it is "outdated" by now but they have found ways to update it and for them, it works. It gets what needs to be done, done. My friends and relatives' hearing may deteriorate with age or far too many rock concerts (for some of them!) but the chances are mine never will.

This is the greatest irony- that a profoundly deaf child may hear better than them one day.

This is a marvelous age- not the silver or gold age, but the titanium age. We digitally record shows, download music in minutes, and share movies from halfway around the world. When I was one, a cochlear implant would have looked strange. Today, it might get mistaken for a bluetooth or simply another electronic device.

I can buy an iPod and connect the music directly to myself.

The sound waves will go directly through my head in zeros and ones and I can't help but imagine colorful gold and blue currents happily reaching out at rapid-fire speeds to reach my brain, where my brain translates it all. (And not in zeros or ones, but in electrical currents.)

In actuality, there is no color. There is just pure information traveling at millions of bits a second.

I am electrical, and so are you. Our body sends currents, fires off neurons, travels up the brain stem, snakes up the spine, and all in all works as a marvelously programmed up-to-date machine.

The only difference is a part of my body will speak in zeros and ones. I will become a cyborg, unable to withstand heavy magnetic fields, but able to hear far much more than I have ever imagined. Yes, magnets will stick to my head. Yes, I can hear you but maybe I still won't understand what you're saying ever, still. Is it still worth it? I hope so.

I have always been a lover of sci-fi and an appreciator of robots. Now I get the chance to become part-machine.


Tom Hannon said...

When I was myself going through the CI candidacy process last summer I read much about the infamous word “cyborg” and the controversy it has caused within the deaf community, and read no clearer summary than how Mike Chorost describes “it” in his book “Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Make Me More Human.” Not being a young man and after losing my hearing just about suddenly, I felt it my right to use whatever word I chose to describe me; a man with a computer in & on his head! After much thought I have long referred to myself as a CI-BORG, a play on both words! You can find me over on the Hearing Journey if you look hard!

: TOM : DEAF 10.10.2006 : CI-BORG 09.13.2007 : BOOT UP 09.26.2006 :

David said...

I loved this post and encourage you to continue to delve into your journey and document it for others. I became implanted last month and activated 3 weeks ago.
Tom's Ci-Borg is a description that I use with his blessing.
Continued success in your journey!
Nice writing!