red circuit board

I just read a book that picked up where the last book I read left off. I recently previewed Losing Music, by John Cotter, a memoir about a man losing his hearing and the turmoil this causes in his life (click here to read these blog posts). Today I’m going to preview a memoir about a man who loses his hearing entirely, gets a cochlear implant, and begins to rebuild his life.

Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human, by Michael Chorost, is a fascinating account of what it’s like to become a cyborg—part human, part machine. (Disclaimer: Mike is a friend of mine. I met him at a writers conference.) As it turns out, being a cyborg is, while liberating, also challenging. Chorost writes:

“I was given the most sophisticated cyborg device in existence and essentially told, ‘Here. You figure out how to use it.'”

Apparently, there is no owner’s manual or training course in being a cochlear cyborg. There is obtainable information, to be sure, both online and from health care specialists. But Chorost felt that, for the most part, his device was turned on, there was a bit of calibration, and then he was left alone with the task of figuring out how to incorporate the device and its inputs into his life. (Note: this book was published in 2005. I wonder whether things are different now.)

The first months of being a cyborg were a scary and exciting time for Chorost. It often happened that he heard a noise with the help of the machine that he could not identify. What is that? he would wonder. And then he would go through an extended sleuthing process to match the new sound he was hearing to something in the physical world.

I’ll write more about this in my next blog post, but for now, I will inquire, have you ever been forced to figure out something terrifyingly complicated on your own?