Ph.D. Graduate Michael Chorost publishes "World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet"
(Free Press, 2011)
Posted: February 1, 2011
What if digital communication felt as real as being touched?
This question led Michael Chorost to explore profound new ideas triggered by lab research around the world, and the result is the book you now hold. Marvelous and momentous, World Wide Mind takes mind-to-mind communication out of the realm of science fiction and reveals how we are on the verge of a radical new understanding of human interaction.
Chorost himself has computers in his head that enable him to hear: two cochlear implants. Drawing on that experience, he proposes that our Paleolithic bodies and our Pentium chips could be physically merged, and he explores the technologies that could do it. He visits engineers building wearable computers that allow people to be online every waking moment, and scientists working on implanted chips that would let paralysis victims communicate. Entirely new neural interfaces are being developed that let computers read and alter neural activity in unprecedented detail.
But we all know how addictive the Internet is. Chorost explains the addiction: he details the biochemistry of what makes you hunger to touch your iPhone and check your email. He proposes how we could design a mind-to-mind technology that would let us reconnect with our bodies and enhance our relationships. With such technologies, we could achieve a collective consciousness—a World Wide Mind. And it would be humankind's next evolutionary step.
With daring and sensitivity, Chorost writes about how he learned how to enhance his own relationships by attending workshops teaching the power of touch. He learned how to bring technology and communication together to find true love, and his story shows how we can master technology to make ourselves more human rather than less.
World Wide Mind offers a new understanding of how we communicate, what we need to connect fully with one another, and how our addiction to email and texting can be countered with technologies that put us—literally—in each other's minds.
Michael Chorost (pronounced like “chorus” with a T at the end) is a technology theorist with an unusual perspective: his body is the future. In 2001 he went completely deaf and had a computer implanted in his head to let him hear again. This transformative experience inspired his first book, Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. He wrote about how mastering his new ear, a cochlear implant, enabled him to enhance his creative potential as a human being. The critics agreed; in 2006 Rebuilt won the PEN/USA Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. Shortly afterward it was reprinted in paperback under the new title Rebuilt: My Journey Back to the Hearing World.
Dr. Chorost earned his B.A. at Brown University and studied computer programming, Renaissance drama, and cultural theory on the way to his Ph.D. at UT-Austin. He doesn’t draw sharp lines between programming, science, writing, and art; to him, these are all profoundly creative human endeavors. This freewheeling approach infuses his second book, World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet. In this book he ups the ante, proposing that humanity can incorporate the computer into its collective soul in a way that enhances communities and creative work instead of diminishing them.
As a freelance science writer he has written for Wired, The Washington Post, Technology Review, and The Scientist, among others. He wrote the screenplay for a TV special on brain implants titled The 22nd Century, which aired on PBS in January 2007. He sits on external advisory boards for neuroscience research at Northwestern and Brown. He has given over 85 talks at institutions such as Google, MIT, Stanford, Brown, the Brookings Institute, and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.
Dr. Chorost was born in New Jersey and has lived in North Carolina, Texas, and California. In 2008 he moved to Washington D.C., where he now lives with his wife and their three cats Harper, Posy, and Elvis. (http://www.michaelchorost.com/)
In Psychology Today (January 4, 2011)