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Posted July 5, 2011
An important book that presents a radically different future for humanity
Michael Chorost writes about the integration of humanity with the internet and computers from the the perspective of a person already experienced with implanted electronics - two cochlear implants. Over 200,000 people have cochlear implants. Optogenetics appears to hold the promise of making the brain directly interfaceable with the internet eliminating the need to text or speak with the potential to send and receive messages directly by thinking. Optogenetics is the genetic modification of animal cells to make them light sensitive. The book presents the results of work now underway at over 500 labs where neurons have had genes inserted that would cause the neuron to either fire or to stop firing depending on the frequency of light to which the neuron is exposed. Promising work includes treatment of Parkinson's through stimulation of specific neurons that are involved in Parkinson's symptoms. Chorost then presents the case of Thad Starner, an MIT researcher he dubs as the "most connected man in the world" who takes notes on all conversations and has a special one hand keypad. Hundreds of millions now regularly text at every opportunity raising the possibility of a nightmare scenario such as E. M. Forester's "The Machine Stops" where humans occupy separate rooms underground with no direct contact with others. The genius of Chorost's book is that he presents a scenario of the possibility of a high touch world where the people communicate directly with others where human capabilities are amplified in positive directions. Parallel to the exposition of the results of research Chorost recounts his experience in a "touch" workshop where he learns to explore and share touch with other people. Before reading this book I assumed that most people would reject implantable electronics as dehumanizing technology. The book makes a strong argument for wide deployment of implants that allow people to directly interface with the internet bringing about a "world wide mind". The implications of the "world wide mind" are both very positive and highly frightening. Given the creation of working devices implementation is likely to proceed very rapidly based on the dramatically improved functionality. What this technology will do to the minds of individuals or to the mind or minds of humankind will not be understood until well after these technologies are widely deployed. This is an important book to read for everyone, especially those involved in doing business through the internet or working with people with disabilities caused by brain disorders which may be treated with the technologies outlined by the author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2011
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