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Michael Chorost          

Leading Expert on Human/Machine Integration

Michael Chorost is an up-and-coming technology theorist with an unusual perspective: 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 reach his full creative potential as a human being. The critics agreed; in 2006, Rebuilt won the PEN/USA Book Award for Creative Nonfiction.

When Chorost went deaf he was already well-prepared to write a book about the experience. He earned his BA at Brown University and studied computer programming, Renaissance literature, and cultural theory on the way to his PhD. 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 forthcoming book, World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans and Machines. 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.

Dr. Chorost 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 been interviewed by numerous periodicals including The New York Times, The Independent, and SonntagZeitung, and has been a guest on NPR shows including "Weekend Edition" and Michael Krasny's "Forum." He has given over 80 talks at institutions such as Google, MIT, Stanford, Brown, Duke, and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. He has also appeared on the television shows BBC Breakfast TV, Eyewitness News, and C-SPAN's BookTV.

Dr. Chorost's superb speaking skills have been honed by 15 years of teaching at Duke, the University of Texas-Austin, and the University of San Francisco. Students have often rated him as being the best teacher of their undergraduate career. His speaking style is thoughtful, engaging, and wryly funny. Despite his total deafness, his cochlear implants let him use the phone easily and take questions from audiences with skill and flair.

Videos


Speech Topics


Transformation: When The Only Way Out Is Through

When Dr. Chorost lost his hearing in one day, his body became a foreign country. All of the rules abruptly changed. As he rebuilt his life, he learned how to embrace new tools to make new rules, and better ones. That let him achieve things he had never even known were possible.

In today's economic times, the rules are abruptly changing for everyone. Making plans these days feels like building a house during a hurricane. Dr. Chorost speaks about critical strategies such as technology innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, smart risk-taking, honesty with oneself and others, and making creative use of the unexpected. He brings to bear his Ph.D. in educational technology, his burgeoning career writing about the smartest scientists and engineers in the world, and his own experience in having rebuilt his life not just once but several times.

New Bodies, New Lives

Medical technology is creating radically new opportunities for people to rebuild their bodies and their lives. Cochlear implants like Dr. Chorost's are enabling totally deaf people to hear again, opening up the possibility of new relationships and new careers. Nascent technologies like retinal implants, smart prosthetics, and brain stimulators are enabling many people to see, walk, and communicate in new ways.

Rarely, however, do the recipients simply go back to having the same lives they had before. The process of reworking one's body can be spiritual in its intensity, leading the users to question old assumptions and habits – and to change them. Dr. Chorost talks about the cutting edge in new technologies of the body and how they evoke the human traits of resiliency, flexibility, and courage. With creative use of audio and video, he gives audiences a sense of what he himself hears, giving a glimpse of what the transformative process feels like from within.

News


Michael Chorost to Speak Sept. 9

As a pre-cursor to this year’s Nobel Conference (“The Brain and Being Human”), conference organizers and the Neuroscience Program at Gustavus have invited technology theorist Michael Chorost to speak at the College on Friday, Sept. 9...

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