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Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human Hardcover – June 2, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (June 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618378294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618378296
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chorost had been severely hearing impaired since birth when, one morning in 2001, his remaining hearing suddenly and inexplicably shut down. Fortunately for Chorost, cochlear implants have progressed to the point where people formerly isolated from everyday sounds can hear leaves rustle as they walk through them. A tiny device, the technological equivalent of a 286 computer, was surgically implanted behind the author's left ear. A magnetic headpiece sticks to his head over the implant, with a wire connected to a speech processor on his belt. As Chorost makes clear, his hearing wasn't restored; it was replaced. His body is now part "machine." The implant was only the first step of the author's learning to hear again, as his brain struggled to interpret the new electrical signals it was receiving. Chorost, who conducts research in educational technology, faced problems with activities most people take for granted: talking on a cell phone or carrying on a conversation in a crowded room. He recounts with candor and humor his struggles with relationships, both casual and intimate. Readers will find much food for thought on the implications of medical technology and what constitutes our humanity in this beautifully written debut.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In Chorost's memoir about his hearing loss, he prefaces the operating-room experience and activation of a cochlear implant with a recollection of his childhood diagnosis in the late 1960s of a severe hearing deficit, probably caused by rubella fever. In 2001, Chorost abruptly went totally deaf. Portraying his recovery, Chorost imagines his body as the playing field pitting human against mechanical qualities, describing what it's like to be controlled by a computer. He relays his perception of the sound created by the cochlear implant, re-creates conversations and music, and tells how each software upgrade to the implant affected his experiences. His social interactions were also changed by the mechanical device, and he muses on his fortunes in navigating the dating scene. An artfully frank account, Chorost's story will vitally engage people interested in the increasingly prevalent surgical procedure. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 49 customer reviews
I read this book in four hours.
Mike Chorost tells a story of technology from the perspective of a person who is trying to understand a very human loss - his hearing.
Mindy Machanic
This book was provoking, and well written with a unique writing style that was an enjoyable and educational read.
Alyssa D. Walz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Cyborgs are familiar figures in science fiction. The term was coined in 1960 meaning "cybernetic organism", a living being who was a fusion of biological and computer parts. If you think we might eventually have cyborgs in the future, you are wrong; cyborgs walk among us now, and one has written an autobiography. In _Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human_ (Houghton Mifflin), Michael Chorost has described how an implanted computer has taken over his hearing and brought him better back to the world. It is a strange story; in one sense, it isn't unique because thousands of cochlear implants are in use now, but Chorost has a lifetime of deafness, a longstanding interest in computers, a background in literature, and a fine sense of humor that bring the story forward in a unique way.

Chorost had had impaired hearing since childhood, and it gave out entirely in 2001 when he was 36 years old. Because it was a problem within his inner ear and his auditory nerves themselves were intact, he was a candidate to get a cochlear implant. It is not a simple amplifier like a hearing aid is, but a direct stimulator of the nerves that go from the cochlea to the brain. He was distressed when it finally was turned on. "Everything sounds awful," he reports. There was a roaring sound, and everything else was muddy and incomprehensible. It got much better, and in strange ways that raise fascinating questions about sensation. For instance, the electrode array cannot stimulate the cochlea in the way it was used to, and there is a problem of frequency mismatch. A user perceives that the entire auditory spectrum is shifted into high; that was one reason that Chorost couldn't, that first day, tell a woman's voice from a man's. His own voice sounded too high, too.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mindy Machanic on August 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mike Chorost tells a story of technology from the perspective of a person who is trying to understand a very human loss - his hearing. He has a unique background for writing this book, because he is a technologist with a humanities background. His book is personal, yet it explains and explores the technology of hearing amplification along the way. When he gets into the more geeky issues around cyborg technologies, unlike some others writing about these issues he maintains the human social context and considers the real social and ethical ramifications, along with the literary contexts. He even sneaks in references to some of our favorite movie and TV characters, although he does misunderstand the Borg concept! Besides his ability to keep the technology issues within a human context, what makes this book particularly relevant and a good read is his allowing his personality to come through, with his foibles and shyness, his tendency to underestimate his own strengths as a seeker of meaning. A refreshing change in a biography! Chorost comes across as very likeable and genuine, and I found myself hoping for him to find not only his hearing, but also to find a girlfriend and a wholeness in his life. An all-around good read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Debra on June 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in four hours. Each page a delight and wonder as Michael Chorost takes us into his 'realm of change'. A young insecure hearing impaired man who loses his remaining hearing within hours. Blossoming over time into accepting his deafness, he also accepts what cochlear implant technology can give him. Using amazing intelligence and insight, Michael Chorost gives us a birds-eye view of the brain/CI connection wrapped up in such a way you can't wait to see what's on the next page!

As a cochlear implant user myself,( I have the same device), I have read many books on the subject that gave me a good idea of what to expect. I have yet to read a "CI" book that reflected such deep emotions and struggles and fears. Michael's abstract grasp of his fears in being a "cyborg" has been artfully woven into this book. Madly humorous at times, his love life takes on a life of its own as he deals with his "speech processor".

There are no guarantees with a cochlear implant. There is tantilizing promise. "Rebuilt" takes you along on a journey of that promise, I have lived it myself and am still in awe of it today.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By bookfan on June 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have to join in on the praise. I just finished Chorost's book and think it's destined to be a classic. The chances that one of the first people to become a true cyborg would be so uniquely qualified to philosophize about it must be a million to one. The most important thing the author does is tell a deeply affecting story about his search for connection with others through the strange medium of technology in his skull. He plays himself as a sort of Edward Scissorhands, and the reader loves him for it. Chorost never learned sign language, and his coclear implant means the end of true deafness, yet his lament for the dying culture of the signing deaf community really got to me. It's the only book I've ever read about an author's parents that achieves true objective compassion for their struggles with a hearing-impaired kid.

But what nudges this book into extraordinary is Chorost's ability to write about post-modern literary theory, the intricate technology of his device, and the computational theory of mind and somehow make it a rousing yarn. I am in a state of wonder at the magnificance of the human ear, and I can give you a quick primer on the various philosophies of "reality" because it's all explained for the common man in this book. This is one of those books that makes the reader feel smarter because the smart writer speaks to you as an equal. Amazingly, I can find no other books by Chorost. This is his debut.
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