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World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet Hardcover – February 15, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brain implants that jack us into the cybernetic hive mind are on the horizon, according to this pixilated primer on the science of mental connection. Journalist Chorost (Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human) sees the future clearly: first, viruses will be used to insert new DNA into neurons; then nanowires and LEDs will be surgically implanted in the brain; finally, wireless Internet links will beam our thoughts and impressions into the brains of others (as long as they've been outfitted with the same apparatus). Though it sounds awful--how long before an implanted live feed from your boss's brain becomes a condition of employment?--the author insists it will be awesome, sparking a "re-enchantment of humanity" in which we will be "listened to with compassionate intensity" and become "a larger, fuller species" with a "transpersonal mind" and a "Communion of Souls." Chorost is really into connectedness (he participated in a clothing-optional group hug-in at an intimacy workshop) and though his visionary raptures ring both implausible and unpleasant, his tour of here-and-now neuroscience makes for an engaging account of how the brain communicates with itself and the world. Photos. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Chorost’s Rebuilt (2005) was an inspiring memoir about recovering his hearing with a cochlear implant. The personal also infuses this work that wrestles with neuroscience’s accelerating momentum in mapping and manipulating brain activity. Optimistic about the prospect, Chorost explains that researchers are creating a new field called optogenetics, in which individual neurons are genetically engineered to respond to light of specific wavelengths. Lab rats’ brains have already been made to dance to the scientists’ tune; humanity’s eventual turn may fret some readers. Weighing detrimental and beneficial aspects, Chorost tilts positively, in general, seeing physiological palliatives in brain-control technology, such as cures for paralysis and Parkinson’s disease as well as a futuristic, elevated experience of consciousness among people with an Internet-connected mind-reading capability. His imagination of such a social world compares with his real-world account of his emotional states while attempting to attract the opposite sex. Conceptual in tenor, Chorost’s accessible presentation parallels Miguel Nicolelis’ technically more detailed Beyond Boundaries in offering viewpoints favorable to this direction in neuroscience. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439119147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439119143
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In World Wide Mind, Chorost speculates on humanity's future as cyborgs.

Chorost himself is a cyborg of sorts: he has a cochlear implant, a computer embedded in his skull, that restores his hearing. When the implant was put in, he had to learn all over how to hear, to interpret the electrical signals of the sensors as sound and speech. A part of his mind is now shaped by and integrated with computation in a way that most of us are not (yet) familiar with.

Starting from this personal example, Chorost then delves into current research on the workings of the mind and our technologies for observing and influencing the cellular machinery in our brains. He then works through the implications of such technologies when carried to their logical ends, and imagines a future in which our brains are individual nodes in a world wide network of minds connected, mediated, and intimately embraced by computers.

At the same time, Chorost also tells a parallel story about his own journey to find intimacy, to connect with others, and to learn to know another person the old fashioned way -- by speech, gesture, physical contact, and intuition.

The two stories turn out to be flip sides of the same coin. The human yearning to know another, to become part of something larger and more complete than the lonely self, is ancient and deep. The technologies Chorost describes may be new, but they will be used to fulfill a desire as old as our species.

Chorost's enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. The sense of wonder and joy fairly leap off the page. The reader can share his excitement as he first sees a computer respond to his thoughts: the mind is not some ethereal thing, but a concrete physical phenomenon.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Chorost has done it again. I'm a big fan of his prior book Rebuilt, which chronicles his experience with the world of cochlear implants. This book is just as fascinating and entertaining. I won't get into the subject matter of the book, which other commenters have discussed in detail. Suffice it to say that I found the scientific discussions immensely interesting and thought-provoking. But what I like best is the way the author interposes his own personal experiences with the discussion of emerging technology. I have rarely encountered an author with such an engaging writing style. Whereas I race through most books, I slow myself down when reading Chorost's prose, so as to savor every bit. The writing is funny, sweet, and moving, all at the same time. And it just gets better and better as it goes along. This is truly a tour de force. I would give it more than five stars if I could.
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Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is a good summary of what it's about. It's about how the human brain could connect with other human minds through the Internet.

Chorost describes the book as a thought experiment about things that are conceptually plausible, though not yet in practice. He gives many examples of how his ideas about the future are based in technology that is already in use. There are chapters on the technology that is used to detect brain activity, chapters on nanowires and optogenetics - both mechanisms that can read and write brain activity, chapters on communications protocols for sending perceptions and memories from one brain to another, chapters on examples of what might result from linking humans to the Internet, and chapters on a possible future collective mind. The writing style is accessible and clear. In an age when people talk about neural pathways over the dinner table, the science discussions in the book are open and written for the average informed person.

Woven in with all this science reporting and speculation, is a personal narrative about Chorost's already wired brain - he has chochlear implants. He also uses stories about his personal life and relationships to introduce concepts about how the human mind works. The book is a surprisingly easy read.

Some of Chorost's examples are part of pop culture. He talks about The Matrix and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for example. He doesn't mention Dollhouse, but I think it contains the best example of hive mind as he describes it. I don't mean the plot line in Dollhouse where new personalities are injected into people electronically and they can suddenly be doctors or kick boxing experts. Chorost's says that brains can't learn that way.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Chorost speculates about the potential future integration of individuals, technologies and the internet. He lays the groundwork for his futuristic ideas with a fascinating review of cutting-edge technologies already available today and by weaving his personal 'human connection' story throughout the book. You may not agree with or even like Chorost's predictions, but one can't help but be challenged to think about where technology and the internet are leading us. A very stimulating read.
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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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