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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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