Friday, October 7, 2011

Michael Chorost: 'technology is a two-edged sword'

Technology doesn't always work like it does in the movies. That was clear to the more than 150 attendees at last night's inaugural John Beardsley Lecture at the University of Minnesota featuring Michael Chorost, Ph.D.

Michael Chorost, Ph.D.
After hearing a 16-channel demonstration of what it's like to hear through a cochlear implant, audience members differed on the phrase that they thought they were hearing. To some, it was, "I'd like to play tennis," while to others it was, "I'd like to play chess." One woman heard, "I'd like to have sex." (I guess we hear what we want to hear. The correct answer, by the way, was "I'd like to play tennis.")

The passing of Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, one day before was often referenced throughout the evening. Chorost, author of "Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human" and "World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet," shared the lessons he learned about the intersection of technology and humanity through the experience of having a cochlear implant.

"The real future of technology is not in repeating what biology has done," said Chorost. "It is in doing entirely new things."

Chorost said that e-mail was an entirely new way of communicating and that the future holds such possibilities as "telempathy" (how to read what a brain is thinking) and optogenetics (the use of light to make genetically altered neurons fire or stop firing).

While Chorost said that Twitter is becoming the emotional center of the Internet thanks to people sharing their feelings through the microblogging service, "there is no high-tech shortcut to community."
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