Mechanical brain to meet computer hearing

When you explain to people what happens when a cochlear implant is activated for the first time, it probably does sound very unnerving (literally, as it’s my auditory nerve that will be subjected to a merciless cascade of electrical stimulation). It certainly is for me, but at the same time I find there is something deliciously exciting about the idea of something inside me being switched on, or activated. It is, after all, likely to be the start of something totally, utterly new.

In a way, I’m surprised that the whole cyborgish weirdness of it doesn’t bother me that much. After activation, my processor headpiece will boot up every morning after latching itself onto my skull, and transmit millions of bits of data to the implant electronics inside my head, which converts it to electrical pulses and sends it down to my much-modified cochlea. At regular intervals over the next few years, my processor headpiece will be hooked up to a laptop which will upload new data, software or parameters, as if to give my ear an electronic service every so often.

I’m not someone who is naturally drawn to new technology or computers, possibly because it just means more things to go wrong. My brain prefers mechanical problems rather than ones of a digital or electrical nature. That’s why I like classic and older cars than modern ones, as you don’t need a laptop to diagnose a problem – just watch the temp gauge, and look out for leaks and any displacement of engine fluids (ie. water and oil) to places where they’re not supposed to go. I love fixing bicycles too. The most technical thing I’ve done with a PC is set up a blog and customise the typeface, and while the problems I encountered in doing so were very minor, they were enough to stress me out. It was only thanks to the online developer community that supports the open-source WordPress blogging software, who make fixes so easy, that I managed it.

But I’m still comfortable with the digitisation of my left ear – as long as everything works as it should. I quite like watching popular sci-fi films and TV shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who, which often have stories about the interface between technology and the human body, so maybe it’s my predilection for them that puts me at ease about all this.

So, at the stroke of a laptop key, my life will change. My brain has already booked a five-star suite in its long-term memory cortex for the arrival of this moment, even if its an unpleasant guest to begin with.


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