There are three major manufacturers of cochlear implants in the world. As I’ve said before, I personally believe that Advanced Bionics has the most awesome name for an evil cyborg manufacturing company. My wife likes them for two reasons. 1) they have a waterproof processor and 2) Their surprisingly awesome forum.
The forum is part of a marketing strategy, and it’s hard for me not to have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s been really helpful for my wife to read about other people’s experiences, to be able to ask questions, to find out which of her concerns were justified and which were total bullshit created by reading a Weekly Reader in the 80s.
On the other hand, it’s a company having its users sell their products for them. That works, of course, because they’re selling what would have been literally a miracle not that long ago. When you’re selling a miracle, all you need for marketing is people who have already done it.
Which is the purpose of the group that we went to on Saturday. Advanced Bionics has decided that their legions of cyborgs would be more effective if they could identify each other in groups, so they run user groups. It’s kind of a social thing: meet fellow cyborgs, let people who are thinking about getting assimilated come ask questions, and advertise coming products.
The fellow cyborgs, it turns out, are primarily old men. We were the youngest non-company employee by a good 20 years, if not 30. At least until the teenage girl showed up, obviously forced by her mother. There was one other woman who is going to be assimilated in a couple weeks (who apparently reads this blog sometimes. Hi!), and otherwise a large group of current or prospective cyborgs who were entirely men.
They all had that thing that old men have when they’ve mastered a new technology. They wanted to tell everyone in the room about how amazing it was, about all it’s awesome features. One guy had brought his entire kit of gear that went with his implant, and was showing off all his cables and processors and everything else. It was a level of enthusiasm that was like “Okay, buddy. We’ve already bought one, and you’re not collecting commission. It’s okay.”
He had the same level of enthusiasm about his iPhone. It was, also, thie best thing in the world.
The more I sat there, the more I began to wonder if his level of enthusiasm was, in fact, correct. I mean, it was a bit goofy, sure. But he was talking about a device that had given him the ability to hear. And another one that let him access the entire wealth of human information at the touch of a screen. And the one could be plugged into the other.
This may be the closest to jacking in that any of us will achieve in the foreseeable future. This man can beam sounds from the internet straight into his brain. And here I’m sitting thinking “Calm down there, buddy. It’s just the kind of technology you couldn’t have dreamed up when you were watching Flash Gordon as a kid.” And of course “You know you’re marketing their stuff for this company for free, right?”
I mean, it’s not like it’s helped my wife. It’s not like she spun around when a small child screamed at that dog-whistle pitch that she’s never noticed. It’s not like she heard the sound of my spoon hitting a glass as I stirred by tea a week ago. It’s not like she’s been rocking out to the sound of the turn signal blinking, or been surprised that the car beeps if her seat belt isn’t buckled.
Oh, except all of those things have happened in the last two weeks.
So that’s neat.