Re: "Sound and Fury" over enhancements

From: J. Goard (
Date: Tue Jan 08 2002 - 20:04:12 MST

At 04:16 PM 1/8/02 -0500, Mike Lorrey wrote:

>The claim that deaf culture is something which should be preserved by
>the repression of cochlear implant technology is about as logical a
>claim as a claim that POW culture should be preserved by leaving POWs in
>POW camps long after wars have been won.
>This illustrates that cultures, in and of themselves, have no rights,
>they are figments of individual humans imaginations in order to survive
>in the circumstances they are put in at the time. To seek to remain in
>suboptimal cultures long after the circumstances that brought them about
>are alleviated is simply a form of Stockholm Syndrome: introversion,
>indentification with the oppressor, and denial of reality.

I've found myself walking on eggshells with this issue for quite some time,
as a linguistics student beginning to study American Sign Language, and
very much sympathetic towards the possibility of technological
enhancements. I saw "Sound and Fury" last year at the fine Tower Theater
in Sacramento, and was very much impressed by it both for its intense drama
and its relatively great impartiality. There are so many conceptual paths
I have gone down here, so I'll try to mention a few of the most important.

1) The acquistion of full fluency in a natural language (spoken/signed) in
an appropriate neurological timeframe is tremendously important in general
cognitive development. While the technical glitches of current cochlear
implants might not be very dangerous if they were used to restore your or
my lost hearing, they invariably hamper the early linguistic development of
infants, who cannot give feedback about nor consciously understand the
important ways in which their sensory input is abnormal. Cognitively, the
best situation for a deaf infant, by far, is to acquire a signed language
with full native fluency and then, once they have that platform of
linguistic thought, to begin acquiring skills in secondary languages.
Unfortunately, the well-established dependence of cognition upon language
has been overlooked by the elementary educators who far outnumber linguists
and developmental psychologists, and whose primary concern is literacy and
sometimes communication. These people fail to see internal language
deficiency as a serious problem because their daily exposure is to children
who are not prevented from developing natural fluency.

2) Far from being an extropian advocacy of personal augmentation, the
support for cochlear implants is so appealing to so many because it returns
the "abnormal" to a state of "normalcy", in other words, it's not regarded
as augmentation but as healing. As extropians, we may (rightly) tend to
blur this distinction, but for the rest of the world it's pretty damn
important. Why else the outrage over cosmetic surgery when it changes a
face from the "natural" form to a prettier one, but not when it removes an
acquired scar or brings extremely divergent facial features closer to the

3) All of us, everyday, trade off possible enhancements of our personal
abilities for sociological goals. Compared to the sociological goals
behind the deaf community's opposition to cochlear implants, our goals are
trivial. Their sociological goals include fluent communication between
parents and children, and maintance of a community wherein they are not
perpetually assumed to be mentally retarded, while our major goal is
probably not wanting to look like a dork.

J. Goard,
e-gold account #100592 (
The Beyond outside us is indeed swept away, and the
great undertaking of the Enlightenment complete;
but the Beyond *inside* us has become a new heaven
and calls us to renewed heaven-storming.
                                      --Max Stirner

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:33 MST