Latest By

Artificial Intelligence
Data Storage
Input Devices
Living Space
Space Tech
Virtual Person

"We follow the scientists around and look over their shoulders. They're watching their feet: provable mistakes are bad for them. We're looking as far ahead as we can, and we don't get penalized for mistakes."
- Larry Niven

Hearing Aid  
  A service that allows people to anonymously talk with another person who only listens.  

This is another completely unique idea of Brunner's. There is also an interesting technical angle to Hearing Aid, but I don't want to discuss it (to avoid spoiling the novel). It has to do with the manner in which a call to Hearing Aid is done without creating any kind of record, thus ensuring the privacy of the session.

Stonkered or clutched or quite simply going insane, someone reaches for the phone and punches the most famous number on the continent: the ten nines that key you into Hearing Aid.

And talks to a blank though lighted screen. It's a service. Imposing no penances, it's kinder than the confessional. Demanding no fees, it's affordable where psychotherapy is not. Offering no advice, it's better than arguing with that son (or daughter) of a bitch who thinks he/she knows all the answers and goes on and on and on until you want to scream.

From The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner.
Published by Harper and Row in 1975
Additional resources -

This remarkable book is deals extensively with technology; issues like privacy and the consequences of keeping vast amounts of data of all sorts on one network are extensively reviewed.

And yet, the key themes of the novel deal with how to stay sane in a world of technological complexity. In the case of Hearing Aid, a powerful technology is employed to allow everyone in a society in which there was little real privacy to have an essential human experience - a sympathetic, nonjudgemental listener.

This excerpt from the book details an experience of a user of Hearing Aid:

From a public veephone at the railcar terminal linking Tarnover to the nearest town he called Hearing Aid, for the first time in years, and for one dark lonely hour poured out the secrets of his heart. It was a catharsis, a purgation. But long before he had regained his room he was shaking, haunted by the fear that Hearing Aid's famous promise ("Only I heard that!") might not be true. How could it be? It was absurd! From Canaveral the tendril-ears of federal computers wove through his society like mycelia. No place could possibly be immune. All night he lay awake in fear, expecting his door to be flung open and stern silent men to take him under arrest. By dawn he was half-minded to kill himself.

Miraculously, there followed no disaster...

The complete anonymity provided by the Hearing Aid service was the result of a special computer tapeworm provided at the inception of the service:

The poker who wrote Precipice's original tapeworm was pretty good, but you could theoretically have killed it without shutting down the net that is, at the cost of losing thirty or forty billion bits of data. Which I gather they were just about prepared to do when I showed up. But mine . . . Ho, no! That, I cross my heart, cannot be killed without dismantling the net."

The following statement by philosophy professor Jacob Needleman makes a very strong statement; in the world of The Shockwave Rider, there is support for this important part of the human experience:

Simply put, there is nothing, nothing in the world, that can take the place of one person intentionally listening or speaking to another. The act of conscious attending to another person when one once discovers the taste of it and its significance can become the center of gravity of the work of love. It is very difficult. Almost nothing in our world supports it or even knows about it.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 4 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Shockwave Rider
  More Ideas and Technology by John Brunner
  Tech news articles related to The Shockwave Rider
  Tech news articles related to works by John Brunner

Hearing Aid-related news articles:
  - OK2TALK Like Hearing Aid From Shockwave Rider
  - Blahtherapy - You Vent Anonymously To Strangers
  - Talkspace Anonymous Therapy App

Articles related to Communication
HushMe Bluetooth Device Reinvents The Hush-A-Phone
Ubiquiti FrontRow Camera Records Your Life
SmileCloud Bubloons Are Custom Clouds
Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.





Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.





More News

Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'

TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.'

Loomo Mini Transporter Robot Companion You Ride On
'Slowly the [robot] horse raised its head, wiggled its ears, blinked twice, gave a tentative whinny.'

Soft Robotics - Now With 3D Printed Sensors!
'A series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone...'

AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom
'The structure,... was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us...'

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.'

Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.'

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...'

Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.