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Maybe I’ve just totally imagined this, but I swear I once read a book or a short story about this group of teenagers who had computer chips implanted in their brains. I keep thinking about it and trying to find it. I read Feed by M.T. Anderson thinking it might the story I remembered. It was similar, but not the same story.

Here’s what I remember: The computer chips essentially catalogued the entire online database. People were able to relate to and communicate to each other by referencing the material. I think it was something along the lines of “it’s like that one ad, #300974.” And because they all had the implant it would immediately pull up in their heads and be understandable.

I remember that these kids were like idols or something among the general population, and they were kept together - lived together - by…… who? A corporation? The government? I don’t know if it ever said.

I think in the end one of the girls decided to have her chip removed, and it totally scrambled her brain or something. Without being able to reference the same material as everyone else, she essentially just became non-communicative.

Please let me know if you’ve read this. I swear it really exists.

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    Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this story? Jul 9, 2021 at 1:17
  • "group of teenagers who had computer chips implanted in their brains" - I believe this is called "modern reality". Jul 14, 2021 at 13:06

1 Answer 1

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This is the short story Jon by George Saunders, first published in the January 27 2003 edition of The New Yorker.

This short review provides a brief overview of the plot:

This is not a novel, but a lengthy short story published in The New Yorker and can be considered a novellete.

The author creates a world that is both disturbingly different from ours, and yet still incredibly familiar. He tells a compelling tale of two young people who make hard decisions in hopes of finding themselves.

It is a story about a boy, Jon, and a girl, Carolyn, who have lived their lives in a facility where they rate commercial items with their brain-implanted advertisement-testing devices. They are treated like celebrities.

They fall in love. Carolyn becomes pregnant, and they request to exit the facility. The brain-implanted devices along with the gargadisk and other related electronic implants are removed as part of the exit process with the knowledge that they will have diminished intelligence and visible physical deformations.

The teens in the story apparently express themselves by citing scenes from various adverts, which can be instantly accessed via each ad's unique reference number, and the main character wonders how much harder it'll be to articulate himself if that ability is taken away:

Plus furthermore (and I said this to Carolyn) what will it be like for us when all has been taken from us? Of what will we speak of? I do not want to only speak of my love in grunts! If I wish to compare my love to a love I have previous knowledge of, I do not want to stand there in the wind casting about for my metaphor! If I want to say like, Carolyn, remember that re/max one where as the redhead kid falls asleep holding that Teddy bear rescued from the trash, the bear comes alive and winks, and the announcer goes, Home is the place where you find yourself suddenly no longer longing for home (LI 34451)—if I want to say to Carolyn, Carolyn, LI 34451, check it out, that is how I feel about you—well, then, I want to say it! I want to possess all the articulate I can, because otherwise there we will be, in non-designer clothes, no longer even on TrendSetters & TasteMakers gum cards with our photos on them, and I will turn to her and say, Honey, uh, honey, there is a certain feeling but I cannot name it and cannot cite a precedent-type feeling, but trust me, dearest, wow, do I ever feel it for you, right now. And what will that be like, that stupid standing there, just a man and a woman and the wind, and nobody knowing what nobody is meaning?

You can read the full story here.

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    This is it!!! Thank you so much. I thought I might be going crazy and that I had just dreamed it up. I can't even remember when I first read it. It just kept bubbling up in my mind.
    – Ren
    Jul 10, 2021 at 3:28
  • "visible physical deformations"? Just how big were these chips? And anyway, wouldn't it be the other way around - a huge lump on their skulls, but after removal they'd be back to normal?
    – John C
    Jul 14, 2021 at 23:37

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