Chapter 1: Flying Blind
A Brilliant Blindness (2012)

Blind Joe LandonJoe Landon became blind in his early twenties, but in a good way. Doctors told him the lenses in his eyes were hopelessly clouded, and indeed the world was naturally opaque to him.

But Joe was a talented engineer with a friend in Mount Sinai's new neuro-optical surgery center. They designed and implanted a system whereby generated signals from a camera which he wore just in front of his right eye were transmitted to his visual cortex for processing.

Imagery was currently coming from this camera as well as a small "button camera" on his shirt and a "rear view" camera mounted on his ear. Joe had initially made a small switch which allowed him to toggle between the views. He effectively had eyes in the back of his head.

But that was just the beginning for Joe. To his credit he became an accomplished programmer and hacker. Not great style, but very effective at getting tasks done quickly then moving on to the next problem.

Joe had realized at some point that he could implement a windowing system, mixing Internet content with the input from his cameras. He could not change his view by changing his focus, like sighted people zoomed in and out with little effort, but he could see a lot more of what was around him.

He could toggle between various views, including a mixture of video input and overlaid content which was fetched when objects in the video feed were identified. For example, when he drove a car, he layered traffic and weather data onto his camera views. Yes he had continued to drive for years, never being challenged by the Department of Transportation.

When Joe worked on his code, he was perfectly unencumbered by his physical blindness. Indeed, he felt more capable in many activities than naturally sighted people. And he had plans to incorporate infrared capability next, so he would be able to see in the dark.

But Joe was overconfident, due no doubt to his considerable successes overcoming the burden imposed upon him by his genetics. He went skiing, raced motorcycles, and more. He even applied for a pilot's training, but was refused when he could not produce evidence of seeing with his eyes.

A less cocky person surely would not have attempted to operate an aircraft without the benefit of proper training and certification. Joe simply reasoned that he could fetch instructions while flying, and so he did. He had a heightened sense of awareness about him in all activities, and he enjoyed every feat.

Yet it was his overconfidence that was Joe's undoing. He even noticed that fourteen years prior another pilot had similarly crashed trying to clear the narrow mountain pass. He was, however, consoled by the knowledge that he had demonstrated a fair degree of skill at flying, except for that single mistake.