Re: Effects of Enhanced Senses for Designer Bodies

Anders Sandberg (
17 May 1999 17:28:22 +0200

Natasha Vita-More <> writes:

> I'd appreciate extropic comments from anyone interested in enhancing our
> senses, and what how this will affect our primal instincts, and, thus,
> advance our insight and intra/interpersonal communications, for example.
> What types of brain enhancements might be designed to deal with the
> relaying of new information gained from enhancing the senses (especially
> smell and hearing). How will the brain's cognitive capabilities sift
> through the enhanced information and utilize expanded sensorial capabilities?

There is an essay I like in Oliver Sachs' wonderful _The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat_ about a medical student with a transient episode of "dog-like" smell. The description is evocative and really shows the emotional impact of an amplified sense. The cause in this case was likely some drug use; as I mentioned in my April 1 "this week's finds" dopamine is involved in smell regulation and drugs can affect it. I wonder if enhanced smell combined with pheromones under voluntary control could be used to improve social interaction.

As for improving senses, there are likely three levels where they can be improved. First, the sensors themselves can be amplified or modified. Second, more attention spent on them - our sense of smell isn't that bad really, but we seldom concentrate on it. Third, processing can be improved. Maybe extra cortical processing, but also more training in how to use the sense.

Overall, we need more attention as the world become more interesting.

> What types of intelligent agents will assist us in using enhanced
> sensorial information to discern our environments more intelligently, and
> how will this affect our communication skills?

I have always found skilled guides (or texts) essential for really understanding art - they point out meaning and details of the artwork that I would otherwise have missed, making it possible to really think about it. Of course, great art is often obvious - it explains itself - but when we learn more about something it becomes also more accessible, new nuances appear and so on. Maybe the same would go for enhanced senses: we need skilled guides who focus our attention to particular nuances, suggests meanings and further associations so the amplified world would not overwhelm us but would instead become more comprehensible and expressive.

> Is it important to upgrade
> the job of the early primitive brain so that it works nicely in conjunction
> with enhanced senses to give it more spin, and what might be deployed to
> develop and expanded insight and "gut" feelings from the input from
> enhanced senses to better understanding of feelings, exploring empathy,
> insight, to help us make better decisions with more information?
> Is 'gut feeling' important in the advancement of ourselves?

Why not? It is just that we need a better kind of gut feelings. One little scene in Egan's _Diaspora_ which really delighted me was when a character felt it had a great idea on "the tip of the tounge", just waiting to burst into consciousness. So the character brought up a visualization of its own mind and looked where the activation was - aha! Maybe a similar kind of gut feeling - why do I feel bad about that option? Let's take a look - aha, now I know why. Makes sense / silly me, a mis-association again.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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