[extropy-chat] Questionnaire on senses

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Thu Jan 25 23:14:33 UTC 2007

Anna Taylor wrote:
> I am doing a questionnaire on Senses and was looking
> for some help regarding this matter.
> What do you think is your most keen sense?

While vision is the modality I value the most and tend to use for
thinking, I have noticed that I am very interested in smell. I don't think
I have any unusual acuity or skills in "reading" smells, but I do tend to
take note of how things smell, interesting variations, the scent trails
left by moving objects and people as well as unusual juxtapositions. I
have trouble reading some books because of the smell of their bindings
distract me.

I think I'm somewhat of a low-level synesthete (or just have very vivid
associations), because most smells do give me faint impressions of color
and shape. Sandalwood is orange, oblong and faintly grainy,
after-the-rain-smell perfectly clear and angular. The smell of spoiled
milk is a whitish-blue translucent curve, while butyric acid is a brown
serrated line while propionic acid is a translucent serrated line - an
interesting mapping now when I think of it, as they are chemically related
and all seem to have the same "odor swoosch".

Smell is interesting because it always deals with superpositions. We
recognize a pure color, point of touch or pure tone, but there is no
corresponding unit of smell. Physiologically speaking there are of course
individual receptors, but we do not recognize smells that just activate
one of them.

I wonder if odors could be used in ambient information visualisation
(odification?). Imagine having the relative development of your stocks
waft through the ventilation as a discreet odor mix.

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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