[extropy-chat] Questionnaire on senses

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Fri Jan 26 01:34:45 UTC 2007

Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 12:14 AM 1/26/2007 +0100, Anders wrote:
>>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.
> "How's your portfolio holding up today?"
> "Stinks, man. Eewww. Just foul."

One problem is that we adapt to smell, so we would only notice it
consciously when coming into the office and then just note it
subconsciously for the rest of the day. The exception are certain
particular foul smells that we tend to detect very quickly when they
arise. They might be useful as warnings that something is going seriously
amiss - "argh! my website is burning and my simulation is rotten!"

A fun finding is that we humans can do scent tracking:
I have actually tried a less extreme method (the subjects in the paper had
blocked sight and hearing) of it myself, convincing me that I can track at
least some characteristic odors reasonably well (humans are interesting to
follow this day, one can start training on a cold day when the heat trace
makes it easier). Maybe that could be used for data mining. Data is
scented, and as you pursue the right context the smell gets more "right".

My room currently smells of dust, lavender, a weak hint of Belgian
chocolate and a somewhat pungent odor from the insecticide pellet
(1,4-dichlorobenzene?) in the box with the mounted Dorysthenes Walkeri
beetle. The new electronic smell from my phone USB connector and phone
seems to have ebbed since last week.

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

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