We Need a New Sense

We need a new sense. The old ones are failing us.

Consider our sense of hearing. Despite having two ears, they are both tuned to the same frequency spectrum, offering us only the benefit of stereoscopic listening. How much better served would we be if one ear was tuned sub-sonic to predict earthquakes or impending volcanic blasts. Or if we could listen supersonically to determine how many bats are in our neighborhood, ready to swoop down and become tangled in our hair. Even with such extended auditory information, we tend not to trust our hearing, as sounds can be so easily misinterpreted. Was that klunk the heater kicking on or someone trying to break in? Was that squeak the sound of the house settling, or are rodents building an attack base in our walls? What about that whooshing? Is it the wind whistling between the siding, is it my tinnitus, or is it the sound of madness finally overtaking my brain?

We can usually trust our sense of smell, but odors are subjective and we have little practical use for them. Sure, we can use aromas to determine which food is yummy and which is rancid, but the best smelling delicacies are usually the worst health offenders. We know instinctively to stay away from the stinkiest people, but sometimes the stench-ridden are friends, family, or even ourselves. Could we be better served by more sensitive olfactory inputs? Possibly, but we’d end up more reliant on odors for social interaction, behaving like dogs sniffing each others butts. Even if our sense of smell was heightened, it is still easily fooled into thinking a candle smells like strawberries, or that scent of fresh cut grass is not a spot on a scratch-and-sniff card.

Likewise, taste has little practical use outside examining the palatability of foods, and is as easily fooled by artificial flavors as the nose is to artificial scents. I wouldn’t want a heightened sense of taste; I would not want to taste people to determine if they are my friends.

Touch is our least properly used sense. Most often we use if for physical gratification, overlooking that a person with a highly developed sense of touch can determine the difference between M6 and M8 screw threading simply by holding it between his fingers, and can easily feel surface variations as small as one-tenth the thickness of a human hair. However I would not want a heightened sense of touch; as I sit here now, I can feel the elastic of my socks choking the freedom out of my feet, and the sensation of my hair follicles growing makes my head itch.

Sight is the sense most people rely on the heaviest. When things we hear or touch or taste or smell are questionable in our minds, we try to visually confirm the thing we are experiencing. However, images can be altered in the camera, in the darkroom, or post-processed using Photoshop. Even pictures that are unaltered, such as X-rays and radar images, are only useful when interpreted properly. One cannot determine where the bone fracture is, or which hook-shaped echo is tornadic without experience, without image interpretation. Even beyond that, our minds are wired for pattern matching, which is why we see faces in clouds, monkey heads in tree knots, and religious figures in grilled cheese sandwiches. A heightened sense of sight would only increase our frequency of false pattern matching, viewing even smaller and more distant objects as faces, monkey heads, and religious figures.

No, we need a new sense. One that does not lead us into believing one thing might possibly be something else completely unrelated, one which can filter out background noise. One which cannot fool us with mockery, one that is immune to our brain’s instinctive ability to sometimes mis-categorize. A sense that cannot deceive us, and cannot be tricked with intentional falsifications or alterations. A sense that tells us when a fact is a fact, a lie is a lie, and when information is not open to interpretation.