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31 days of ideas
David Eagleman

Can we create new senses for humans?

Recommended by Lisa Genova

I’m a huge fan of David Eagleman's book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, so it's no surprise that I found his TED Talk, "Can we create new senses for humans?" mind-bendingly enthralling. We all walk through the world thinking we know what is real. But what we see, hear, smell and feel are only a limited slice of what's actually going on around us. Our experience of reality is limited by the types of receptors we come equipped with. For example, we can't see infrared light because we don't have those kinds of receptors.

But what if we could substitute or add different kinds of receptors? Could we then perceive a different or bigger reality? David shows us that we can.

The brain is a computing device that derives meaning from patterns of input. It doesn't care where the input comes from. Blind people can see through receptors added to their tongues. Deaf people can hear through vibratory sensors on their backs. David feels the emotional content of his Twitter feed through the patterns of vibrations delivered through the vest he's wearing. In theory, there's no limit to what we can perceive --ultraviolet light, what a dog can smell, our microbiomes. It turns out, we can literally expand the human experience of reality. Like I said, mind-bending!

Watch "Can we create new senses for humans?"
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