Comic Talk and General Discussion *

Discussion on future tech and society - Monday Musing - Extrea Senses!
sunseeker25 at 4:36PM, July 23, 2018
posts: 204
joined: 4-24-2018
Here's the topic for today - please share your thoughts in a comment!

My main concerns are how it would alter one's general perception, and whether it could be turned off. External gear that gives you infrared vision is pretty standard, but something that lets you see power circuits would be something else, and a binary data stream might be overwhelming without some kind of brain augmentation. So I think it would just depend, for me, on the context.
Ozoneocean at 9:18PM, July 24, 2018
posts: 27,842
joined: 1-2-2004
It depends…
Currently we can mechanically enhance our vision so we can see in infra red (as you mention), heat vision, ultraviolet, X-rays, magnetic fields etc. but that's all translated into something we can see normally with our un-enhanced eyes looking at a screen.

Even if you could have direct input into the brain in some way you'd still have to translate the feed to fit with senses in a way they understand, so you wouldn't really need to augment the brain: you're basically just moving the screen deeper, so to speak; plugging into the optic nerves or the part of the brain that processes vision.

You'd adapt pretty easily. It might take you a few days but it wouldn't be overwhelming. The brain is MASTERFUL at coping with sensory input.

There's an extremely mistaken idea that drugs like LSD widen your perception. The reality is that all they do is mess up the various coping and reality checking mechanisms of the brain so your sensory input becomes distorted, much like you get when you twiddle the wires on an old AUX input or press in the screen on an old calculator.
last edited on July 24, 2018 9:19PM
KimLuster at 6:27AM, July 26, 2018
posts: 795
joined: 5-15-2012
Thomas Nagel wrote an article entitled ‘What it’s like to be a Bat'. His point was to demonstrate how it's basically impossible for us to reduce ‘experience’ to true knowing, scientific or otherwise. We can explain, biologically, how a bat's sonar works, but we can't know (and explain) the ‘experience’ of it because, you know, we'd have to be a bat! Anyway… I wonder if Nagel accounted for the future of tech…

What would it be like to have a 3D sonar sensory input pumped into our brains? Would our brains even be able to process it? I've toyed around with these ideas in my Godstrain comic. The protagonist has extra sensory abilities, but she sort of ‘maps’ them to one of her existing senses, similar to Synesthesia (where one experiences one sense though another: You ‘hear’ the color red as a bell tone, you ‘see’ a certain scent as a pink cloud…). My suspicion is, without somehow enhancing the brain as well, any future tech of this sort will have to do similar. Any sonar tech will have to impose a visual field in front of the eyes…

Anyway. Fascinating!
Ozoneocean at 6:50AM, July 26, 2018
posts: 27,842
joined: 1-2-2004
Pumping unfamiliar sensory input directly into the brain would just produce “noise”, pain, or distortion to the other senses. It would be useless.
The best case scenario is that you'd learn to use it slowly and gradually as you feel it out.
That would be better than trying to augment the brain. How would you do that? Add bits of bat brain in there? (for example).
Better to let the brain learn.

But we really don't need to go that far. What we already do works perfectly: mechanically translate the input into things our current senses understand. We do that with vision, hearing, touch, balance, heat sense, moisture sense, light sense, time sense and all our other senses that people forget about… Input is customised for them in various ways.
bravo1102 at 7:08AM, July 26, 2018
posts: 5,439
joined: 1-21-2008
The nuts and bolts could be a Visual head up display that is voice activated like what's been discussed in other posts of this series.

Sonar is echo sounding. The senses could be adapted somehow to send active “pings” to echo locate. Being familiar with how sonar and radar works in submarines and aircraft a pretty good model for how a bat senses can be built. Thomas Nagel was a philosopher not a sonar technician. I've seen it explained using a submarine or an airplane flying blind using radar. We humans do it all the time and sonar technicians and pilots often talk of “feeling” it and interaction with the gear becoming instinctual like its it's an extension of their existing senses.

I spent a lot of time looking through night vision (image intensification, infra red and thermal) and your senses do adapt and it becomes second nature. I don't know if I would want to spend a lifetime in “spinach land” though.

It's not unknown for people to see heat so some bleeding into the infrared does happen in human vision. It can be very disorienting and is often compared to double vision. Things shimmer and have shadows so sometimes the person isn't sure where something actually is. Kind of like the shimmer and waves I currently have in my left eye as aftereffects of my retinal surgery.

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