Monday, April 20

#16 - sensory perception

You are invited to spend an afternoon in the high-tech labs of your local university. After a light lunch and extensive tour, you duck out to use the restroom as your group is being escorted out of the labs. Now alone, you find yourself lost in the hallways and unable to find the nearest exit.

A bit concerned, you try one of the doors, hoping that a window might give you a clue as to your whereabouts. However, the first door you try opens to a windowless, soundproofed chamber. As you turn to leave, you notice an intriguing compartment located on the far wall of the room that contains a chair and some interesting-looking gadgetry. You walk over and sit down.

Once inside, you close the compartment door in a feeble attempt to stay under cover. There is indeed a lot of scientific equipment in the space, but the main purpose of the cell seems to lie in a set of five dials, arranged vertically, each labeled with one of the five senses. At present, all of the dials are set to "50" and you assume that 0 and 100 are the limits. A big red button is mounted underneath the lowest dial.

Curious, you shift the SIGHT dial up to 60 and hit the red button. Almost immediately, you notice that the objects around you have come into sharper focus. You also see that the other four dials have all now dipped below 50, presumably to compensate for the movement of the first dial.

You reset the dials to 50 and then design a quick test. You move the TOUCH dial to 35, the TASTE dial to 65, and hit the red button again. Reaching for a stick of gum in your pocket, your hands feel more than a little numb, but as you begin to chew, you are overwhelmed by the increased intensity of the gum's flavor. You leave the compartment briefly, and though your limbs feel strangely vacant, your gum retains its strength. You sit back down, reset the dials, and hit the button, pondering your situation as you continue to chomp your now dull wad of gum.

It seems that you have the opportunity to enhance some combination of your five senses, though not without sacrificing the strength of at least one other sense. The numbers on the dial must collectively add up to 250. You have no idea whether or not your choice would be a permanent one, though it seems clear that the effects of this device are not limited to its chamber.

You sense that you've overstayed your welcome in the room and ought to make good your escape. But you are tempted to reallocate some of your sensory levels before you leave. The obvious risk is that should you make an unwise choice, there is no guarantee that you would be able to again gain access to this lab. What do you do?


Andrew said...


I don't think I'd want to change my sense of touch - it's not clear that there's an advantage in being more sensitive - does that mean you're more sensitive to pain? Does that mean that you wouldn't be able to comfortably walk?

Smell I'm not too bothered about - I'd be happy to reduce a bit. Although taste is supposedly linked to smell.

I think I'd want to somewhat reduce my smelling ability (which also has advantages) for the sake of improved eyesight and maybe hearing.

I think I'd go for the following:
Touch: 50
Taste: 50
Smell: 30
Sight: 65
Hearing: 55

I'd then be able to take really great photographs. Or at least /I'd/ think they were really great.

Ry said...

I'd walk away. I have excellent eyesight and very good hearing, but almost no sense of smell, which means the baseline the machine sets is skewed for me. Much as I'd like to savor the aromas of baking pies and mulberry blossoms, I wouldn't want to gain an "average" sense of smell at the cost of suddenly having below-average sight and hearing.

HeatherR64 said...

I was thinking about the same - I can't imagine living with less of any sense except for smell. Though, if touch does include pain, I might be better off with a little less of that, too.

Touch: 48

Sheila said...

Touch: 55
Taste: 60
Smell: 55
Sight: 30
Hearing: 50

I've adjusted taste and smell to strengthen the sensitivity of my pallet, because I just love different foods and tastes.

I don't care about sight because I can always get better contacts or lasik. My eyes aren't so bad as they are.

I have no complaints about hearing, although I might lose some hearing when I grow older from all those dog-gone rock and roll programs! I didn't adjust that, though, because I wanted to save some extra for touch. Because, well, sensitivity isn't good for nothing ;-)

This is a cool prompt! It'd be funny if someone was willing to give up a sense entirely to make another sense almost 'superhuman'. Sort of like The Little Mermaid giving up her voice so that she could have legs...(except that made her human, not superhuman..)

Matt said...

I guess this is lame, but I don't know that I would make any changes. I would maybe sacrifice some sense of smell for slight hearing and vision upgrades, but the smells of good home cooking, or the first flowers of spring? I wouldn't want to give those experiences up, even a little.

In the end, I feel like I'm getting by fine with what I've got, and I wouldn't want to seriously cripple any of my senses in the amounts necessary to make a single one of them "superhuman".

HeatherR64 said...

Matt, I'm totally with you - I decided to play with things a bit and then afterward thought that if this REALLY were to happen, I'd just high tail it out of there.

Pietro said...

Ok I know this is late, but I'm going to take this one to an extreme. I would reduce my hearing down to 10% so I can have super vision.
By this time next year, my brother will have a degree in ASL American Sign Language and become a professional interpreter. I have already started to pick up a few words, and would be able to learn quickly with my brother's help. I should be able to survive just fine. I had my hearing at one time and still should be able to pronounce words to speak English. And then I'll get a couple of high tech hearing aids to get me up to a synthetic 35 or 40% hearing. So to recap:
Touch 50%
Smell 50%
Taste 50%
Hearing 10%
Super-Sight 90%