We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time

Kara Platoni. Basic, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-465-08997-0
“Nature is amazing,” but “couldn’t it be more so?” asks science journalist Platoni in this enthusiastic review of research into human senses and ways they might be improved. Platoni converses with scientists who seek to learn how humans perceive the world by examining the nervous system and genes. Her chapters on taste, smell, touch, and emotion are wholly engrossing. Humans, it turns out, are able to taste more than the usual palate of sweet, bitter, salt, sour, and umami; and smell, memory, and culture are almost too integrated to tease apart. Equally surprising is the fact that the brain often treats physical and emotional pain identically. Platoni describes how today’s crude eye and ear implants restore function to those without it; in the future an eye implant might detect infrared or ultraviolet light, and its sensors could be hooked up to distant cameras or a rewind button. Similarly, an artificial ear could be designed to hear much higher frequencies or echo-locate. Platoni also profiles some of the dedicated amateur “biohackers” and the gruesome experiments they’re apt to conduct on themselves. This is a superb account of human perception and the first, clunky but potentially breathtaking efforts to expand it. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie Agency. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/19/2015
Release date: 12/08/2015
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-465-07375-7
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