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How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time

by Kara Platoni

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-465-08997-0
Publisher: Basic Books

A veteran science reporter examines the many innovative developments of human sensory enhancement.

Platoni took a year off from teaching narrative writing and reporting at the University of California to immerse herself in modern bioscience and the aspects of technology-mediated human metaperception. She emerged with notebooks filled with interviews about how to broaden our sensory experiences to “make the world feel real.” Consistently fascinating, witty, and candid, Platoni’s sensorial tour begins with the scientific and technological tinkering within the realm of the five senses, and then she moves on to aspects of pain and emotion. All of the sensory chapters offer captivating and memorably relevant information including a visit to a Denver lab experimenting on the taste detection of fatty acids and measuring the physiological responses, the research of French olfactory experts analyzing the restorative powers of smell on memory-deficient Alzheimer’s patients, revolutionary retinal implants in Los Angeles, and adventures in robotic surgery and prosthetic limbs. One commonality among these food scientists, geneticists, biohackers, entrepreneurs, perfumers, and engineers is the competitive nature and time sensitivity of their quests to discover the next trending flavor combination, sound quality, visual experience, artificial intelligence, or even a “sixth taste.” In the second half of the book, the author delves into the development, utilization, and learning experiences shared by augmented reality and metasensory experiences. Segments on time and pain perception are both riveting and worrisome as innovators collaborate to develop a 10,000-year clock, neurobiologists examine time on a cellular level, and impressions of heartsickness and random physical agony are openly shared from a bartender and her patrons at an iconic San Francisco barroom. Platoni’s update on virtual-reality gadgetry is no less intriguing. While the author’s analyses raise tough questions about the increasing need to subvert and expand reality—are we relentlessly exploratory or just bored?—the ways in which scientists are accomplishing this are utterly spellbinding.

Engrossing techno-science delivered with gusto and sure to reach a varied audience.