Re: Sensory modalities and the possibility of semi-arbitrary additions

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Wed Nov 02 2005 - 10:11:26 MST

--- "Stuart, Ian" <> wrote:

> Since the human neocortex appears to be non-discriminatory when it
> comes
> to processing data streams, could a human substitute an arbitrary
> sensory stream (I.e. a codic stream, or an echolocation stream if
> you've
> ever wondered what it's like to be a bat) in such a way as to have an
> intuitive sense of code executing? Would this make for a better
> programmer? What data stream would be necessary to achieve this level
> of
> codic understanding?
> Separately, would it be possible to use this input stream as, say, a
> textual modality for the high speed input of text data? Currently we
> use
> our visual modality for this which, to my mind, is killing flies with
> sledgehammers. Since the high resolution of the eyes while looking at
> a
> page or screen of textual data is severely under-utilized, could raw
> text data be streamed in on another channel without the addition of
> so
> much extraneous white space?

This seems like a great idea; probably you could stream it into the
auditory cortex, which is already one-dimensional. You could
experiment with this by writing a program that would take a text
document and play it by replacing each letter with a note, and see if
you can learn to "read" at high-speed. I doubt you could read at a
higher speed that way than by listening to spoken text, but the point
is not practicality, but testing the modality shift.

HOWEVER. The problem that people rarely point out when talking about
adding new senses is that cortical real estate is expensive. You can't
add a new sense without giving up something of equal value - either
giving up another sense, or reducing the range or resolution of that

It would be more interesting to me to know if motor cortex can be used
as sensory cortex.

- Phil Goetz

Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005

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