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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Scent of Fear -- An Intelligence Enhancing Substance?

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The New York Times reports that women may be able to subconsciously detect the smell of fear and, what's more, the scent may actually improve women's performance on mental tasks. The article notes:

Scientists collected sweat from seven volunteers — four men and three women — who watched horror movies while holding gauze pads in their armpits. Then, their sweat was collected while they watched videos with neutral emotional content.

...

The subjects were divided into three groups: the first smelled the sweat pads of sweat collected during the frightening video; the second smelled pads collected during the neutral video; and the third, a control group, smelled pads with no sweat on them.

Without sacrificing speed, the women smelling the fear pads were more accurate than those in the other two groups when processing meaningful related words. There was no difference in speed or accuracy between the three groups when the words were not related.


Associate Professor Denise Chen, the study's lead author, remarks, "The smell of fear may have made these people more cautious, and made them better at recognizing meaningful information." Of course, one has to ask what it is about our social relationships, biological tendencies and/or historical circumstances have led us to the point that women find that skill so useful. (To the point that it is, perhaps, a survival advantage for the gender rather than just an odd socialization quirk or widespread mutation.)

But regardless, we have apparently found yet another environmental or circumstantial (dare I say biological) enhancement of human intelligence, at least for women. And one which as yet appears to have no significant side effects... and which technically isn't even a drug. (It's almost as impressive as the data indicating that women's double X chromosome may boost their health and longevity.)

One wonders what else out there might be of real benefit to our minds, and yet so cheap and so safe we could easily tap it for ourselves. If not through biotech, then through more effectively training and disciplining our minds.


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Future Imperative

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot!
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