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7

The Five Senses, and Beyond

W e apprehend the world and each other through our senses; without them, we could think, perhaps, but we could not deal with physical reality or engage one another. Similarly, an artificial being needs more than a silicon brain, more than metal limbs and plastic muscles. As a creature in motion, it must understand its environment in order to move freely and intelligently. To deal with humans, it must respond to their presence and communicate with them.These functions require sensory apparatus, backed up by cogni- tive facilities that interpret what is sensed and make intelligent deci- sions about interacting with the world.

Humans make such decisions based on vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. (Broadly defined, touch includes the tactile sense of pressure, along with sensitivity to heat, cold, and pain, as well as the kinesthetic senses that track the position of the limbs, bodily posture, and balance.These are often clustered together as the haptic senses, from a Greek root meaning “to touch.”) Each of these human senses has an artificial counterpart but a digital creature can be effective without the full set, although a true android would need all five. On the other hand, artificial beings might employ senses humans lack, such as batlike sonar “vision” and sensitivity to radio waves.

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