- Published on 31 January 2018
In an opinion piece in the news and opinion website DailyBeast, the science editor highlights the changing environment we live in and how it is altering our senses and our perception of ourselves.
At a time when the environment we live in is changing at a faster pace than ever before, our senses will need to adapt to these changes to keep up with what’s around us. Some of the changes cited include increasingly high levels of technology in our daily lives, the potential for humans to travel to different planets, and climate change.
In fact, the article reports, these changes are already happening. “There’s a lot of neat evidence out there on our hearing and the modern world’s impact on our hearing,” explains Robert DeSalle, a genomics expert and author of the book Our Senses: An Immersive Experience. “We’re hearing sounds that our ancestors would never have thought would have existed – it’s a real taxation on our hearing… in an evolutionary sense, we could have a diminishing of this sense.”
Interestingly, other research has pointed to the opposite phenomenon, where exposure to specific stimuli in certain environments has led to positive selection of genes and abilities. One thing is sure, our senses can and will adapt to new environments but the outcome of this process will only be measureable over generations.
On a shorter time scale, the effects for instance of virtual reality may be easier to assess. Our brains are constantly asked to recalibrate and rethink the environment, with changing technological perception. DeSalle says that the adaptive power of our brains may ultimately be what makes the difference in our ability to remain functional, no matter what environment we’re in.