Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What would you improve?

Mark Hoofnagle at Denialism has a neat article on what would you improve if you could redesign the human body. I'm fine with an appendix, I'm not female so I don't really care about childbirth, and I'm still fairly young so I am not really concerned with my prostate. However, I would like to upgrade my senses. I'd like eyes like a hawk, ears like an owl, touch like a star-nosed mole, and a nose like bloodhound.

Birds have acute vision, but also can see ultraviolet light. Their world must be especially colorful. How cool is that?

Besides having rather keen hearing, Owls have asymmetrical ear openings permitting it to precisely locate things even in the absence of visual cues. My hearing isn't so great so this would be nice for me.

Star-nosed moles have rather exquisite senses of touch since they are functionally blind.

Bloodhounds have exceptionally sensitive noses. Imagine being able to figure out where your partner is in the grocery store by following their scent? I guess the drawback is that garbage will smell pretty bad...

Presumably it is possible for humans to evolve all these traits given enough time and the proper selective forces. In fact, it is likely that many of our senses have degenerated via relaxed selection over the millennia.

I'd also like to be able to jump higher than four inches, but let's leave that for another time...

Drawing from WikiCommons.


  1. A blowhole. Other mammals have them. We shouldn't have to breathe and talk and eat out of the same pie-hole.

  2. Clever! Yes the nose is a poor substitute...

  3. Why evolve when we can modify? I guess we could make a lot of those changes pretty easily. "Just" insert some of the olfactory genes from for example a bloodhound, and it might be easy to express a couple of photoreceptors more in our eyes. There was a study where they made trichromatic mice, and it seemed the mice could see trichromatically without any more modifications than one more photoreceptor. (Their brains could handle the extra colour.) Might be a uni somewhere where we could experimet a bit, on mice first of coure.

  4. How about a different genetic code from other animals, so their viruses couldn't reproduce in us? Of course, then everyone would want their own genetic code, so they couldn't get viruses from other humans either.

  5. I'd settle for a better immune system!


  6. Why not evolve our brain that can enable us to work together rather than fighting? Let's call it the Peacekeeper brain. How about that?

  7. Birds and insects can see ultraviolet light, but they may also use sight to orient themselves in spite of lack of sunlight or even light. Insects distinguish polarized light, and AFAIU bees and monarchs may navigate by it. But birds are the coolest; birds may see Earths magnetic field overlaid on the visual field. No GPS needed. :-P


  8. Brain chemistry that isn't *quite* so delicately balanced between intelligence and insanity. The percentage of the human population with some form of mental illness is quite shocking.

  9. No, I don't want a better immune system (unless you mean the innate one) because it would cause my transplanted liver to be rejected.

    What I REALLY want is larger hands, so I can play all the Rachmaninoff that I can't reach now!


  10. I always wanted a marsupial pouch, opposing toes and a prehensile tail.