Smell, its not something we talk about too often, well at least before the 'Rona, it was considered the ugly duckling of our senses, a distant mute cousin of our attention sucking senses of sight and sound.
Since the virus caused much a do about dysfunction and non function of our olfactory sense, driving many a virus fearing person behind doors, we unearthed our phygital sense. A blended reality between physical and digital worlds.
And our sense of smell? Well people sheltering in place realised that it ain't that ugly after all. Deeply evocative and nostalgic, people started to wear perfume at home solely for themselves.
We reminisced on far flung places and memories conjured up on the wings of a few innocent whiffs.
Are we witnessing a renaissance period in the journey of human olfaction?
Truth be told it has been in steady decline, a direct correlation to our urbanised lives where our sense of smell no longer plays a role in life or death situations like our caveman and cavewomen ancestors.
“We just don’t need it.” So said a group of youth interviewed pre pandemic on whether they would give up their sense of smell for their phones. In a heart beat was their response.
Has the virus softened their view?
Biologically, researchers have determined that COVID-19 does not attack our smell but rather the loss of smell that many experience as a symptom, is actually our own immune system jettisoning this sense so that it can protect our brains (our noses are a direct neural passageway to our brains).
Does this mean we as humans are biologically destined to shed our sense of smell as we evolve into the future?
I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg thinks we need a sense of smell to navigate through the Metaverse?
Are we destined to a future of zeros and ones? A future where the highly emotional, subjective and dare I say ‘very-human’ Olfactive sense becomes a relic of evolution?
That is a bleak world I do not want to imagine. Our sense of smell is a powerful right-brain function that moderates our emotion, mood and memory. It is spontaneous, a powerful human expression that can be simultaneously personal and communal. To smell is to breathe, is to be living in this moment right now.
Yes a rose by any other name would smell as sweet but a digital rose minted as a non fungible token simply would not.
Every person breathes around 20,000 times each and every day. Please don’t miss out.