April 27, 2017

"Several years ago, I lost my power of smell. So I can't smell anything...."

Says Scott Adams at the beginning of this video (which someone who knows I have the same disempowerment alerted me about):



ADDED: Adams makes 2 surprising claims:

1. His sense of taste is unchanged. I'm not going to say he's lying, but I don't believe him. I think he's right when he says he may be delusional about it, that his brain has filled in the experience of tasting. You've got the part of taste that isn't smell, so you're still getting salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and whatever (umami), and you're enjoying the texture and temperature and appeasement of hunger and you've learned to see that as enough. If you say it's the same, it's perhaps because you've forgotten what it used to be. Or perhaps your inability to smell is located in your brain (rather than your nose) and you have become unable to think of what smell is, so you literally don't know what you are missing.

2. He doesn't want his sense of smell back — even though once his house was filling up with leaking natural gas and he had no idea — because there are more bad smells than good. Of course, it's subjective which smells are bad and good — especially when it has to do with other people's bodies — and you have some choice about what you put near your nose — whether to live in a polluted city, how clean to keep your house and your clothing, what to cook, whether to use cologne, and so forth. But even if we assume he's right and there's more bad than good, a lot of what's bad is important information — about what not to eat, whether a place is safe, when to clean. And I don't think what smell gives you is just plus and minus, with zero being a good setting. Smell is an integral element of emotion and memory and the feeling that the world is real and alive.

30 comments:

Michael K said...

Probably helps with dieting. No taste.

tcrosse said...

My wife lost her sense of smell a few years back. In a way, it let me off the hook for personal hygiene, but it makes it more difficult for her to cook. I have to tell her when something's burning. Unfortunately, in her case it was a precursor of memory issues.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Thought I was misremembering the medical term, because "anosmia" sounds like a made up word with "nose" in it. But according to the Oxford dictionaries on my Mac it's pure coincidence with "nose" and and "anosmia" having completely different etymologies. Given your OED interest, had to comment on that.

EDH said...

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches."

= Goodwin's Law.

buwaya said...

He would like Manila better than my wife does.

Bob Ellison said...

If you had to give up one of the classic five human senses, which would you sacrifice?

I'd sacrifice smell first, and then sight, second.

Lem said...

I follow him so I'm alerted when he goes on live.

Hearing his simulation hypothesis I thought I know I'm not a simulation and I can prove it.

Mad Dog said...

I've gone through five periods of anosmia myself since the mid-1990's, each only relieved through surgery to remove polyps in the sinuses that can get so bad as to block the olfactory nerves in the top of the sinuses. I don't believe Adams when he says he thinks his ability to taste remains unaffected by his anosmia. He doesn't mention and doesn't appear to have considered that the tongue detects sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. And, of course, the tongue detects texture. Yes those are some of the components of taste, but it's the nose that tells you that you are eating, for example, peanut butter rather than almond butter. Adams is probably simply "tasting" those basic components that the tongue detects. Now, it does take a while to realize that one can't taste or smell. It's usually comments by others about a smell or aroma that one is oblivious to. A good test to see if polyps are the culprit is a several week course of oral prednisone that can temporarily shrink the polyps sufficently to allow one to regain the sense of smell. That's my take, anyway.

eric said...

My friend recently lost all sense of taste. Everything tastes like mush to him. But he can still smell. He smells delicious pizza, sticks it in his mouth, and it tastes horrible.

He should be getting his taste back though, maybe. Lost it after he got cancer in his tongue and had to have some of it cut off, then six weeks of radiation.

I assumed if he could smell, he could taste. Apparently not.

David Begley said...

Be kinder than necessary - everyone you meet is facing some kind of battle.

Yancey Ward said...

Ann,

At least you have a keen sense that detects bullshit- that ain't nothing.

Sebastian said...

"a lot of what's bad is important information — about what not to eat, whether a place is safe, when to clean." Or when to take your brother-in-law's dirty socks out of the cabin, as happened on one of those Alaska shows recently. Of course, Adams is the kind of "thinker" who doesn't need a lot of "information" to spin his "arguments."

"Smell is an integral element of emotion and memory and the feeling that the world is real and alive." Correct. Which is why Adams is a bullshitter and you are not.

Peter said...

Smell seems the least important of the senses (at least when it's not warning us of an acute danger) but it's also a trigger for retrieving old memories, and that likely would be lost if/when smell is lost.

Or would something else compensate for the loss?

Owen said...

I can't buy the assertion that this guy does not want his sense of smell restored. It is about 99:1 a good thing.

Inga said...

Not convincing.

whitney said...

I have a keen sense of smell and I think there are far more good smells than bad. I smell everything. People make fun of me for it.

tcrosse said...

I smell a rat.

FullMoon said...

Interesting that Adams considers it a power, while everyone else calls it a sense.

new york said...

"Smell is an integral element of emotion and memory and the feeling that the world is real and alive"

that's beautifully descriptive writing

Etienne said...

Most Koreans do not have a sense of smell.

They don't realize their food stinks.

Will said...

1st - read his book, he has an odd brain, with odd things happening to him, like when he lost his voice for a couple of years.

2nd - man to have such a hot, exotic girlfriend, and not enjoy her smell? That is the suck.

GRW3 said...

Smell issues: I worked as a pilot plant chemist in the chemical business in the '70s. Among the things we made were cosmetic addictives. Some were derivatives of formaldehyde. I became sensitized to them and for years/decades some cosmetics and perfumes smelled just like skunk to me. I learned this problem from friends and developed the ability to ignore it, in general. I did inform girlfriends and finally my wife about this. The former would check before a date and my wife had me go shopping with her. A double penalty. I haven't noticed this in a long time so I assume the sensitivity is gone.

Janette Kok said...

In my mother's case, loss of her sense of smell was an early warning sign of Parkinsons. It often occurs about 10 years before other symptoms.

Alex said...

There's almost nothing like opening a coffee container and smelling the grounds. No way I'm giving that up!

Leigh said...

"Disempowerment"? Seriously? You never struck me as the (euphemistic) type.

southcentralpa said...

For some reason, I can't stop imagining someone who genuinely has no sense of smell being able to build a spacious urban oasis next to the sewage plant and having a dream place with water views and no neighbors (imagine Marbury Point next to Blue Plains if some sadistic jackass hadn't already put the Naval Research Lab there (the poor bastards)) and easy access to all urban amenities.

(Blue Plains is the wastewater plant for the District of Columbia. If you've ever been on the southernmost portion of 295 and gone "What's that SMELL??", Blue Plains is it...)

iowan2 said...

Michael K said...
Probably helps with dieting. No taste.

Not for me. Now I seek out constant gratification from the salty, sweet, crunchy, ice cream etc. When I could taste, the satisfaction of eating would sustain me much longer.

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Rob McLean said...

Adams is looking more and more like S. R. Hadden, the reclusive billionaire played by John Hurt in the movie "Contact". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePa6eUxhkYo

Peder DeFor said...

I lost my sense of smell some time ago, when I was nearly 30. I don't think my sense of taste has changed much and I've always thought there was a large memory element to it. This pops up at other times too. When I walk past a bakery, I have a strong sense of the smell of bread but if I stop and concentrate, I get nothing.
This lack helped me out through the diaper years of my kids but I wish I could smell again.