Sensors are the type of thing you find on a starship. There are sensors that scan anomalies and sensors that search for life forms. Sensors are also present in our everyday affairs. The sensors in our machines allow them to function correctly. Sensors keep your house warm and let you know when your car is running out of gas. There are also sensors in our bodies that allow us to experience life itself. Sensors for seeing, sensors for hearing, and sensors to let us know when we are happy or sad. Though different types of sensors have widely different applications, they all share two things in common. Sensors are absolutely vital, and they don’t always work correctly.
We rely on sensors a lot, but sometimes they are wrong. On my car dashboard there is an indicator with a picture of an old-fashioned oil can. When a sensor somewhere in the bowels of the engine detects oil levels are low, it causes the indicator to shine with an ominous red light. The red light works great, it is bright and it makes me worried. The problem is that it is on all the time. So either the car is hemorrhaging oil, or the sensor is mistaken. I can rule out the first option. I have manually checked the oil, and have seen with my eyes that the vehicle has not suffered any gratuitous wounds. Day in a day out I check the oil levels and they are consistently fine.
So there must be something wrong with the sensor. It is too sensitive and causes the red light to shine for no reason. The oil-sensor is not really doing its job very well, unless its real purpose is to make me nervous for no good reason. Maybe the engineers at Chevrolet like to mess with people, but I sort of doubt it.
With my eyes I can see the oil levels in my car, but aren’t my eyes just sensors too? How do I know they aren’t malfunctioning?
We have sensors in our bodies that let us know when we are sick. For a hypochondriac, these sensors are constantly sending signals. Their sickness problem light is always on. Hypochondriacs feel like they are dying all the time, but it’s really just their sickness sensors that are broken.
We have social sensors that pick up on cues from other people. I don’t know where these sensors are physically located in the body. Probably in the spleen. For some people these sensors are always detecting problems that might not actually be there, and they experience social anxiety as a result. They feel like they are always making mistakes or being weird. Maybe they are, but it’s also possible their social sensors just aren’t working correctly.
Like sensors for illness and sensors for social interaction, we also have sensors within that tell us how we are doing emotionally. These sensors scan the happenings of our lives and turn on little indicator lights in the brain. The indicators say, be happy or be calm or get really angry. If a person is too angry all the time, it means their emotion sensors are not working properly. If a person feels happy all the time, their sensors probably aren’t working either.
Sensitivity is just the result of malfunctioning sensors. Sometimes a malfunctioning sensor tells us our oil is low, when it really is not. Sometimes broken sensors tell us we are in danger, when really we are quite safe. Malfunctioning sensors make us worry for no good reason. So what is the best way to deal with this?
Sometimes you have to work very hard to find the malfunction, fix it, and then be rid of sensitivity.
Other times you can just cover up the problem light with blue tape.