There is nothing in sapience that has not first passed through mouth and taste, through sapidity… The intellect is empty if the body has never knocked about, if the nose has never quivered along the spice route. Both must change and become flexible, forget their opinions and expand their spectrum of their tastes as far as the stars… Jus as taste is crowned by sapience, so does sagacity complete the aromatic scale.

Michel Serres, The Five Senses.

Last year marked the 35th anniversary of Michel Serres’ The Five Senses, a landmark publication in 1985 that raised the flag on the limits of disembodied forms of knowledge that were becoming trendy as part of the revolution in information technologies.

The book won the inaugural Prix M├ędicis essai for its literary and insightful merit. Today, the book continues to be just as relevant.

We know how to build machines that talk, we do not know how to build robots that can drink or taste. A tongue can become artificial, intelligence frequently does, but sapience never does. It is in this sense that an automaton differs from homo sapiens: it has the first tongue, but not the second.

Michel Serres, The Five Senses.