Imagine a human which could deliver electrical shocks for example by touching someone. He could shock with different intensities from a harmful shock to knocking out a person. Of course he could repeatedly do that as he would have a large amount of "electricity" stockable in the electrical organs.

He would also have electroreceptors that allow him to detect any electric brain activity within a radius of a kilometer, so he can locate people (and recognize familiar persons if they have a particular brain activity). This ability can allow him to analyze the emotions of someone, according to the person's brain activity, but he can only do that if the person is close.

Lets consider that somehow we were able to genetically enhance someone to have these abilities. What organs would be needed so that the person can shock someone at will, stock a lot of electricity, ideally charge an electrical device? Are the electroreceptors possible?

This enhanced human must look like a normal human, so we can consider the enhancements to be "inside".

  • $\begingroup$ First one is nearly impossible but not unimaginable. Second one is completely impossible. $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ detect any electric brain activity within 1 km is going to drive him dumb with the noise... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How do I explain a unicorn discharging powerful electricity at a distance?. Different creature, but same mechanisms. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan Not a dupe. Linked question explicitly designates "without physical contact", whereas this specifically requires physical contact. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @OP have you heard of static electricity? $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:42

4 Answers 4


The first one? Probably, to some extent. Rapidly repeatable shocks would be difficult, as it already takes a lot of energy to push a shock through the skin; moreover, natural electric fish have to charge their electrocytes in parallel before they can release a series discharge, a process which takes some time and results in the discharge of ALL stored energy. Also, since human skin wasn't built with conductivity in mind and he won't be surrounded by conductive dirty water, he can only shock someone if his barely-subcutaneous electrocytes are touching them. If you want them in the hands, they probably won't be enough to deliver any significant shock, because those organs take up space and the human hand doesn't have any to spare. To gain meaningful amounts of electrocytes in the hands, you'll either have to sacrifice dexterity or give him cartoonishly bulky hands. And that's only for the hands - if you wanted to give him the ability to shock in other places too, he'll need electrocytes there too. In other words...challenging, but technically possible. Making him appear human is a stretch at best, but again, technically possible.

The second one? Reading human brain activity requires delicate instrumentation placed right up against a cleaned part of the head just to get the barest amount of a signal. Sharks can detect muscle impulses in prey, through highly conductive saltwater, at relatively short range. Detecting much weaker brain impulses, through non-conductive air, at kilometer range? Even if you ignore deciphering emotion from the signals (which is nearly impossible on its own from our current knowledge), that's not going to happen.


Is this genetically enhanced human possible?


Your genetically enhanced human would require a significant amount of handwavium in order to be possible. Generating electricity isn't implausible - electric eels already do this, so you could use them as a basis for how often your enhanced human could generate a shock, and how strong those shocks could be.

The impossible part is the detection side. This resource has some useful information:

Very sensitive measuring devices which can pick up tiny magnetic fields can detect neural activity without needing to poke electrodes directly into neurons, although one is never quite sure what one is measuring with this, as billions of neurons contribute to any signal measured in this way. To try to get a picture of which part of the brain is active, arrays of several hundred magnet sensors are used.

There are some key things to note here:

  1. "Very sensitive measuring devices which can pick up tiny magnetic fields" - it is not trivial to detect the electrical activity in the brain. Also, you do not directly detect the electrical signals, you detect the magnetic fields that the electrical signals produce (in case you are not aware, electricity and magnetism and inseparable. If you generate electrical current, there is also an associated magnetic field). The result - a sensing radius of 1 km is absolutely impossible. In fact, the Earth's magnetic field is around 2.5*10^-5 Tesla while the brain's magnetic field is around 10^-13 Tesla, so you're trying to detect something that is around one-one hundred millionth of the strength of the background noise, so you'd be lucky to get a detection radius of 1 meter. Using the sharks as a model for electrolocation isn't going to help, because shark's electrolocation is limited to a body length and relies on electrical currents being carried through saltwater, which conducts electricity far better than air.
  2. "billions of neurons contribute to any signal" - analyzing someone's emotions is not trivial. You'd have to be able to tell quite accurately what parts of the person's brain are active, and even then you'd have to get used to individual differences in how people handle emotions.
  3. "arrays of several hundred magnet sensors are used" - if you have one sensor, you can't tell what direction something is coming from. In order to figure out where something is coming from, you need multiple sensors - that's why we have two ears. However, that only allows you to determine the direction that something is coming from. In order to figure out exactly where it was coming from, you'd need more sensors that are spread out from each other - for example, if you have a sensor in front of something and above it, you can figure out where the thing is. So unless your genetically enhanced human had sensors in his hands and placed them around someone's head, there's no way he could tell which parts of that person's brain were generating signals.

For your electric man you need to solve two different problems:

  1. generating/detecting electricity
  2. convey electricity from the source to the target

Let's see the solutions:

  • For generating electricity we have the example of the electric eel, so we know it's doable.

  • For sensing electrical activity we have the example of the sharks, so we know it's doable, too.

  • For conveying the electricity we face a problem that genetic engineering cannot solve: if you note, both above examples involve creatures living in water, and water is a pretty good conductor of electricity, especially when having dissolved salts.

Sadly, air is a good insulator, and also dry skin is not so conductive, so your electric human would have some difficulties discharging his cells, but it would still be possible.

On the other hand detecting signals from other brains would be practically impossible.

On a side note, being able to sense every brain within 1 km would submerge him in noise and would be more harmful than useful.

  • $\begingroup$ Discharging would be fine - the question says deliver electrical shocks for example by touching someone. But sensing is another story - I agree that would be impossible with current physics. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @manassehkatz, I am not so sure. Dry skin is not that good at conducting. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Not nearly as good as wet skin. But (a) we have examples like "walk on a carpet in the winter and touch a metal doorknob and get a small shock" and (b) the human can always lick his fingertips before touching his victim to improve the conductivity. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 15:36

Hmm...As I see it, only one of your requirements is met: discharge.

Basically, this eel/man chimera could only act like a living taser: Cabling connected to his wrists, for example, and he could let the charge loose once target is hit, efficiency being determined by the point of contact.

He'd also be living a rather lonely life, he could literally fry his partners during lovemaking or kissing. If he doesn't permanently wear insulating appearels, he'll spark every electrodomestic he gets in touch with.



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