Your senses are your whole life.
What you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think encompasses your entire experience/existence. I argue that the universe is equivalent to your experience, because there is nothing else that the universe can be manifest of. Ultimately consciousness is the stuff of the universe. I mean, if you can't see, then the universe will never manifest in vision. The same goes for each other sense. What's the difference between the totality of your senses and the universe, anyway? None.
The universe manifests in waveforms, and those vibrations wiggle their way into your brain as senses, becoming your experienced reality. You constantly perceive pure motion in forms made more unique\different\interesting by your brain.
Because each sensory input can be traced to just vibration, there is no arbitrary count of senses to be concerned with, no need to wonder why there is a certain amount of senses. You can determine a number, based on the human ability to differentiate, for as much differentiation as is useful. For example, it's useful to recognize your ears' auditory sense as separate, so we can make headphones targeting sound without having to worry about vision too. But philosophically the senses are all the same. And once technology is closer to the extremity-reaching future, peripherals like headphones and monitors will be combined into sensory arrays, devices strapped around your head encompassing multiple senses at once! Discretion dissolves at the extremes. If you want to use numbers, it would be best philosophically to count the senses with one of the indiscrete numbers, where the answer is dependent only on perspective:
0 – senses aren't really anything different from the rest of the universe; they are really just waveforms, part of the fractal, universal whole
1 – the senses are all the same, singular idea, since each is just a physical wave, interpreted differently only in the mind
∞ – there are infinite senses possible; it just depends on how the mind interprets its input... via technology such as brain implants andor virtual reality, we may experience more senses, and the number of differentiable senses is surely infinite
It's worth noting that the olfactory and gustatory senses are most obviously similar – arguably they don't need to be so distinguished; smelling and tasting something will lead to consciousness of its flavor all the same, although our noses are better equipped (they can sense a more complex array of flavors). Infact, in some aquatic animals, they have only one of these “two” senses. We consider them separate senses just because we have two easily identiable organs – our noses and our tongues – and smelling is mostly sensitive to small particles from the air (and is more sensitive in general than taste) while tasting is mostly sensitive to large items placed directly on your tongue.
So senses define our experience... this means they also define our identity. One's identity is developed by that which they feel they control, that which they are immersed in – be it their body in real life or a virtual avatar in a game. For example, driving a car (in either real life or a virtual game) eventually lends a sensation that the car is an extension of your body... while inside, you can easily determine if there is enough room to park, and it is uncomfortable to sense the car being damaged, scraping against a concrete wall or what have you. In exactly the same way, your character running around in a fantasy world becomes an extension of yourself, as you feel yourself interacting with it. It becomes your senses, and thus your identity, at least to an extent. I often find a change in, and expansion, of my identity when becoming immersed in a game world. This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings..
"I’m a gamer. Not because I don't have a life, but because I choose to have many."
The best games in my experience are usually those that have both story and sensory depth, games like Battlezone and Mass Effect. Virtual reality is an exciting frontier indeed, for with enhanced sensory immersion, you can live multiple lives, expanding your experiences to include both those of your dreams and those totally new and unique.
Isn't it truly magical that your mind converts vibrations into awareness, manifesting the universe? Perhaps we will understand someday how senses result in consciousness... maybe there is some special organ, or the function could purely be a characteristic of physics! Or perhaps it's really just as simple as it's what existence is, because it's what works. As in, the universe manifests as what can exist. Anything else would be an impossibility, and thus nonexistent. I figure impossibility is equivalent to nonexistence, while possibility is equivalent to existence. You only need time, and the infinitude of the universe to find a possibility manifested. Regardless, it's very fascinating how important your brain is. But as Clarke's Third Law states..
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Perhaps we will recreate true consciousness in artificial intelligence someday. Artificial doesn't have to be fundamentally different, and always unconscious; it's just a human distinction anyway. Wouldn't extremely advanced artificial intelligence be infinitesimally (not at all) distinguishable from, and thus equivalent to, biological intelligence? The extremity allows that barrier of definition to be transcended, such that biological and artificial life are really the same.