Neuroscience fiction: what do we really know about the mind?

Paul Raven @ 08-03-2010

In case you don’t follow Clarkesworld Magazine already (and you really should do, because they’re one of the finest genre fiction webzines about, managing to pay pro rates for about five times as much material as this humble organ every month, and still delivering it to you for free), you might have missed Luc Reid’s essay that went up earlier this month – and it’s time you amended that situation. Neuroscience Fiction and Neuroscience Fantasy” looks at the leading edge of neuroscientific research and refers back to some of the more common mind-related science fiction tropes – like mind control, brain uploading, or memory replay and editing – in order to show how likely they are to ever come true. [image via Hljod.Huskona]

Understanding these things about memory — that we extract details instead of making recordings, that memories are stored in fragments all across our brains, and that a lot of what seems to be memory is really our brains filling in the blanks — it becomes clear that we’ll never be able to download or view memories per se: that would be like trying to show a film when all you have is a capsule review. However, it might be possible eventually to view someone’s imperfect recollection of a memory, along with other thoughts they have.

Well-researched and clearly written, it even has a list of references at the bottom! It’s a great overview of the topic from the layman’s perspective… even if it does debunk a lot of our favourite sf-nal tropes. 🙂

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One Response to “Neuroscience fiction: what do we really know about the mind?”

  1. Sarah Ennals says:

    I’ve always wanted a story in which someone tries to read another person’s mind and is rather quickly introduced to the idea of “stream-of-consciousness.”