Editing the memory movie

pre-silicon memory aidWell, looks like we can chalk up another predictive success for a Futurismic author! This time it’s the turn of Marissa Lingen, whose Erasing the Map” seems eerily prescient of recent research at Oxford University into the selective editing of memories:

Wired.com: How selective will memory editing be?

Sandberg: Current research seems to suggest that it can be pretty specific, but there will be side effects. It may not even be that you forget other memories. Small, false memories could be created. And we’re probably not going to be able to predict that before we actually try them.


Wired.com: It seems that it would be easy to test “tip of the tongue” drug effects on the sorts of small things one recalls on an everyday basis. But what if it’s old, infrequently recalled but still-important memories that are threatened by side effects?

Sandberg: It’s pretty messy to determine what is an important memory to us. They quite often crop up, but without us consciously realizing that we’re thinking of the memory. That’s probably good news, as every time you recall a memory, you also tend to strengthen it.

Wired.com: How likely is the manipulation of these fundamental memories?

Sandberg: Big memories, with lots of connections to other things we’ve done, will probably be messy to deal with. But I don’t think those are the memories that people want to give up.  Most people would want to edit memories that impair them.

Of course, if we want to tweak memories to look better to ourselves, we might get a weird concept of self.

Indeed we might… but I’d say the odds are good that people will try to do exactly that. The street finds its own use for things, right? [image by ebbdog]

But what will happen if you try to edit a memory that is false – the repressed memory of abuse that may not have actually happened, for example? If memories are interlinked, what might you lose along with the bad stuff? And if memories can be expunged, could they also be inserted? We’re deep into Philip K Dick territory right here…