Computer Assisted Memory: Brilliant or Horrific?

I'm no memory or brain expert, only barely having the necessary equipment, but this perfect episodic memory post on BoingBoing got me thinking about memory and how technology will alter it in the future.

To summarise, Jill Price, 42, can remember everything from the year 1980 on. This is fine if she wants to remember exactly when and where O.J. Simpson was arrested, but horrible if she wants to forget an embarrassing situation, a loved one dying or any slights anyone has ever caused her. In Price's case, she's actually not that great at all types of memory recollection, but can remember exactly how she felt during certain instances.

The researcher who studied her case and subjected her to five years' worth of tests, says that it's actually a part of our brain's design that we have to forget things. If there are too many connections, "the brain would be hopelessly overburdened and would operate more slowly." (Full article here)

But in the next 50-some years, super memory may not be relegated to just the realm of individuals with specific genetic quirks, but belong to everyone by way of computer assisted memory. Here's one of several research projects dedicated to the topic. Here's a NYT article talking about replacing living neurons with silicon ones. It's all very far in the future, but would you want it if you could?

No: If all it meant was an increase in what we currently have; meaning, the ability to make more memories like Jill Price but no further ability to control it. Not to get too existential, but what would you do if you couldn't forget anything? You'd be like Leonard in Memento, reliving your wife's death every time anything reminded you of her. You'd alienate yourself from not being able to forgive others' indiscretions. No thank you.

Yes: If the technology gave you extra abilities to control your memory. You could access anything you wanted from the past—where your keys are, for example—but control what you wanted to remember. There's already a chemical found to erase long-term or targeted memories. Had a bad day at the office? Block it off, or at least block off the emotions that are attached to it. Had a family member pass away? Technologically put some distance between you and the event, letting mental scars heal faster. This option introduces many other implications that are more philosophical than we should get into here, but as we're doing more and more body modifications in the future, it's something we'll all have to think about.

What do you think? Which would you choose? [Spiegel via Boing Boing]

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