Memory Hackers – Fiction or Fact
When I read this article, I gulped. There is a new documentary on Nova entitled ” Memory Hackers “, that details the research being done to manipulate memory. The claim is that not only can they alter our existing memories, but even more astounding, they can create memories of events that never happened. The possibilities and perils of this technology are both exciting and terrifying. There are some that have memories so traumatic that it impacts their ability to function normally, so the removal or alteration of those memories could be very therapeutic. But for the majority of us, our memories are part of who we are, so altering that could have dramatic changes to our personality, our tastes, our goals, and everything else that makes us uniquely us.
There would also be major implications for the criminal justice system. How could you know if someone being charged with a crime had real memories, or manufactured ones, or if a witness had been impacted by memory changes ? How can you regulate who is allowed to be ” Memory Hackers ” ? Can you imagine all the laws that would need to be put in place to protect our society from the misuse of the technology, knowing that it will still be misused ? The more you consider the implications, the more questions and concerns arise. As quickly as technology is moving these days, we are opening all these new doors without considering the possibility that maybe there are some doors that shouldn’t be opened.
Anyway, lots to think about. I’d love to hear your opinions on this.
Following is an article by Adam Boult that was posted in The Telegraph, with more information on the film.
Or what if you could alter unpleasant memories so they’re no longer upsetting? Or create entirely new memories of events that never occurred?
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but according to a new documentary that premiered in the US this week, scientists have discovered how to do just that – and more.
“Memory Hackers,” from PBS’s NOVA documentary strand, looks at cutting edge research into the nature of memory, and how it might be manipulated for mankind’s benefit.
“For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays it intact,” say the film’s makers.
“But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories.”
Among the documentary’s subjects is Jake Hausler, a 12-year-old boy from St. Louis who can remember just about every single thing he has experienced since the age of 8.
Jake is the youngest ever person to be diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, which makes it difficult for him to distinguish between trivial and important events from his past.
“Forgetting is probably one of the most important things that brains will do,” says André Fenton, a prominent neuroscientist who is currently working on a technique to erase painful memories. “We understand only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human memory.”
Other interviewees include Julia Shaw, psychology professor at London South Bank University, who has designed a system for implanting false memories, and has successfully convinced subjects they’ve committed crimes that never took place – research that has potentially troubling ramifications for the criminal justice system.