Altering memories

Dali - The Persistence of Memory

I recently read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about altering memories, and I don't mean the DRAM that your desktop computer uses. Apparently it's possible to permanently change your memories. This sounds like something that Phillip K. Dick might have used in one of his science-fiction stories like "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," the story that the movie Total Recall was based upon. Or maybe it's more like something from Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate, the basis for the movie with the same name.

And although researchers claim that their work is only meant to replace traumatic memories, like those that combat veterans or crime victims might have, with less troubling ones, the possibility for other uses seems to be even more attractive. Imagine how intelligence agencies could use the ability to selectively alter memories, for example.

The ethical implications of that use alone makes me wonder whether this research is really something that really we ought to be doing. Like Douglas Quail in "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," we might end up now knowing exactly what's real and what's not.

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