We Are What We Remember

“Memory is the power to revive again in our minds those ideas which after imprinting have disappeared, or have been laid aside out of sight”–John Locke

“Memory is a process by which what is learned persists across time”–Larry Squire and Eric Kandel, Memory: From Mind to Molecules, 1999

“Memory is what we are ultimately made of. That memory needs an organization that comes from our personal vision – eyes with thoughtful filtering lenses, ears with our own frequency, and finally, brains of Velcro tuned to our personal interest connections”–Richard Saul Wurman, Information Anxiety2, 2001

“The reason that we acquire and retain new information so readily is that the systems of the brain that are important for memory are readily modifiable. The synaptic connections between these systems can be strengthened or weakened, and are even capable of permanent structural change. This remarkable plasticity of the brain is fundamental to our individuality and to all aspects of our mental life”–Larry Squire and Eric Kandel, Memory: From Mind to Molecules, 1999

In 1948, while walking through Harvard Yard to his office at the Harvard Computation Laboratory, An Wang solved the problem of “destructive readout,” the erasing of information while it is being read from magnetic memory. As he recalled years later, Wang suddenly came to the realization that “it did not matter whether I destroyed the information while reading it. With the information I gained from reading the magnetic memory, I could simply rewrite the data immediately afterward.”–An Wang, Lessons: An Autobiography, 1986

Dr. Mierzwiak: …There is an emotional core to each of our memories – As we eradicate this core, it starts its degradation process – By the time you wake up in the morning, all memories we’ve targeted will have withered and disappeared…

Joel: Is there any risk of brain damage?

Dr. Mierzwiak: Well. Technically, the procedure itself is brain damage, but on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you’ll miss.

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, 2004].

“In the very near future, the act of remembering will become a choice… This isn’t Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style mindwiping. In some ways it’s potentially even more effective and more precise… Being able to control memory doesn’t simply give us admin access to our brains. It gives us the power to shape nearly every aspect of our lives. There’s something terrifying about this. Long ago, humans accepted the uncontrollable nature of memory; we can’t choose what to remember or forget. But now it appears that we’ll soon gain the ability to alter our sense of the past.”–Jonah Lehrer, “The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever,” Wired, February 17, 2012

About GilPress

I launched the Big Data conversation; writing, research, marketing services; http://whatsthebigdata.com/ & https://infostory.com/
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3 Responses to We Are What We Remember

  1. Brendan Dooley says:

    Was Vico the first to think that new technology might change the human brain’s capacity to remember? (in, On the Study Methods of our Time?) I forget.


    • gp says:

      It’s OK, we don’t need to remember anything (or rely on our faulty memory). We have Google. Of course, when you search for Vico and the word “brain” you get 25 million results, all of them (at least on the first pages) substituting “vico” with “vivo.”


  2. Pingback: Our Flexible Memories: Forgetting the Useless And Remembering Other People’s Experiences | The Story of Information

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