19 July 2012

When We Can Make Manufactured Memories Our Own

Eventually, the natural progression from spoken word to the virtual reality of novels and movies might take us to the point at which we're actually able to download memories. A memory of bungee jumping or running the  110 meter hurdles fast enough to win an Olympic gold medal or making love to an exotic beauty will be available to anyone in the same way that videos now are.

This could complicate the issues of identity. If the memory feels like your own and memory defines us, don't such memories constitute an erosion of self? Worse, what if someone smuggles a memory into ours, making us the unwitting culprit in a crime or responsible for a debt or raising a child?

But these shared memories could also create a new basis for community. Now, punks or goths or sports fans share an identity based on shared experiences like albums or football seasons. Memories would accentuate this. Think about the ability to convince a group that they'd all shared an experience like war, all shared the experience of setback and fear, courage and victory, warfare and peace. Perhaps the most alluring thing about the shared memories will be their ability to take us past the point of individuation that threatens to leave us feeling isolated and lonely.

Manufactured memories could become the basis for extremely cooperative communities where everyone feels as though they understand one another, even if it is at the threat of losing one's own sense of self.

I guess this is far too cryptic to qualify as science fiction. Just call it blog fiction. And for now we'll share this memory of a curiously ill-formed notion about future technology. And a reminder that any technology can change our sense of identity, as car enthusiasts, gamers, bakers, and bankers can all attest.

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