Imagine if you could wipe the memory of a bad relationship? Or a really bad meeting with your boss? Or a destructive argument with one of your kids?
And wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could get rid of any memory of anything that frightens you: spiders, flying or change at work?
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that’s just what Joel tried.
In real life, it still can’t be done …. yet.
I talked about developments in the ability to forget in a previous post. So what about the ability to erase?
This search is moving rapidly with the increasing number of PTSD cases giving rise to both economic as well as compassionate imperatives.
There is an easy-to-read article on one of the latest neuroscientifc studies on erasing memories in Scientific American, Memories can be edited.
Mice are the subject of the experiments. It seems that distant memories are the toughest to erase. They are more resistant to change.
Bottom line in this study: 30 day old memories in mice could be deleted.
What is also interesting is the comment following the article where another scientist, Dr Kevin Corcoran describes his research where he found that remote and recent memories extinguish at the same rate. He offers an explanation about why more remote memories might be harder to erase.
From my perspective, the debate and the race to find the answer is exciting though when a solution is found, I hope that the ethical debate is equally advanced.
And it will be found. Each time I get a customized advertisement on my browser I think of Minority Report the 2002 film with Tom Cruise. Set in 2054, advertising holograms appeared as you entered department stores tailored to your previous buying habits.
How close are we to that now – maybe not holograms yet, but tailoring, absolutely.
And can you contemplate the day when you have to do a memory scan when you apply for a new job – and undertake an erasure process if you have any memories that might make you resistant to the change and strategies planned by your new employer in the future?
Far-fetched? I don’t think so. Who would ever have thought we could print body parts?
It’s just a matter of time.