Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Life Imitates "Men In Black"...

Method to erase traumatic memories may be on the horizon
Soldiers haunted by scenes of war and victims scarred by violence may wish they could wipe the memories from their minds. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University say that may someday be possible.

A commercial drug remains far off — and its use would be subject to many ethical and practical questions. But scientists have laid a foundation with their discovery that proteins can be removed from the brain's fear center to erase memories forever.
Why is is that I read this story and I hear this exchange in my head:
Jay: Did you ever flashy-thing me?
Kay: No.
Jay: I ain't playing with you, K. Did you ever flashy-thing me?
Kay: No.
Allusions to cheesy (but fun) Will Smith movies aside, the implications are pretty staggering. The possibilities for good from this - helping victims of horrific crimes forget what happened, or helping soldiers recover from the horros or war - are limitless. Unfortunately, so are the possibilities for evil - the mind balks at the sheer volume of petty problems that could be caused with a device that removes memories. It could be used as an alternative to prison - or simply be the most effective lobotomy to date. We need to tread very carefully here as this discovery plays out.

Do we really want to let the memory-erasing genie out of the bottle?

That is all.


Marko said...


My memories, good and bad, make up the sum of my experiences, and define me as a person. Even (or maybe especially) the bad ones.

And don't think for a second that government wouldn't start abusing that technology. First, it would be for traumatized soldiers and rape victims. Then it would be for "public safety". After that...who knows?

(Don't we always say that in order to get rid of guns, we'd have to remove the knowledge of guns? Just an example...)

Old NFO said...

NO!!! We are what we are... Marko said it much better than I can.

Ross said...

Unfortunately, knowledge IS that genie. And once she's out of the bottle, she can't be bottled up again. The very knowledge that such a thing IS possible means that someone can figure out how to do it.

Like atomic weapons, the only thing we can do is to try and not use it capriciously. Which, given the track record of the human institution of government, will be very tough.

OrangeNeck said...

For the bad - do you recall the movie "Total Recall?"

SpeakerTweaker said...

Like so many things, this is a not a question of whether or not one can, but if one should.

The answer, I've found through the memories that make up my experiences in life and subsequently who I am, is usually No.


Clint said...

I read some years ago about people who had a traumatic event happen to them but couldn't remember it. Turns out they had MORE PTSD than those who did remember. It makes sense when one looks at what PTSD is. Your brain can't “deal” with a trauma so it over-reacts to anything related. By remembering and dealing with the past trauma, victim can overcome the pain. But those who did NOT remember, short version is they where scared/worried/etc but didn't know why. Hard to stop being afraid of something if you can't remember how or why you are afraid of it.

Weer'd Beard said...

As the old saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

I have lots of unpleasant memories, the fact that I use them to make my life better, as well as the lives of others is exactly why we need to keep them.

Tho this MAY be the way to get the Anti-gun reality distorter to work. Simply Weird everybody's mind into their own creation and voila! Gun control lowers crime!

CoolChange©© said...


wizardpc said...

We already invented this.

It was such a disaster, that everyone agreed life was better before it was invented this.

So at noon GMT on a Sunday, everyone erased their memories of the memory-erasing method.

What, you don't remember this?

Alan said...

If you think erasing memories is bad, just wait until they can create new ones.

Mike W. said...

I thought they had something for this already? Alcohol.

ravenshrike said...

I'm almost certain that this is bad science reporting. Removing proteins from the brain's fear center couldn't erase memories. It could erase the association of fear with certain memories, thus eliminating flashbacks, but not the memories themselves. Looking at it, the scientists are using rodents for the experiment, which means that they have no way of knowing if the memories themselves are erased or only the fear association.

Stretch said...

At first I thought it would be great if we could blot all memories of the Carter and Obama administrations from our memories.
But if we couldn't remember how f**ked up they were we would elect them all over again.

Jennifer said...

As someone with experiences that I wish I could forget, this technology creeps me the heck out.
Lets talk abut the rape victim here. Yes, highly traumatic. But now, she's a lot more careful. It has impacted multiple other things in her life. Maybe someone rose up to be her champion and was the shoulder she could lean on. Would you take that away too? You would have to, otherwise she'd be confused as to why this person was so important. Would you, with such good intentions set her up to be victimized again? Set her up to make the same naive choices? (No, none of her hypothetical choices make her take on even the slightest bit of guilt for the act.)