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Memories, like the corners of my mind

In his lecture this week, Dr. Alex mentions examining science fiction as a predictor of the future. And then I listened to the “On The Media” piece about “lifelogging” and it made me think of some of Philip K. Dick‘s work.

While the “lifelogging” piece centered on extraordinary measures to preserve memories, many of Dick’s works went a step past that and explored the idea of embedding memories.

Probably the best-known adaptations of one of his works was “Blade Runner,” which came from his novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which was published in 1968. If you haven’t seen “Blade Runner,” now a cult classic and still probably the best thing Ridley Scott every produced, the plot revolves around a special police officer who has to track down and “retire” highly sophisticated cyborgs called “replicants.”

A subplot in the film revolves around, Rachel, a replicant that works for the company that manufactures the replicants. She isn’t aware that she’s a replicant because she has memories of her childhood. But it’s later revealed that her memories are really those of her creator’s niece. Because we know she’s not human, we accept that those memories are part of her programming. But just as intriguing is the idea of how those memories were collected and converted. I’ve seen this movie a dozen times and that thought didn’t occur to me until this week.

A short story Dick wrote called “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (1968) was the basis for “Total Recall.”

One reviewer wrote: “What is reality when you can’t trust your memory? An Earthbound construction worker keeps having dreams about Mars. A trip to a false memory transplant service for an imaginary trip to Mars goes terribly wrong and another personality surfaces.”

Implanting memories is certainly an interesting concept. Didn’t like your childhood? Erase it and start again. Don’t have time to take a vacation? Enjoy someone else’s memories. The applications — and the implications — are staggering.

Category: Weekly Readings

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