Sooner or later, we all knew this was bound to happen, particularly if you're one of those who, like me, follows the subject of mind manipulation closely. And this one is nothing less than frightening. Most mind manipulation research, techniques, and technologies have thus far focused on cocktails of drugs, hypnotism, and a variety of electromagnetic mind reading and thought-and-conversation projecting technologies, oftentimes used in conjunction with each other. But imagine being able to manipulate the other crucial aspect of the mind, the memory, through tailor-made drugs alone. That, in fact, is what they're up to, according to this article shared by G.C.:
The authoress of the article, Sharon Kirkey, points out that the core motivation for one research project is to be able to adjust the memories of traumatic events, in this case, of the breakup of a relationship, or the betrayal of someone in a relationship:
The 60 souls that signed on for Dr. Alain Brunet’s memory manipulation study were united by something they would rather not remember. The trauma of betrayal.
For some, it was infidelity and for others, a brutal, unanticipated abandonment. “It was like, ‘I’m leaving you. Goodbye,” the McGill University associate professor of psychiatry says.
In cold, clinical terms, his patients were suffering from an “adjustment disorder” due to the termination (not of their choosing) of a romantic relationship. The goal of Brunet and other researchers is to help people like this — the scorned, the betrayed, the traumatized — lose their total recall. To deliberately forget.
Over four to six sessions, volunteers read aloud from a typed script they had composed themselves — a first-person account of their breakup, with as many emotional details as possible — while under the influence of propranolol, a common and inexpensive blood pressure pill. The idea was to purposely reactivate the memory and bring the experience and the stinging emotions it aroused to life again. “How did you feel about that?” they were asked. How do you feel right now? And, most importantly: Has your memory changed since last week?
It's important to note that thus far, the process is not about altering the memory of the incident itself, but about the alteration of the behavior and emotional patterns associated with it. Indeed, Ms. Kirkey points out:
Brunet insists he isn’t interested in deleting or scrubbing painful memories out entirely. The idea of memory erasure, of finding the cellular imprint of a specific, discreet memory in the brain, of isolating and inactivating the brain cells behind that memory, unnerves him. ‘It’s not going to come from my lab,” he says, although others are certainly working on it. Memories are part of who we are, what forms our identity, what makes us authentic, “and as long as only one choice exists right now, and it’s toning down a memory, we feel on very solid and comfortable ground,” ethically speaking, Brunet says.
“However, if one day you had two options — I can tone down your memory, or I can remove it altogether, from your head, from your mind — what would you choose?” (Emphasis added)
And the whole process is contingent on a theory, that when the mind recalls a memory, that's when the memory itself is most susceptible to modification, such as "toning it down":
Much of the work is based on the theory of memory reconsolidation – the belief that the mere conscious act of recalling or conjuring a memory makes it vulnerable to tinkering or meddling. When a memory is evoked, a reconsolidation window opens for a brief period of time (two to five hours, according to Brunet), during which time the memory returns to a state of “lability.” It becomes pliable, like Play-Doh. It also becomes susceptible to modification, before “reconsolidating” or re-storage. The thought is that propranolol interferes with proteins in the brain needed to lock down the memory again.
So where's the high octane speculation in all this?
When I began reading this article, my first thought was: Well, how are we supposed to learn anything - particularly from bad relationships - if memories, or even the pain of memory, is altered or "toned down"? In my case, a couple such memories from my early twenties gave me pause, and forced me to reflect long and hard about the direction of my life, and for that I am grateful. But what if the pain of such incidents were "toned down"? Removed all together, would we learn anything? Ms. Kirkey subsequently raises the same point:
More profoundly, without good and bad memories it’s hard to imagine how we would know how to behave, says Dr. Judy Illes, professor of neurology and Canada Research Chair in neuroethics at the University of British Columbia.
Learning doesn’t occur without memory. How do we learn from a bad relationship, if we can’t remember it? “And so now, if we pre-select what memories stick and don’t stick, it almost starts to be like the eugenics of memory,” Illes says. “We ought to think carefully about that.” (Emphasis added)
"The eugenics of memory"... I don't think I've ever read a more apt description of the ultimate potential implication of this quest. And the aptness of these words leads me to today's high octane speculation. The rest of Ms. Kirkey's excellent article reviews other research, and the issues raised with it. Most importantly, it points out that memories themselves appear to be scattered throughout the "hardware" of a brain; they're "not in one physical place," an interesting idea especially if one thinks, as I do, that the brain is a transducer (so to speak) for a very non-local phenomenon called the mind. But the article also observes that we can't watch memories being mapped into the brain... at least, not yet. I rather suspect this is not entirely true, since if one can watch brainwaves as certain words are spoken or shown to an individual, the mere fact that certain patterns seem to emerge across a statistical sampling, allowing the construction of "electroencephaligraphic dictionaries", is a necessary step along the technology tree to watching, and ultimately manipulating, memory formation.
Which brings us back to where we began, the idea of a "memory pill": we are also watching the quick elaboration of a whole new genetic and nanotechnology, which are quickly opening up new avenues - including the horrendous prospect that one can now practice genome editing in a home garage. But imagine, for a moment, that genetics or even epigenetics plays some role in the formation of a memory of a certain type. If one could construct a template of a particular type of memory, such as traumatic separation, then one might also be able to see how different genetics influences the formation of that memory in the brain, and how emotional responses develop from it. Over time, exact pharmacological (perhaps nano- or genetic-technological) drugs could be specified to deal with that on an individual genotype basis. Does a particular haplogroup have a predisposition to certain types of memories and certain behavioral or emotional responses to them? Dose their water or food supply with the appropriate "memory toner-downer" and - voila! - problem solved.
The "eugenics of memory" indeed. Bravo, Dr. Iles, you've seen the future, and with it, perhaps the real agenda behind all this, along with the usual rationalizations that it will also be oh so beneficial to health.
See you on the flip side...