Are all your memories real? Did everything turn out as you remembered?
What if someone fills your brain with memories that aren’t yours? Can you tell the difference between what is real and what is not?
Memory is created in three main steps: encoding, storing, and then retrieval of information. And it all happens here.
Your brain has about 100 billion neurons that transmit signals back and forth through a complex network of 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. Your memories are not hidden in a specific part of your brain.
Instead, they are held in different groups of neurons called engrams. And there are several ways to hack them.
In 2016, researchers at MIT implanted a false memory in a mouse. They did this with the help of a technique called optogenetics.
Basically, they genetically engineered the mice to have a light-responsive gene and then fired lasers to stimulate that gene. But you don’t have to go through any genetic engineering to have false memories.
It’s relatively easy to trick your brain into thinking it’s storing information it doesn’t actually have.
Memories of traumatic events may be particularly vulnerable to outside influences.
There are people who remember being abducted by aliens, but in reality, they were not. Others recalled participating in demonic rituals in which people were not sacrificed.
All these people can thank hypnotherapists and their ability to plant false memories using only the power of suggestion. Memories are not really real.
They are things that can be created, shaped, and influenced. For this reason, eyewitnesses are not very reliable when it comes to describing the details of a crime scene.
For example, in one study, test subjects were shown images of car crashes, and 26% “remembered” seeing a bus, even though the images were not. We experience false memories that feed into our brains daily through social media and news.
With work already in progress, a more direct, “intra-brain” connection can be established and used to manipulate and create memories. In such a situation, who will make the call to upload false memories?
Would the person receiving them be aware of what was going on? What if they’re not?
Maybe we can use such memory implants to heal criminals faster or make a dying person’s last days better for them. Would we build businesses that place fake holidays? Or rewrite memories of some traumatic event?
A person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may have their memory erased and start their life over. We can overwrite memories of abuse or upload memories from a person’s past that will help them cope with a difficult situation.
And it all looked so real they’d never know it wasn’t. In the future, we can instill memories that establish a good moral code for everyone on the planet and create a respectful society free from crime.
On the other hand, this can go very wrong in many ways. Technology can be used to change neurons in a person’s brain, to make them feel something they haven’t actually done, or to think they are doing something they haven’t actually done.
Would you trust your medical professional if you need a memory implant? Personally, I would rather upload my brain to the cloud and become digitally immortal.