Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hard pill to swallow

Neuropsychiatrists are on their way to learning how memories are formed, consolidated and stored. I think this is cool. But this study has some Dark City implications.

I'm not sure why this is a major paradigm in neuropsychology, but many scientists want to learn about memory so they can destroy it. Very quickly the fascination moves from how interior experiences are represented in the brain to how those processes can be halted and erased.

And, of course, how to pump the recipe into an over-the-counter pill.

This will all play out in later years with the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, which used to be called "shell shock" and later, "combat fatigue." These days, the term PTSD has widened its umbrella, and now is considered to play a role in any traumatic experience, such as child abuse or rape.

My biases as a lucid dream researcher are here, because in my experience trauma comes to consciousness in order to be dealt with, not to be a cruel overlord over human frailty. Jeremy Taylor sez it like this, "No dream ever came to be remembered so that it can say 'Nah, nah, nah, you've got all these problems and there's nothing you can do about it.'"

But this position makes me sound like a dark overlord myself, as I decide who can and cannot be eased of their suffering, and how. According to experienced Buddhist meditators, "enlightenment doesn't care how you get there."

Since the flip side of enlightment is the condition of human suffering, maybe deleting our traumatic experiences really would be worth the meddling?

But then again... around the landmine of trauma and secrets and fears, fortifications of defenses build up, and these networks would not just disappear too.

Say, do you know the way to Shell Beach?

Thanks to transhumanist George Dvorsky for the tip.


Kevin said...

I personally believe that some types of knowledge should be taboo. That's what has kept our species alive for so long. I think the study referenced for one is torture, for two is leading us down a path that only leads to something that makes Dark City look like Mr. Roger's neighborhood. I do however, really like the Shell Beach picture.

dungan said...

I like that you bring up the subject of taboo knowledge. it seems that a perennial theme in western culture is "what is the price of knowledge?" this is Faust's nightmare. another great sci-fi movie that explores this theme is "Solaris" (the original 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky version - the American remake is very pretty but chops out most of the philosopy of Stanislaw Lem's Russian novel).

Wendy said...

Funny, i was just thinking about the devistating "price of knowledge" while perusing my student loan statement.

Perhaps this is the kind of memory the evil mouse medicine is meant to cure...