Monday, February 16, 2009

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Someone once said, Happiness is nothing but bad memory. There have been popular movies, notable one being the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which Jim Carrey tries to go through a surgery/procedure that attempts to pick out all his memories with his ex-girlfriend and remove them from his brain/mind to relieve him of the pain of separation. This was viewed as a weird science fiction not many years back, and now scientists seem to be on a path to do just that (although they are miles away from doing it)

If you read the article, there are obvious ethical concerns raised by other scientists. Are we compromising on our identities by losing our memories? How much impact will it have on what we've learnt through experiences? Is it worth all of that than to relive a trauma till time eventually wanes the memory down?

On one hand, I would be tempted to attempt this procedure if I get to a stage in my life where my past and memories haunt me beyond my capacity to live normally. But does it boil down to escapism and running away from reality... almost like being on drugs? But yet, some of the benefits would be overwhelmingly helpful to some people and humanity in general.

The cases that pop into my head are those of the lives of terrorists and mentally disturbed people around. There are tonnes around. These days I'm beginning to lose hope on psychotherapy, but if there were some way to make such troubled people forget their disturbing pasts which is causing them to develop into the personalities they currently are, isn't that miraculously wonderful? Wouldn't it be like a magical wand acting on all our heads? As I write that sentence, it spells out the incredible danger such a procedure can have... talk about controlling the universe and ruling it, if all you had to do was make people unlearn everything and convince them that you are God! I'm getting carried away... But would you consider taking such a procedure at some hypothetical instance of your life? Would you advocate and encourage more of this research?


Anonymous said...

a magic wand for brainwash.. no way i am not letting anyone use that on me.

i like my memories good or bad. our life incidents teach us so much. it wouldn't be right to erase them just cause they cause pain.

it says in the article that 'memories are still intact, the emotional intensity of the memory is dampened.'

i agree that it would work wonderfully for the psychotic patients whose trauma when dampned could help them recover faster. also you are right about the terrorists, this might make them milder. but still the risk of it being misused is very high.

In India medecines which are prohibited are sold and bought very easily. so this also might become available to layman, who might start using it anticipating to lower the metal pain. it might take the place of drugs or liquour which are the top choices for distressed and depressed people.

since the begining every new invention poses a threat of some kind. we have even invented atomic bombs which could end the whole earth. still we are living with it. this can be one of those medical wonders that need to be handled carefully. we don't know how much of the memory it can tamper now. but further researches may create a drug that could clear off one's mind off memories.

not sure if it is more a boon or threat.

Perception said...

I agree with Oorja. Wouldnt ever trade for my memories or allow them to be taken away.

It would mean manipulating the human mind, even for terrorist. I feel they do what they do coz they believe in it, would taking away their memories, take away their beliefs?

May be for psychotic patients it will be a blessing, but as Oorja said risk of being misused may be quite high.

Nice post as always :)

Neeraja said...

Oorja - Yeah the risks seem to spell out very high danger. But the number of people who've underwent trauma beyond our comprehension are quite high and the cruelty of living through it all is very sad... yes, this is yet another scientific research that can be a bane or a blessing depending on how we use it.

Perception - Thanks :)... yes, you bring out a valid concern. Do we have the right to forcefully manipulate somebody's mind, be it even a terrorist? I don't know... but it seems much better than capital punishments, because we give the man a right to live his life as normally as he can. Sort of like a rehab-pill. Erasing memories would erase beliefs, because beliefs are nothing but our collective thoughts due to experiences. If memories are absolved, i would think beliefs and other thoughts associated with it, would dampen.

GGadre said...

Never! Though it would be wonderful to remove the pain.. and believe me the pain is aching. I still shudder at the very thought of times my life hit rock-bottom!
But it gives me great strength to overcome bad times now. I am stronger than before.
I believe, meddling with something that is natural is always disastrous!

Neeraja said...

GGadre - Sorry that you had to go through such a challenging phase. It's very inspiring and comforting that I'm amidst strong women who are ready to deal with reality however painful it might be. Kudos to you and others :)

SUMI said...

hmm....thankfully nothing has gone *that* wrong in my life yet, but maybe if something really terrible happened I'd choose this (!)

Neeraja said...

SUMI thanks for giving me company on that! I'd be sooo tempted to try it!