Sunday, October 14, 2007

I think, therefor I am....kinda

This is one of the hardest topics for me to continually think about because its so easy to start thinking about all the related questions that it inevitably raises. Hopefully I can get through this without too many tangents. Its also really hard to convey the ideas.

Our memory, I've come to consciously believe, is one of the most important things in the history of things, second only to life. Whether you're aware of it or not, your memory is the biggest part of what makes you you. The other part being your genes. Those two things together make you what you are today. To get an idea of just how important memory is, consider two analogies. For Jimmy, image you've been using the same memory card for your all the video games you've ever played in your life. Then one day without warning, the memory card spontaneously combusts. Years of work. Gone. For the rest of you, imagine you have a the biggest paper of your life to write. Your entire future hinges on this one LONG essay/script. Now imagine that you can't save it. You have to write it continuously until its done. Then, just before you click Print, the power goes out and everything is lost. In the real world we call this amnesia. Its not the same as death since the body remains, but if you consider memory being such a big part of identity, its not going too far to say that its not much unlike death. It may seem callous to say that someone suffering something as terrible as amnesia is 'dead', but in the case of total amnesia you can't ignore that he or she is not the same person they were before. This is where it gets easy to branch off. Defining "death" becomes complicated. If dieing is the failing of the physical body, then what do we call it when someone's memory and identity (essentially what that person is) dies from amnesia? And then what of the person that remains? Its a strange thing to think about. A fully formed and 'used' body with a new memory. A new person.

Ok now for something a little more relevant to our daily lives. This little scenario always makes me a little uneasy and it has to do with split realities. Say to yourself, "I know I have memory and I exist because I can remember starting this sentence." It should feel pretty reassuring to say, it does to me anyway. I can tell I have memory and exist because I look around and I'm still here. Now, consider that someone video taped you doing this and you have been drinking heavily all day. So heavily in fact that you can't even remember reading this or talking to yourself. Then your friend shows you the tape. At that time you knew you existed. But to the version of you watching the tape, its as if at some point the night before everything blinks and you woke up this morning without any recollection of the previous night. Of being so sure you existed. The point I want to focus on is the 'jump' from before you were drinking til the time you woke up. To you now its like nothing happened. But to your self the night before, its as if hours went by. This all has to do with perception of time and reality. My question here is which one is the real you? And how can I really tell that I won't forget this moment like in the video?

Next topic: Mind vs Brain


Jimmy said...

that did happen to my memory card. remember? i left by the exhaust fan of the gamecube and it pretty much burnt up the card. it was my madcatz card with all of my gamecube games on it.

why'd you have to bring this up? i hate my memory. bad times.

you should do further resarch about drinking and compose a thesis about what really happens when you "black out" from drinking too much. you could also research teh "brown out" effect and why your are able to remember certain things from the crazy night before (like getting duct taped--bastards).

andy said...

Yeah, memory is an interesting topic. Well-chosen picture too, as I'm sure Memento affected your views on this topic. Good movie. Ironically, I cannot remember all of it. Ok, here goes my thoughts in more random order than your's.

I think you're dealing also with consciousness in this blog. "I think, therefore, I am" and such. Memory refers to the past. I find it interesting to try to define when the present becomes the past: when consciousness becomes memory. What if we could cling onto the memory? We often try...

Let's say I'm on an awesome date, and I wanna savor(savour?) the moment. We often hear lines (or I do) like "I wish this moment could last forever." As soon as it's been said, does it become, "I wish THAT moment had lasted forever"?

In senior year of high school, I focused my service project on Memory, relating to Alzheimer's (sorry for the spelling) disease. You should include this in your discussion about amnesia, as it's a much more common threat to our memories. I recommend a book, "The Things They Carried," where a Vietnam War Veteran writes in different perspectives about memory... Also, the unique Japanese film, "Afterlife" about people having to choose one memory to relive over and over again (or essentially live IN) after they die.

Last modern day scenario: Why is it that my parents, who are approaching an age where memory is said to fade, can remember so many details of my childhood? When I, with my youth and sharp memory, can only remember bits and pieces?
Also interesting how with Alzheimer's, people forget recent things, but remember very clearly details, people, names, and events from years and years ago.

Oh, and you should talk about "selective" memory, how we attempt to control or evolve the memory. To quote the Second Wind: "Why? That's what memory is, isn't it? A bunch of embellished ideas and cloudy images..."

Christian said...

Thanks for comments guys. I thought for sure everyone would have ripped it apart and disagreed at every possible point. Though I still don't I clearly conveyed everything I wanted to.

Thanks for bringing up Selective Memory, Andy. I probably should have gone into that a little bit. Though that has a tendency to branch off into other tangents. Like how psychics exploit it. They're just guessing but you tend to ignore the misses and only remember the hits. And then THAT branches off in the P.T. Barnum effect in which people actually WANT to tricked.