Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sci Fi and Memory

One of the things I love about science fiction is the way it can explore things like human memory from an outsider's perspective.  Heading off to the imaginary future and throwing in some robots or something is still a viable way to make us consider the value and nature of our own humanity in the present.

One series I read lately has androids who only remember the last 22 years of their lives.  Sometimes, there are memories they want to keep, and their torment as that 22 year deadline approaches got me thinking.  As a writer, would I want that kind of clear and detailed memory completely accessible to me for 22 years and then irretrievably gone, or would I rather have my increasingly spotty memories that come and go seemingly as they please, unbound by time?

Another series (recently named one of Publisher's Weekly's top comics of the year) deals with the consequences of creating artificial intelligence in our image, making rules to protect them and us, and then breaking them.  What happens when we try to forcibly remove memories?  Would it be better if we could get rid of the memories that haunt us?  Or is dealing with them part of what makes us human?

Ah, speculative fiction.  The older I get, the more fully I appreciate questions like these as my stock of memories I wish I could retrieve and destroy grows.  :)

How about you?  Any good science fiction that got you thinking about the nature of memory?  Any thoughts on what you wish you could do if you could control your memories?


  1. I've been puzzling about memory some as I think about my six-month old.

    We enjoy most everything she does, and the time we spend with her. It passes both slowly and more quickly than I can believe, and I try to take pictures and jot down things that seemed special at the time to remember later.

    But the curious thing is that this time of her infancy is something she gives to us, unknowingly, and which belongs totally to us, because she won't remember any of it.

  2. That's an interesting (and touching) way to think about it. Maybe that's why they say babies are a gift (from God). :) I like that you're recording things. I love re-reading old notes and such.

  3. The other part of the puzzle is what to do with the (many and oft-repeated) memories my family has of my childhood, which I feel like I don't own at all. There are only a few things from before age 6 or so that I think are really my memories, and not relatives' stories or images from photo albums.

    Sometimes I wish I knew what I was *really* like as a little kid.

    I wonder how much I'm doing my daughter a favor by taking pictures/videos of her (she is a ridiculously well-documented baby).