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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I saw their production of Giselle in 1890. I cried like a baby. And I was evil!"
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April 06 2009

Welcome to the Dollhouse. Scientists discover a molecule that can be used to erase or enhance memories.

"Suppose scientists could erase certain memories by tinkering with a single substance in the brain. Could make you forget a chronic fear, a traumatic loss, even a bad habit.

Researchers in Brooklyn have recently accomplished comparable feats, with a single dose of an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain critical for holding specific types of memory, like emotional associations, spatial knowledge or motor skills.

The drug blocks the activity of a substance that the brain apparently needs to retain much of its learned information. And if enhanced, the substance could help ward off dementias and other memory problems."

Article in the New York Times, may require registration to view.

Hop in the Dollhouse!
The link goes to page 2 though. Doesn't require registration.
Thanks for sharing :).

[ edited by J.I.G. on 2009-04-06 13:57 ]
Sorry about the link going to page 2! Tried to fix this, hope it worked.
The science behind this has been linked/discussed before but not this specific article IIRC.

And it's closer to say "Welcome to the doorstep of the Dollhouse" IMO or maybe even the front garden gate (erasing memories is a much easier problem than reading and recording them to begin with, nevermind imprinting them onto other brains).
I had already posted this article on .org, not thinking it was front-page worthy. But I do think it's interesting that fiction and science are walking so closely hand-in-hand, even if only into the front garden.
I've also heard this before, but this article is much longer and explains much more.
How long before we have technology like the Dollhouse has? I think 50 years.
I couldn't guess at how many years, if it's even possible, but this technology is so so far away from what the Dollhouse is... I know of nothing that is targeted enough to affect specific memories and experiences, let alone a method of replacing it with another specific memory or experience (not to mention the speed it seems to happen at in the Dollhouse).

That all said, something like this could still end up raising the same issues the Dollhouse raises. Even if you can only wipe large swathes of memory, you'd still have people using it. Someone who's been through a traumatic event, or suffers from intense guilt, choosing to just wipe it all away? Or programmable soldiers? People who can be sent into battle, and then have their minds wiped so they can be sent into kill more people with no chance of remorse affecting their work? Even without the very specific things the Dollhouse can do, the options a technique like this creates seem very scary to me.
I'd heard of this before, though it seems like the research has progressed significantly. I wonder what the implications are going to be in terms of neuroscience. I'm actually currently reading Neuromancer by William Gibson, a book basically about people hardwiring their bodies and brains with custom electronics. Interesting concept.
The really disturbing point Dollshouse makes is that without the memories there is no personality. And I don't think that is too much of an exaggeration.
"If this molecule is as important as it appears to be, you can see the possible implications".
Um, yesss. Is anyone really naive enough to believe that this isn't already in the hands of those in high (and/or illicit) places, whose interest is about as far as you can get from "to help ward off dementia and other memory problems".

Even scarier .... "could make you forget a chronic fear, a traumatic loss or even a bad habit."
But dealing with those life experiences is what makes us grow and dare I say it, evolve, as human beings.

It's bad enough that the giant pharmaceutical corporations have brainwashed so many people into believing that we can't get through life's normal losses and traumas without going on anti-depressants (as opposed to those with serious mental problems who actually need them).

I think I belong in a different reality, because this is Pharma-1984 and Brave New World and (the lesser known) Mockingbird, all rolled up in one, IMO.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. (And I'm so not a conspiracy theory type.

ETA: Jossisprescientgod. :-)

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