the fu­ture of... mem­ory

For­get­ting is a nor­mal way to keep the hard drive of the mind clean. But are the mem­o­ries ac­tu­ally there, wait­ing to be ac­cessed when and if we choose?

Esquire (Malaysia) - - THE FUTURE OF - Words by Leong Wong

OOver the past few decades, our brain has been put to the test like never be­fore, thanks to our dig­i­tal lives and the speed at which we re­ceive and re­tain in­for­ma­tion. And yet, the size of our brain, or rather the hip­pocam­pus—the part of the brain that re­tains long-term mem­ory—re­mains the same. The hip­pocam­pus is very much like the hard drive found in our com­puter, and each and ev­ery one of us is wired dif­fer­ently to gain and process the mem­o­ries that we have stored in our brain. It’s the abil­ity to re­tain mem­o­ries and how we process them that de­fines us as hu­man be­ings; but the brain can only hold so much in­for­ma­tion for that long, be­fore mem­o­ries start to fade.

There is talk of the use of a mem­ory chip— ei­ther a sil­i­con-based de­vice or a liv­ing cell— into which you can down­load your mem­ory and play it back. This Gib­son “wet wiring” would be con­nected to a grid, so oth­ers can ex­pe­ri­ence your mem­o­ries too. It is an idea that Pro­fes­sor Chris Ma­son, a cell sci­en­tist, says is closer to fruition than we think. This will en­able us to re­tain our mem­ory and even have them live on, long af­ter we have died. Think how Ti­mothy Leary up­loaded his death onto the In­ter­net so that it could be “net wildlife”.

Theodore W Berger, a bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer and neu­ro­sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, has cre­ated a mem­ory de­vice, de­signed as an im­plant in the hip­pocam­pus, to help re­tain and re­store our long-term mem­ory. This chip will ben­e­fit those with Alzheimer’s, or those who have suf­fered a stroke or a brain in­jury. But, for now, it is still in the test­ing stage and at least 10 years away from be­com­ing pub­licly avail­able. Can you imag­ine the po­ten­tial it holds for the hu­man brain? The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less; it will be the game changer in in­tel­li­gence, where the clever in­di­vid­ual will be even more so, due to an abil­ity to form a li­brary of in­for­ma­tion that he or she can tap into.

Dare we hope that we are one step closer to ex­tend­ing our brain ca­pac­ity, not just re­tain­ing mem­o­ries, but also pro­cess­ing them quicker in a log­i­cal and in­tel­li­gent man­ner than we al­ready are? A de­vice that could make ev­ery one of us su­per-in­tel­li­gent and has the abil­ity to tap into the un­charted parts of our brain that are ap­par­ently dor­mant will open up a whole new world of hu­man capabilities and pos­si­bil­i­ties. It will no longer be sci­ence fic­tion, but a re­al­ity. Re­mem­ber, you read it here first.

Mem­ory chip bank Down­load your mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences into the cloud, or a pri­vate stor­age fa­cil­ity, and then ac­cess them re­motely to share with friends and fam­ily. Or even for your own use. Satel­lite link-up Can’t at­tend a hol­i­day or an event due to...

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