Thought Experiment: Memory Swapping & Crazy Shit That Makes My Head Hurt.
The thought experiment is a wonderful tool to make the imagination wander and help us become armchair philosophers. They ask us to consider strange hypothetical ideas that there are no real right answers to and serve to inspire conversation. What made Albert Einstein a very special mind, besides the fact that he was a genius, was that he was a very imaginative genius who often used thought experiments to fuel his mind and come up with an hypothesis that he would later explore and change the scientific world with.
I am not Albert Einstein (obviously), but I also like thought experiments, mainly because there are no right answers, so I don't have to research anything (not that I do anyway) before writing about it, and others can decide to debate my opinions in a civilized and thoughtful manner, on the internet... because that's how it works.
Today's inspired and intelligent post will be brought to you by the letter "M" for memory. As in: to my memory, this was a good idea until I started thinking about it, now my brain is tired and I'm not sure if anything is going to get done here. Just hold out, and we will find out together.
The thought experiment that started this whole idea for a blog post/article/waste of time (the best way to spend time) is called the "Memory Transplant," and it goes like this:
Say we exist in a world, this can be like a Matrix situation, or... no, lets go with aliens. Everyone likes aliens! Unless they are in Indiana Jones, then fuck that! Aliens did it? Really Spielberg? Aliens were behind the whole damn thing? That isn't what Indiana Jones is about, Indiana Jones is about xenophobia and letting non-Americans be the bad guys and be into the weird voodoo, witchcraft crazy shit. Not Aliens!
Okay... so, let me try that again. The "Memory Transplant" thought experiment asks us to imagine a world where aliens implant every person with new and completely different memories every night before they wake up. Now imagine if these memories were from another person's life entirely. Would you continue to act as that individual or would you still act as yourself?
The main question this experiment aims to explore is if we believe our memories are what make us who we are and define our thoughts and actions. If a different person can be subjected to the same exact set of events as another, would they become the same exact person?
So, since this is my writing space, I will explore my mind and try to answer this question. What do you have for me brain?
Okay, so I just need to focus and think. I mean, I had a long conversation on this thought experiment with some of my co-workers and it was wonderful! It is why I wanted to write on it, because memory is fascinating and it appears the name of the game this week is identity. So, the question... the important question is if my memories were removed and replaced with another person's memories, and I had no idea these were implanted memories or what my life was before that, would I act just like that other person, or would I still act like myself?
In my opinion, I don't believe my memories and experiences are the only thing that define who I am. If that was the case, why would suppressed memories be such a big deal for psychologists? Suppressed memories by essence are forgotten and removed from the forefront of the mind, yet they still influence us until they are brought back and worked through.
I deal with a large case of suppression in my childhood memories and it has often been a fascinating thing to reconnect with my family and hear stories regarding certain periods of my life before roughly the age of 10, as memories during that time are virtually gone. I can recall certain images of things, like one of those kids' battery powered Jeeps that were so damn awesome. I remember having one as a kid, but nothing else about it. I can remember I lived in a lot of places, but can't recall a single detail of the homes, my schools, my friends, but I remember a name or two here and there. Heck, I have a friend to this day that has told me that we've known each other since the 1st grade. You see, shortly after the 1st grade I moved away from my hometown for awhile, due to reasons, and then came back to my hometown during Middle School, due to reasons, and ran into her again. I don't recall a single thing about her from the 1st grade, but she remembers me, in detail. I don't even remember my time in the 1st grade at all, except that I think I walked home a lot. Also, having people tell me about that considerable period of time in vivid detail does not make me recall any of it.
So, does that mean that my lack of memory has defined me? Maybe? Certainly possible, at least to an extent, but I feel like consciousness is more than just memory. Memory is a faulty and dumb thing, our recall of an event can change for the most random reasons, yet we still believe those events took place that way, without any doubt. Heck, our memories can suddenly disappear when we walk through a damn doorway. I just don't want to believe that our entire sense of self, our decision making process, what we want from life, what our type is, all of that, is defined by something as stupid and consistently incorrect as memories.
Sudden thought! On the subject of sexual type, by saying that I would continue to act just like this other person when their memories are implanted, aren't we then saying that sexual preference is not based on genetics and birth? Yet instead decided upon by a random set of reactions to events? Does our sexual preferences alone not define us in some way, and if that is not decided by memory, than our identity isn't either? Either way, I don't have to believe it is since this is all hypothetical, I don't have to believe that I would suddenly stop acting like myself just because my memories are not the same, and I'm still just as right. That's the fun of a thought experiment!
The face is a bit fat there, isn't it? Oh well, the timer ran out, so I had to keep it. That's the law!... That I made myself and haven't discussed yet in this blog... so, everyone is confused by this entire statement.
Anyway, this was fun. Hopefully everyone can go and bug their friends, family, co-workers, next waifu, potential dick pic victim (risky click), Siri, or whatever with these sorts of engaging questions and see how the conversation develops. From my experience, it is enlightening, at least once people get over the initial shock and instinct to just answer "yes...?" with a confused and slightly tilted head like your dog, that you often try to have a conversation with. He doesn't really understand you, he's a dog, he's dumb. Cute, but dumb. I love dogs.