People who remember every day of their lives


I have long been curious about the way memory works and as time has gone by become more convinced that we rarely remember things as they happen but instead we reconstruct memories each time we recall an event, adding some details and eliminating others, and the new story becomes recorded as the memory. Hence I am always wary of relying too much on my own or other people’s memories, especially of things that happened a long time ago, and usually look for some corroborating evidence.

There was an episode of Black Mirror that is set in the near future where people had a small chip inserted into the brains that recorded everything that happened to them so that they could not only recall events as if they had recorded them with a camera, but could also project those memories onto screens for others to see. While this initially looks like a boon, a good way to resolve arguments over different memories of events, the episode shows a dark side as well

It turns out that there are about 10 people in the world who have the ability to recall accurately everything that has happened to them since around the age of ten or so. The Australian TV show 60 Minutes had a segment about it.

It is not clear why these people have this ability and they are being studied.

Fascinating.

Comments

  1. jrkrideau says

    Fascinating.

    I had a cousin who had perfect recall of dates. That is, we could ask him when did we thrash in 1967 and he could give us the exact date but, AFAIK, he did not have anything like this.

    we reconstruct memories each time we recall an event, adding some details and eliminating others, and the new story becomes recorded as the memory

    That seems to agree with recent (last 15–20 years) of research on memory. In fact, I remember reading something last year that it appears that the more often one recalls a specific incident the more it may change.

    I know I have two slightly contradictory memories about when I heard that President John Kennedy had been assassinated. But, at least I know I have a problem.

    Was it you who posted the links to the London Metropolitan Police and their informal squad of perfect face recognition people?

  2. says

    There is a short story, “Funes the Memorious”, by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges about a guy with total recall. Like the Black Mirror episode, it is more of a curse than a blessing.

  3. says

    The idea that we’d decode a memory and re-encode it each time we recall it is very similar to reinforcement models in artificial neural networks. Memory is one of the most fascinating things in the universe.

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