The forgetting pill
Posted on March 30, 2012
Are we quickly approaching a time when the act of remembering will become a choice? And, if so, what are the ethical implications of a pill or therapy that will erase the memories we don’t want to remember?
That’s the subject of an intriguing new article on Wired.com by Jonah Lehrer.
The problem with eliminating pain, of course, is that pain is often educational. We learn from our regrets and mistakes; wisdom is not free. If our past becomes a playlist—a collection of tracks we can edit with ease—then how will we resist the temptation to erase the unpleasant ones? Even more troubling, it’s easy to imagine a world where people don’t get to decide the fate of their own memories.
“My worst nightmare is that some evil dictator gets ahold of this,” [Columbia University neurologist Todd] Sacktor says. “There are all sorts of dystopian things one could do with these drugs.” While tyrants have often rewritten history books, modern science might one day allow them to rewrite us, wiping away genocides and atrocities with a cocktail of pills.