SUPERIOR MEMORY SYNDROMES — Do We Really Want It ?

CBS had a recent special featuring actress Marilu Henner regarding individuals with "superior autobiographical memory syndrome".

It seems as if these individuals can recall details from nearly any day in their lives.  What  appears seemingly to be a blessing can, I fear, in reality be a curse.

Now there is clearly an element of jealously here. I, too, get frustrated when I can't recall the name of someone I have just met or the name of a recent film I enjoyed.

But having total recall about every event in my life?  I'm not so sure.

After all there are events we would all rather forget.  And furthermore my understanding of how the mind/brain works includes the "creative" element of memory.  We all tend to interpret past events as we see them.  There is little "objective" in our memories.

Perhaps it would at times be better to have detailed memories of conversations and events.  But it was noted that of the six individuals featured on the show, only Marilu was married.  She and others manifested rather extreme forms of OCD as well.

What I also believe is our inherent inability to recall exactly what we have experienced allows our minds to create something new.

In fact it may be the source of much of mankind's creative activities.  Take a story, piece of music, a play, a work of art we have already seen.  Even if we attempted to duplicate them from memory there is a strong likelihood our minds would come up with something different.  It might be worse, but it might be better.

I will also guess that many inventions are the consequence of taking what has been seen and studied but redone with a new twist.

A computer can duplicate any input exactly.  The human mind is special because it cannot.  And that makes all the difference.

 

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