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20230212 -Searching for a Memory



The main point of this book is that memory is not a passive process of retrieving information from a warehouse of information, but rather an active process of constructing the image of the past based on the condition of neural networks in the human brain. This condition changes dynamically, strongly impacting the results of this construction. The author provides a good metaphor for memory as a telescope pointed at the time. The author expands on this idea by discussing historical examples, experimental data from the use of technology, and referring to the usual behavior analysis methodology of people with damaged brains.


Like everything else in the human body, the brain’s work that generates memories is defined by evolutionary development. However, evolution is about survival and reproduction, not about the search for the truth and factually correct representation of events. So, the process of memory construction necessarily includes mainly unconscious adjustments to whatever relevant neural networks produce to the main objective of survival. The interesting part is that, being social animal, humans actually need both: truths about the past, which is necessary to provide effective interaction with the environment, and lies, which is required to maintain social cohesiveness. We are now at a very interesting point in human history when the demand for truth becomes more important than the demand for lies, whether these lies are noble or not, because technology has achieved such a level when denial of reality makes human survival questionable. A good example was the recent Covid pandemic, when usual bureaucratic manipulations and suppression of the factual data in the name of pseudo-science prevented effective handling of the epidemic, causing enormous economic and psychological damage to the population. Whether humanity can mature to the point when it can effectively handle memories and data soon enough to survive remains to be seen.


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