The idea of erasing and implanting memories is a common feature of science fiction films such as Total Recall and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Modern science can already erase and implant memories in rats, and in the future such techniques might be used on humans as well. Such experiments are the subject of the new book The Future of the Mind by famed physicist and futurist Michio Kaku. But one obstacle facing human trials is resistance from bioethicists, who argue that our memories make us who we are. Kaku rejects this idea when it comes to traumatic memories, such as soldiers suffering from PTSD.
“We’re talking about basically an injury to the brain, in the form of a memory that’s so traumatic it paralyzes you,” says Michio Kaku in Episode 104 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And I think this whole philosophy that we should be natural, that we should live with disease or live with traumatic memories, is taking things too far.”
Kaku is a lifelong science fiction fan whose books and TV shows often deal with the intersection of science and science fiction. He thinks science fiction is an important tool for expanding creativity and embracing possibilities, and he feels many bioethicists could benefit from reading more science fiction, which might help reduce their excessive attachment to the familiar.
“Science fiction is way past bioethicists, who are simply responding to what’s happening in laboratories today, not responding to what will happen in the laboratory a few decades from now,” says Kaku.To read more and listen to the audio, click here.