Author Topic: Consequences of altering memories  (Read 1642 times)

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Consequences of altering memories
« on: January 08, 2018, 05:22:40 AM »
Hi guys! Suppose this is my first 'real' post on the forums. Anyway, I've been trying to make sense of what we know about the consequences of altering memories. I've done some basic searching on this forum and elsewhere, but if I've missed anything, I'd be grateful for being pointed to good resources, or otherwise, just theories!  :platquack:

So, without further ado:

Known consequences of altering memories:

-"However, since these new memories are permanent, the conflict between them and the existing authentic memories clash in such a way that it ceases the person’s ability to properly function." (To The Moon page, website.)

-"And if all goes well, they would wake up, having lived the dream life they never had, and embrace a brief moment of blissful fulfillment." (To The Moon page, website.)

-"But due to the severity of the procedure on the mind, it is only used on the dying, such that the “new life“ becomes the last thing the patient remembers before drawing their last breath." (Finding Paradise page, website.)

I don't recall any immediate/further mentions of the consequences of altering memories within the games, though I should probably play them again sometime soon. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the process is actually lethal, but I don't seem to be able to source that claim any longer.

Making sense of what is known:

-So, my main issue is that I'm trying to understand and make sense of exactly what kind of consequences and/or harm emerge from altering a person's memories.

Question 1: Is the 'harm' psychological or physical? (Or, of course, a mixture of both?)

The first quote seems to me to indicate that the harm is psychological in nature. Or, at least, if there is some way in which a patient is physically harmed by the process of having their memories altered, this harm isn't lethal. The FP quote definitely seems to suggest that the harm is largely psychological.

Corollary: If the harm is physical or has a physical component, then what are the physiological mechanisms by which this harm occurs?

I'm completely drawing a blank on this one. In FP, if you talk to Asher after losing contact with Eva, he mentions that he thought he saw Eva "spasming." We also know it's bad--possibly, Capital B Bad--for the doctors to still be logged in/attempting a traversal when the patient dies. This is reinforced by the Doctor in both TTM and FP, and when Neil and Eva argue about who should take the risk and stay logged in with Johnny. This isn't directly the same thing, since there could very well be more risk shouldered by the doctors than by the patient, but it does suggest that there can be some kind of harm--likely physical, likely severe--that results from using this kind of technology.

My immediate thoughts are that physical harm might be somatic in nature, or that seizures (maybe?) might occur, but then the difficulty is trying to imagine how this might work. [I'm trying not to presume mind-body dualism here, so I'm trying to avoid explanations that say "Well their minds are in X's mind so if X's mind goes, harms to their mind are inflicted to their body." There should be a purely physiological way of explaining this that doesn't postulate a mind and treats their traversals as the equivalent of a VR simulation experience. A close analogue might be the mechanisms for biofeedback shock in Shadowrun.]

Question 2: What is the severity of the harm/consequences?

-It seems to me that even if they're unable to properly function, the possibilities captured by this could run an entire spectrum, from experiencing a great deal of confusion and memory-loss issues in daily life, to being catatonic. Even if the memories clash, it seems as though it takes some time for the older memories to assert themselves; if the clash/loss of function was immediate and severe, then it's difficult to see how patients might die fulfilled rather than deeply confused.

-In a world where memory-alteration is possible, I would think the harm/consequences have to be severe enough if people don't want to apply it therapeutically, or even (more sinisterly) in rehabilitating behaviour considered deviant. (Or, I suppose, they have a litigation-happy culture, and a powerful ethics review board.) That being said, I don't think the knowledge that this doesn't happen is helpful in determining what 'severe' consequences entails.

-That only dying patients are permitted the use of this technology might be an indication that it doesn't take very long for the harms to accrue, or that this was simply the main way access to this technology was rammed through legislation, and really, if you're extremely old, it's still possible to use services like Sigmund's.

Any thoughts? This is kind of bothering me, lol, but I just like making sense of things!


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Re: Consequences of altering memories
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2018, 03:34:54 PM »
You've put a lot of thought into all these questions o.o

Here are my thoughts on the subject.

Regarding memory alteration

As far as I know, the "damage" done to the patients is just having two sets of conflicting memories. The reason they just remember the alternate life prior to dying as the memories are all new, so they've basically just "experienced" those ones.

The other memories are in there, but they're not what the patient is thinking about. It's like how someone can have all the Pokemon and their typing memorized, but they not constantly thinking about Pokemon. It's just in there and the information is in their head when something makes them think about Pokemon.

So say someone who died alone had the memory implanted of raising a loving family. If they started to look around their apartment or interact with objects/people who brought up memories of their real life, they'd have to then deal with having memories of a fake life that seem equally real. At best, they'd feel super depressed knowing that they in fact hadn't lived the ideal life they thought they had. At worst, they'd have trouble distinguishing which memories are real and which are fake and become unable to function properly. (Think when Alzheimer patients get confused. It's a difficult situation)

Regarding potential damage to doctors

I think the damage that could come when you're in a simulation that shuts down unexpectedly is minimal. Sort of like turning off a computer by yanking out the power cable. Maybe some memories could get damaged or something, but I think that's the extent of it.

If Asher was unsure of the spasming, it was probably something pretty minimal. We've seen that patients heart-rates go up during intense memories, so the body would still exhibit some reactions to what's going on. Eva could have been scared or experienced some intense pain due to Faye's actions. Or it could be that Neil's custom hardware is significantly less safe for the users. (It's implied from the minisodes that he's using it to alter/explore his own memories, and that he's removed the casing. So I figure he's done some quick and dirty hardware mods to it to bypass certain safety features. This is what allows Collin's memories to be distorted in the first place)


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Re: Consequences of altering memories
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2018, 10:30:48 AM »
Hi! Thanks for helping me out here ^^ I just like to make sense of things!

Regarding memory alteration:

I find what you're saying pretty plausible. I'm still a bit 50/50 because the legislation requiring this to be done to dying patients is a bit odd, but I like the idea that even if we didn't postulate physical after-effects, just dealing with two conflicting sets of memories might make people feel rather unhappy, confused, or lost. (Then again, one question I'd have is: why not build in an exemption for altering memories in living subjects if the changes aren't that significant? We don't remember a lot of things properly IRL after all; by now, I certainly can't recall in great detail what school was like when I was a teenager. Then again, a lot would depend on the regulatory landscape, for sure.)

Regarding potential damage to doctors:

I'm less convinced on this front. I agree that Asher's comment isn't much to worry about, but Neil and Eva were considerably more worried about the idea of being in the machine as everything destabilised and Johnny's condition deteriorated. [Granted, destabilisation might be a different kettle of fish from the patient dying.] Consider:

EVA: "If the system doesn't restablize soon, the shock might permanently damage whoever's in here."
NEIL: "You've got to be kidding m. . . why aren't you getting out, then?!"
EVA: "I can't, Neil! If both of us get out under this state, all our work will be reset. . . there won't be enough time to redo all we've done before Johnny—“
NEIL: "Oh you freakin'. . . don't pull that contrived crap on me! This ain't a movie and you're no hero, you're just being a moron!"
EVA: "Then why are you being one too? Get the hell out of here!"
NEIL: "Screw that! If you're gone, they'll probably pair me up with Alistair! Do you know how badly he smells?!"

Neil could just be his usual drama king self (we know he has that streak), but the prospects are certainly worrying enough that Eva wants him to get out, and is willing to take the risk of staying in there. I do agree it probably won't be fatal, whatever it is, but minimal damage doesn't sound quite right for the kind of worry/intensity Neil and Eva are arguing with.