Way back, I read a science fiction story about digitalized memory. It might have been early on in the cyberpunk era. Anyway, the supposition was that memory could be downloaded, which meant, of course that it could be sold.
This particular story went straight for the obvious: porn and death. The specific story offered a scenario where condemned criminals could, before their execution, sell the rights to their death experience.
I lost interest at that point, though I’m sure many readers found the descriptions of the criminals’ last moments and the moral dilemmas riveting.
Extremes are too easy for me to imagine. I wanted the story to explore all kinds of memory, and the effects. If I were cruising E-Memories dot com, I’d go for what it felt like to perform a perfect ice skating routine, or sing Madama Butterfly before an audience. What it felt like to climb a high mountain, and stand on the summit to look out over the world. Sky-diving. Deep sea diving. Piloting a jet. Things I will never do, but would love to see if the experience on the pod matched my imagination after so much reading.
I’d download a smart student’s intake of the lecture of a brilliant physicist to experience what it’s like to actually understand the beauties of math, instead of being lost in a mental tangle of dyslexic distortions that never add up to sense.
That makes me wonder if the experience would be as genuine as, say, a memory in which a strong person bench presses 400 lbs. Wouldn’t the e-memory have to have programming that would engage the part of the brain that cuts off motor movement when you sleep so you don’t get violent in your dreams? I wouldn’t want to get the equivalent of a full-body hernia.
I wonder if people would want shared experience rather than direct. That is, assuming that there are two kinds of shared experience, the inside and the outside. The inside being you are there, either causing or with immediate sensory experience. Outside would be witnessing from a relative distance. That can be involving enough! Say that inside is the people on the grassy knoll when Kennedy was shot. Their experience is going to be fragmentary, or we’d have the complete picture. Outside would be those of us who were hearing the news as it happened—as I was, age twelve. I was in junior high, but I can still see my desk, the classroom, and my teacher with tears on his face. The students looking at one another in fear, because we’d been lectured so much about “When the Russians would come to attack.” Were they on their way? Were they throwing A-bombs at us?
Here’s another kind of shared experience: the perceived piece of art. I suppose students would start making money the way they do now writing papers by downloading their experience of reading as assigned book. Download your experience of Moby Dick in half an hour! War and Peace in 37 minutes! Would such an experience drop into longterm memory, or fade out in short term?
I wouldn’t have any interest in those, anyway–I’d rather read the book–but I might be tempted by a specific person’s experience. Like Greer Gilman reading Shakespeare. A poet’s experience of a great piece of art. What would all those do to my own memory, would they overlay it? Change it? How would my perceptions change, if my brain is full of other people’s thoughts?