Memory Sharing


mona lisa eyes

There have been a lot of stories (including non-fiction research) about downloadable memories. A lot of these stories form around the idea that, for the right price, people’s memories of specific events could be downloaded, which meant, of course that memories could be sold.

Some are horror about brain manipulation, but most of the ones I have read fell into patterns: memory loss as the cost of the sale, and rich amoral buyers who mainly desired what amounted to sex and death as experienced by others. Military brain invasion, identity distortion, and I read one story about how condemned criminals could, before their execution, sell the rights to their death experience.

I don’t have much interest in horror, or the usual pattern of sex and death memory sharing stories.

Maria de los Angeles, my favorite Butterfly performer

Maria de los Angeles, my favorite Butterfly performer

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 the downloadable memories menu, I’d go for what it feels like to perform a perfect ice skating routine, or how it would feel to sing Madama Butterfly before an audience.

What it feels like to climb a high mountain, and stand on the summit to look out over the world.


Deep sea diving.

Piloting a jet.



Things I will never do, but would love to experience if the person who’d done it could share, and not lose, their own memories.

If someone were desperate enough to sell such memories at the cost of losing them, would I enjoy the memory as much?

The easy answer is “What if they wanted to get rid of it?” That article I linked above hints at the possibility of excising traumatic memory. What if the doctors involved could then save such memories for recycling to the curious.

ice skating

I can see the persuasive sales person saying, “Do you refuse to read books by writers no longer living? At least our donors are still alive. They can make more memories.”

I could buy that if the menu choice was, say, a smart student’s intake of the lecture of a brilliant higher maths professor—complete with understanding of the context—so I could 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 smart math student will go right on making smart memories.

Ditto for, say, a memory in which a strong person bench presses 400 lbs. But then I’d wonder if the programming would somehow cut off motor movement so I wouldn’t come out of the memory with a full-body hernia.

In September, on the anniversary of 9/11, the TV was full of programs revisiting every iota of tape, recordings, memories, memorabilia, etc. of that day.

twin towers

The spouse and I pretty much avoided the TV area that day, but my son, who was barely in school when 9/11 happened, and his even younger girlfriend were watching with the same fascination with which my generation watched programs on the assassination of JFK in after-years.

Would his generation, and future generations, want to experience the ‘inside’ memories—the fragmentary images, the heart-pounding fear, the conflicting reports, especially of people in Lower Manhattan?

When I was young, late-sixties programs about the JFK assassination were broadcast, going into great detail, some to prove conspiracies, others to disprove them. Details not known at the time were provided in an orderly sequence of events.


That is all very different from my memory: I was twelve, in junior high, but I can still see my desk in that 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 to drop A-bombs on 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 an 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 of enjoying, or making, art.

Like Greer Gilman reading Shakespeare.

Jo Walton writing a poem.

An artist walking through the Sistine chapel and appreciating it with trained eyes.

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? What if I could in my turn save memories for my descendants, what would I choose? I’m pretty sure my choice would be memories of the older generation I am losing one by one, who would otherwise be just names and photos to those who come after.






Memory Sharing — 6 Comments

  1. With art I’d rather look for myself, but ooh what fun to have the experience of a smorgasbord of Olympic athlete performances. Or a trapeze artist!

  2. Like memories of anything else, really.

    You’d be surprised quite often how mundane,
    the process is, and how it’s mostly craft
    (as so much writing is) where every draft
    comes closer to the willed. It’s mostly sane
    It’s word and meaning juggling, it’s play,
    a jigsaw game of sound and shape and word
    and can I rhyme that there — no, that’s absurd,
    it works, but it’s not what I want to say!
    Often I don’t remember, ha, I sold
    those ones already! You can have them free.
    They’re not the things I’d treasure, growing old.
    But some I would not part with, that would be
    Vaucluse the other day, the green-and-gold
    For sometimes, I admit, it’s ecstacy.

    And beyond the personal, I am surprised how much my thoughts about this generally are shaped by Raphael Carter’s _The Fortunate Fall_, as if that book had the last word on selling and packaging memories and nobody else needs to address the question.

    • It’s the ecstasy that I’ve love to vicariously enjoy.

      This is true. I’ve been meaning to reread that book. Sounds like it needs to shift from the shelves to the TBR pile.

  3. But . . . isn’t that what reading is? Experiencing things you’ve never experienced before? Maybe my memory is particularly fuzzy (I know it is), but I don’t find my memories to be quantifiably different than my imaginary experiences.

    I guess what you’re talking about is not downloading the person’s memory of an event, but downloading the actual experience of the event. (Do people have memories that are that vivid and complete? I’m utterly jealous. If I had the chance, I’d download a lot of my own experiences to re-live.)