A perfect memory would be kind of horrifying

[Read the post]

This sounds similar to hyperthymesia (which I think is more the personal memory you refer to as exceptional) used as a plot device in the TV show Unforgettable. Easily the most interesting part of that show for me was the implication that you won’t live a very long life with such a condition without eventually being rendered incapable of normal interactions and functions…your brain associations would be huge, complex and paralyzing in scope. Neat topic. Your novel sounds interesting.

1 Like

Regret already outranges foresight badly enough with a memory of ordinary caliber…


The deaths, the injuries, especially the bad breakups, strong memories that are easy to remember and on hair-trigger. Annoying. Bleh. The good memories are less easy to recall, which is annoying.

Being able to remember books, datasheets, tables, and associate between them rapidly… now THAT would be useful in a major way.


I have an inclination that whether or not you can actually recall specific memories with perfect fidelity that they are all still in there, recorded perfectly, awaiting recall.

I’ve had, let’s call them ‘heightened experiences’ where I could retrace my steps through a scenario, as if dreaming everything that had happened. Friends have ‘read’ specific pages out of a book they looked at once, months ago.

I believe with advanced research in neurochemistry and a greater understanding of the structure of the brain and function of consciousness as it arises from that structure, will allow prostheses, chemical/biological or digital technology, which will allow perfect recall of whatever fidelity our mind captures memories.

And I have an inclination that the structure of the brain/mind is the way it is because of the processes that it has gone through. And that recall of memory is in some way referring to the nascent structure of the brain/mind and extrapolating what processes caused it to take that form, the results of which feel like the recall of memory. But I guess I’m a holist freak, or something, and the problem is much more difficult and less intuitive.


Borges got there before all of us: “Funes, the Memorious.”


i was going to link to at least a description of the story if no one else had done so. i have a memory that is a step or two removed from that of funes, kind of a cross between an eidetic memory as described above with an exceptional memory. my memories start from around my third year and many exceptional feats of memory have been doubted and then verified by third party witnesses, photos, and sound recordings of the events compiled by the doubters. in many ways my memory is an enhancement to my experience of life, unfortunately it can also enhance the negative experiences by its implacable refusal to forget.

1 Like

I suppose you can imagine a form of perfect memory that would be hell, but I don’t think it’s self-evident that any form of perfect memory must necessarily be hell. For example, you could have a perfect memory under volitional control, either in the sense that you could consciously participate in organizing it, or in the sense that you could remember anything perfectly, but choose to forget anything you didn’t want to remember.

Or you could have a perfect memory that is automatically managed by your unconscious mind, and that returns the exact information you need when you need it, but doesn’t force you to access memory you don’t need. Your perfect memory could even be an overlay over your normal memory, so that you have normal memory for associative work, but then can use what you recall to refine searches into your deep memory.

Since any such memory that any human being might actually experience would likely be artificial, it’s likely that at least over time the implementation could be perfected. The challenge with any large database is finding what you want in it, of course.

I am, by the way, delighted that your new book is out. 14 was brilliant.


I have never wanted to forget anything. Not only that, but I realized early on that much of my inefficiency in learning, doing, and scheduling tends to be caused by needing to constantly remind myself of things I have studied, understood, or experienced before. So I came to terms with the associative, analog nature of memory. Its fallibility and tricks. But if it was possible, if I could choose to, I would prefer “perfect memory”.


I thought there had been cases of perfect memory. My intro to psychology university course mentioned a Russian fellow who had been playfighting with a friend with a tiny sword that accidentally went up his nose. It was a curse, he could remember any conversation from anytime, but was not really able to function.

1 Like

Or more accurately you can’t recall ever wanting to forget anything.


The actress Marilu Henner of Taxi fame is another example, though she is evidently happy with her ability, and has written at least one book about it.

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?
I don’t remember…


There’s a very interesting (science) book (which is also available for free as PDF) http://www.dspguide.com/InnerLightTheory/Main.htm which considers a being (fiction) with a perfect memory. I recommend it to anyone interested in conciousness/the brain or DSP :wink:

A.R Luria, a neuropsychologist often mentioned in Oliver Sack’s books, document a case that sounds similar to this in his book “Mind of a Mnemonist”

I doubt if it’s more accurate, considering the volume of notes I take on my state of mind, and my number of techniques for churning the contents of my subconscious. Not to say that familiarity with myself never inspires contempt!

Ah, but did you ever walk in on your parents having sex and wish for perfect recall of every pimple on your dad’s sweaty ass cheeks? I’m pretty sure that’s the sort of thing I’d try to block out.


It scares me how uncertain my memories of important parts of my life can be. good parts and bad parts and religious experiences alike. It leaves me second-guessing my memories of important parts of my life…


Continuing the discussion from A perfect memory would be kind of horrifying:

No. Trust me, it would suck. Sure, it’s helpful on exams. But consider the ever expanding org scheme you’d need to index that. It would be like moving through a room full of cobwebs, trying to get somewhere, but your progress is slowed by the ever growing errata that cling to you. Drag them along with you, but then you remember the progress of the trip you made, and have to consider the new arrangements of the material you went through, its new positions, relations, interconnections…

Fortunately, beer is a good way to kill brain cells and forget things.

People’s strongest memories tend to usually be those with the strongest emotional charge. So for those who like to split their experiences into classifications of desire/avoidance, this would seem to automatically imply that lots of stuff could go. Remember as much of the bad stuff as strictly necessary to avoid experiencing it again, and forget the rest of it.

Personally, I tend to be extremely non-judgemental, so there is so much ambivalence that an event such as you described is scarcely more or less notable than anything else.

Sounds like a blast to me. But “the ever expanding org scheme you’d need to index that” is precisely why people don’t remember things this way, as it does not reflect the infrastructure of traditional organic memory, which makes it somewhat moot. The infinite regress of remembering your previous remembrances along with their organizational schema could be manageable in biological terms, because you wouldn’t need all of it at once. But instead of a digital database style of keywords or such, access would tend to be based upon weightings of pyscho/somatic relevance. This can probably be achieved biologically, but would take some engineering, since memory basically evolved to just remember handy survival tips.

What I find more disturbing is the offload of memory to external digital devices, where the organic memory never develops the discipline to know how to integrate it all.