A recent article talks about MIT researchers Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu, who successfully implanted a false memory into the mind of a mouse. This is the real world catching up with science fiction, where the possibility of implanted memories has been around since Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series in the 1940’s. In fact, I used a variation of this in my recently published short story, “A Matter of Nurture“. So now we have reached a point in time where all the social and moral questions raised by science fiction must be confronted in real life.
This is a “no brainer” for the positive implications, which include: mitigating painful memories attached to PTSD, depression, and other psychiatric disorders; potential Alzheimer’s applications; recovering lost memories; even aiding addiction disorders. The potential negative implications paint a much more troublesome picture. When false memories can be implanted, the potential for nefarious applications are easy to imagine: silencing dissent, tampering with witnesses, modifying behavior to create soldiers or assassins, are just a few that have been explored in fiction. Now that the breakthrough has been made, how long until these applications are being tested in a lab somewhere?