Memory

StatLibertyMemories are such a major part of us and drive so many of our actions, but what are they? One would think that we’d have a better understanding of something so powerfully integrated into our lives. It’s been proven time and again that they aren’t accurate. So much of the initial encoding process is affected by perception and emotion. We can make concrete ones with things like photographs, but we still later interpret it through the filters of how we feel. In some cases, as time wears on, the perception recalled by the photograph is all that’s left.

Biologically it’s complex and much of it barely understood. While elaborate, it’s ultimately the physical process of putting something in a state. Atoms have state, a property that you can test and then re-test at a later time and get the same answer. You can also change the state, and again, have that state persist over time. Even subatomic particles can have state. An electron can be spin-up or spin-down; test it again later and you’ll get the same answer. It’s also possible to change the state, though simply assigning a new state is easier in theory than it is in practice.

Whether “state” is really memory is tricky to answer. An atom doesn’t remember everything that’s ever happened to it. As far as I can tell, “memory” as the term applies to human beings is composed of a vast amount of “state” of its physical components, and the point where one becomes the other seems arbitrary. We know there are numerous tiny things that we perceive at a subconscious level, that under the right circumstances affect us and our actions, and can even raise to the level of consciousness later. Are those memories before we’re aware of them? Are memories that we’ve forgotten, but are still in there somewhere still valid memories?

For all practical purposes they are reflections of who we perceive we are. A self-fulfilling prophecy in action. If we could control that process a little more, imagine what we could become. Assigning a new state is easier in theory than in practice. Difficult work. Especially because in a way it forces us to face that it’s a kind of lie to begin with. We don’t like the discomfort of grappling with how much if it all is distorted or made up. Unfortunately that easy way out isn’t available to us. No, we have to change, and then our perceptions will follow suit, and then, finally, the memories can become aligned to better support that.

 

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