Memories are fragile, easily lost, easily altered

2017-04-09 08.09.26
The view from my bedroom in the morning

If you have not watched Ghost in the Shell, go do it, even if you are not an anime fan. The movie is heavy on tech, in a futuristic world where human-computer interfaces are commonplace, and makes you wonder if we are heading towards a similar world (just look at what Elon Musk is doing with his new company announced the same week the movie was released)

Fun fact: despite what it looks like, the city shots were filmed entirely in New Zealand, not Hong Kong/Japan/any other Asian city you can think of.

I was first acquainted with the series from the Stand Alone Complex VCDs that I bought (and still keep – yes, Veee-CDs… Shows how long it has been around!). Now the series has been brought onto the Hollywood big screen amid lots of talk about whitewashing the characters. I understand some of the arguments about why this might be the case but look, a human brain in a cyborg body should not be bound by pitiful discussions about race and whatnot! She can be any race she wants to be!

In the movie, Major gradually comes to the realisation that her memories are not what they seem to be – they had been “written” into her, false memories implanted so she can serve her corporate overlords without questioning her dubious past. In that way, while Major remembers 100% of her history,  her brain’s memories had been susceptible to alterations.

As a human being I am equally susceptible to memory loss over time. This morning, as I lay half-awake in bed, fragments of memories of the past floated to me and I caught myself realising that I could not tell whether they actually happened, or were past memories being jumbled up in a big mess. Did Sydney really have that nice beachfront cafe, or was it Melbourne? I visited that place when I was such a tiny kid I can’t really recall anymore.

Then I start to think in more recent terms, and the same type of questions came up. What was at Nara when I visited (except for deers)? Was the steak I ate at Kobe really that good? We tend to remember the general details, the broad strokes, but our brain is programmed to lose the specifics over time to prevent being overwhelmed with details.

Our memories are so fragile. And that is why I have decided that from today onwards, I will make a much more conscious effort to take more photos around me. It can be as mundane as the photo above, a view so integrated into my life that that I have taken for granted. But one day I will move away from here, and had I left it to my brain, memories of this place will begin their long-term decline. We are blessed with technology in so many ways, so why not use it to preserve the moments and thoughts that we hold dear?


Can humans change personalities as they grow older?


Traditional thinking suggests that once past our puberty years, we tend to settle down into a more stable, mature personality that persists all the way till our twilight years. Yet this study from Psychology and Aging suggests that contrary to what we think, our personalities in childhood can be very different from what it will be during old age. Granted there were limitations in the study, it does seem to conclude that our sense of self – our values, principles and behaviour – can and does change over time.

What does this mean for us when it comes to learning and development?

  •  It just goes to show how we can continue to grow and learn, to the extent that we may even have our personalities changed by it. Over the years, as we continue to take in new information, we make the decision on what gets through to our heads and what doesn’t. This in turn either reinforces our current way of thinking, or serves as gentle prods in reshaping our thought patterns, resulting in the observed drastic changes to our personalities over a longer period of time.
  • We do not have to be stuck in the past. I think, very often we like to trap ourselves in past paradigms, thinking that things will be the same forever and ever. But we can change, and should embrace and celebrate it. Where I am coming from is the fact that I find self-limitation (in everything I do) to be quite a stumbling block at times. My lazy brain keeps telling me that my circumstances will not change and I should just take it easy, but I have to make the conscious effort to remind myself not to think in such parochial terms. For there is so much unfulfilled potential, so much unfinished business that needs to be done.

1Q2017 is done and over with, now time to continue building upon the things that I have started!