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[P]
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the mythical memory videotape

By kirkjobsluder in Culture
Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 07:05:36 AM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)
Movies

Most of the movies that focus on editing memory have depended on a badly aged "brain as computer" metaphor. The memory is rewound to the key point in time, edited, something new added, and nobody knows better. More recent research suggests that memory is mutable, the process of remembering an act of re-creation, and memories are intimately tied to emotion and physical sensation as much as story and image. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the few films that has managed to take advantage of some of the storytelling possibilities of recent advances in memory research.


Some of the best speculative fiction does not deal with science, aliens or space travel but uses the fantastic as a way to explore more mundane human conflicts. Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven, for example, wrestles with our desire for a perfect world. Charlie Kaufman's earlier shot in the field, Being John Malkovich, used the prospect of possession and transference to explore desire, celebrity and identity. His latest screenplay, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, uses the process of selectively erasing memory to explore love, fate and learning in relationships.

Having more than a passing familiarity with human psychology and memory, most descriptions of memory in film require the same level of suspension of disbelief as magic, warp drive and teleportation. In Total Recall, they just throw a person into a chair and add new memories. Although Sunshine does take quite a bit of artistic liberty in proposing that long-term memory can be altered at all, it does come closer than most in rejecting the myth of the magical memory videotape. This Scientific American interview with neurobiologist James McCaugh is a nice overview of what we do know about altering memory using chemical means, and Elizabeth Loftus has done research on the fallibility of memory.

Brief but necessary synopsis

Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) are mismatched lovers. After a nasty breakup, Clementine hires Lacuna Inc. to erase Joel from her memory. In revenge, Joel undergoes the same procedure, but he decides midway that he wants to keep his memories.

The mythical memory videotape: Hollywood vs. Science

While Hollywood likes to explore memory as a plot device, the frustrating thing is that they rarely get it right. Memory is not a videotape that can be rewound to a specific point in time, erased and wound forward again. We don't recall memory so much as recreate it anew each time. The badly-aged "brain as computer" metaphor has tended to dominate speculative fiction about memory. In this metaphor, memory is encoded and stored on something analogous to a computer hard disk1 to be recalled and recovered later, and the ability to scan, project, copy, download, edit and delete memory makes perfect sense.

In contrast, more recent research suggests that memory is quite a bit more slippery. The act of remembering appears to be an act of re-creating and editing the memory. Key details can be modified or even fabricated after the fact. Long-term memories seems to be distributed in multiple parts of the brain and linked to similar events, making the possibility that we could transfer memories to a different medium improbable. While we can reduce or inhibit the formation of long-term memory using drugs, modification of long-term memory is unlikely.

While Kaufman does not quite get it completely right, he does manage to move things forward a bit. The Lacuna technicians don't know what they are deleting. To them, they are just zapping a series of nerve cells displayed on a screen. In contrast, Joel is given a last chance to relive his memories of the relationship and ask "what if". In the act of remembering, his conversations with Clementine become confessionals where he struggles to change the past. Attempting to save his memories of her, he imagines her as bystanders in his childhood traumas.

The mutability of memory raises some interesting questions about Clementine as a character. Most of the relationship is seen through Joel's recreation of the past. As the Lacuna process works backwards through the relationship, Clementine changes from an impulsive drunk to a free spirit with a hidden wisdom. How much of what we see of Clementine is colored by Joel's sudden desire to restore the relationship?

Details of the setting reflect how memory changes over time. In a pivotal scene, the lovers have a conversation in a bookstore filled with blank, anonymous books. Details not central to the memory are fuzzed out or inconsistent. As his memories of Clementine fade, his memories of Lacuna employees also blurr, and they become faceless entities in medical coats. Settings become more surreal and dreamlike as they are juxtaposed on top of each other.

Incompetent Gods

The whole situation is made worse by the incompetence of memory garbagemen, Lacuna Incorporated. The young late-night technicians Frank (Thomas Ray Ryan) and Patrick, (Elijah Wood) along with receptionist Mary (Kirsten Dunst) don't only steal memories, but become the bad unwanted guests in Joel's apartment. The head doctor, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) is revealed to have his own ethical blindspots. Their solution for dealing with the dozens of other people who know the unedited history of the couple is to send a printed form letter. Is memory just in our bodies and our heads, or does it also live out there in society? The film suggests that we can't dismiss memory as a social entity in addition to a psychological entity. You might forget that horrible secret, but someone else might bring it up at an awkward moment.

Those that don't know history ...

Ultimately, the film is a parable on the futility of trying to escape the past. The survivors of the Lacuna process are shown to be just a bit crazy due to having chunks of their lives missing. The process has deleted the story but not the emotions. Clementine bursts into tears when a new suitor uses one of Joel's lines. Joel's loss of memory does not bring happiness and he is possibly worse off having lost the focus of his anger and depression. A key subplot and an ambiguity in the script suggests that the couple might be doomed to repeat their mistakes again. They certainly start repeating the same lines and speeches.

This is another area where Kaufman got it right. Memory just does not hold the mysterious secret to the murder mystery la Spellbound (the grandsire of repressed memory movies) or the conspiracy la Total Recall, but the mundane secret to building a healthy relationship. Yes, memory is fallible and frequently wrong; but the mutability and error in memory is how we learn. We highlight what is important to us, and blur out the rest. Memory is fallible and frequently painful, but it's all we've got.

Yes but is it worth watching?

It depends. If you liked Being John Malkovich, you might like this film. Sunshine is a bit more optimistic. While Joel and Clementine are flawed as a couple, their conflicts seem more normal than pathological. Just when you think it is getting too sappy, the script throws in some realism to point out that there is no happy ending or fresh start for this couple. Sunshine is not escapism or fluff. If you are interested in a film to chew on for a few days, Sunshine is definitely worth watching.

footnotes

(1) Someone pointed out during editing that dynamic ram is constantly re-written. However the "mind as computer" metaphor tends to associate long-term memory with magnetic media.

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Related Links
o Scientific American interview
o Elizabeth Loftus
o Also by kirkjobsluder


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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the mythical memory videotape | 84 comments (54 topical, 30 editorial, 1 hidden)
the hard disk analogy doesn't work but... (2.14 / 7) (#7)
by vqp on Mon Mar 22, 2004 at 06:40:47 PM EST

> The act of remembering appears to be an act of > recreating and editing the memory.

That's exactly how Dinamic RAM memory is refreshed (i.e. saved) in a computer, by reading it over and over again...

I'm not implying nothing, just the "coincidence".

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

Two books on memory (3.00 / 6) (#13)
by gyan on Mon Mar 22, 2004 at 08:51:17 PM EST

Memory
Biology and psychology of memory.

The Seven Sins of Memory
Failings and workings on memory.

********************************

Another recommendation (3.00 / 3) (#14)
by GenerationY on Mon Mar 22, 2004 at 09:07:06 PM EST

The Making of Memory by Steven Rose.

Very readable and available in paperback. Worth reading for many reasons, amongst them an excellent description of some very badly designed experiment involving cannibalistic worms...

Kandel's book is also very interesting, particularly the demonstrations of relatively complex learning in small neuronal populations.

[ Parent ]

Amazing. (3.00 / 3) (#20)
by gyan on Mon Mar 22, 2004 at 11:59:10 PM EST

The sole reviewer at Amazon, for your book, suggests reading Fred Reike's Spikes for support of your suggested book's thesis. I unwittingly checked out that book alongwith the Kandel book he mentions. Prominent literature in neuroscience is sure a small list.

********************************

[ Parent ]
Aye (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by GenerationY on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 12:29:41 AM EST

well I think it owes something to how hazardous buying books on the subject of memory (and psychology in general) is. You can quite easily end up with something written by a self-help guru, stage hypnotist or gee-whiz hyperbole merchant. Since neuroscience became trendy there have been some awful books written on the subject. So in making a recommendation, I think there is a tendency to stick to the big names in the field (like Larry Squire etc. etc.)

[ Parent ]
One easy way (none / 2) (#23)
by gyan on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 12:43:49 AM EST

to avoid that is to peruse MIT's Cognet library. Also, stick to books published by MIT Press, Basic Books..etc

********************************

[ Parent ]
Corrected links (3.00 / 3) (#18)
by gyan on Mon Mar 22, 2004 at 11:51:35 PM EST

Memory

Seven Sins of Memory.


When I submitted using 'Auto format', the links got mangled up. Why?

********************************

[ Parent ]
And another one (none / 1) (#83)
by rpresser on Sun Apr 04, 2004 at 12:23:49 AM EST

House of Leaves
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
actually (none / 2) (#19)
by the77x42 on Mon Mar 22, 2004 at 11:53:48 PM EST

i think Kaufman's movies are more concerned with the philosophy of memory/mind than psychology of memory/mind.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
What's the difference? [n/t] (none / 3) (#21)
by gyan on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 12:00:05 AM EST



********************************

[ Parent ]
philosophy vs. psychology (3.00 / 5) (#25)
by kirkjobsluder on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 08:08:30 AM EST

There is an old joke that a theoretical physicist uses a pencil, paper and trash can. A philosopher can do without the trashcan.

Generally psychology has tended to emphasize inductive reasoning based on experimental or correlational research while philosophy of mind has tended to emphasize deductive reasoning based on introspection. In the 20th century the two have started to inform each other to a higher degree than in the past.



[ Parent ]
Hmm.. (none / 0) (#81)
by mcgrew on Tue Mar 30, 2004 at 09:46:56 PM EST

We know practically nothing of memory- how it is stored, where it is stored. How the neurotransmitters interact to produce consciousness. We are abysnally ignorant about brain, let alone the mind.

Yet that doesn't stop people from writing books about it.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Your radical ideas about memory formation... (2.20 / 5) (#27)
by Zerotime on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 09:18:11 AM EST

...have already occured to Spider Robinson.

---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
Who nicked them wholesale from Phil Dick (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by Gully Foyle on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 11:38:32 AM EST


If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

The whole industry is built on plagiarism. (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by Zerotime on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 06:05:04 AM EST



---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
So what was your criticism again? (none / 0) (#64)
by Gully Foyle on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 06:34:57 AM EST


If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Another review (2.50 / 4) (#28)
by speek on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 10:07:44 AM EST

From Lucius Shepard.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

True memory is metaphysical (1.15 / 19) (#34)
by Fen on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 04:05:28 PM EST

Thus it can never be erased. What about those who recall past lives? Where must that information be stored? It can't be just in the neurons. Perhaps this is why memory can't be treated as magnetic media.
--Self.
It's stored in music, of course (none / 2) (#38)
by ShadowNode on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 06:16:18 PM EST

But the Mason's don't want you to know that.

[ Parent ]
Yes, but most importantly- (3.00 / 5) (#40)
by mcgrew on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 06:22:05 PM EST

As ink on paper. We can read Samuel Clemons' mind as easily doday as a late 19th century person could.

-------
"If we really want to stop terrorism, we have to get Muslim men laid." -Bill Maher
[ Parent ]

OMFG (3.00 / 6) (#39)
by mcgrew on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 06:20:31 PM EST

People "remember" past lives the same way my former friend Chuck remembered being a fighter pilot in Vietnam, despite the fact that the war ended when he was 14.

It's called "schitzophrenia." They have some pretty good treatments for it these days.

-------
"If we really want to stop terrorism, we have to get Muslim men laid." -Bill Maher
[ Parent ]

Ah, but it *can* be just the neurons... (2.25 / 4) (#48)
by conthefol on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 03:17:04 AM EST

As I like to say: why can't God have made our souls out of atoms?

--
kuro5hin is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E!!!
[ Parent ]

Axions as well? (none / 0) (#82)
by mcgrew on Tue Mar 30, 2004 at 09:49:11 PM EST

And dopamine, and serutonin? And glutimate? And a whole bunch more drugs our bodies manufacture to, uh, do things to our brains.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

They are hippies on acid, I tell you (none / 2) (#52)
by trezor on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 06:27:21 AM EST

People remembering things from a past life... I take them as serious as I take people who "have been" abducted by aliens.

Some people really takes a truckload of salt to get by.


--
Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

[ Parent ]
Reincarnation (none / 1) (#59)
by lens flare on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 05:29:58 PM EST

Reincarnation is a poetic expression of collective memory. Watch Waking Life. www.wakinglifemovie.com

[ Parent ]
past lives are created memories, (none / 0) (#63)
by dageek on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 04:31:26 AM EST

by the same mechanism the article talks about. There is nothing metaphysical in our Universe or else it wouldn't be metaphysical. Of course, science is still far from delivering a complete description of nature. I suspect that some accounts of telepathy can and will be explained by some yet to be discovered property of electromagnetic waves. Based on this principle, a collective memory may very well exist too. Both of these speculative "phenomenon" may in turn account for reports of reincarnation.

[ Parent ]
You heard it here first... (1.77 / 9) (#42)
by mcgrew on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 06:29:35 PM EST

Your memories are stored in water. Your brain decodes the angle the elecrron spins around each hydrogen, as well as, possibly, the oxygen component.

They'll find this out in about fifty years.

-------
"If we really want to stop terrorism, we have to get Muslim men laid." -Bill Maher

no no let's do more (none / 1) (#43)
by conthefol on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 09:13:11 PM EST

Let's say the information is encoded in the nuclear spin.

--
kuro5hin is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E!!!
[ Parent ]

if so, that explains... (3.00 / 9) (#45)
by kpaul on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 11:07:09 PM EST

bill o'reilley's infamous 'no spin zone' ;)


2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

Best one-liner evar. [nt] (none / 2) (#54)
by wji on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 10:08:12 AM EST



In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
I see (none / 2) (#53)
by Wah on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 08:24:54 AM EST

certainly makes sense why one would get confused after drinking alchohol.  Kind of like you are off balance.  Missing a hydrogen or something.
--
sometimes things just are that way and that's it. They're true. Sure, Popper, et. al., may argue otherwise, but they're dead. You get it? Yet?
[ Parent ]
+0 ALLLMOST good (1.00 / 11) (#44)
by mjfgates on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 10:29:57 PM EST

The article just doesn't focus, somehow. On the one hand, I'm tempted to say "less movie stuff!", but on the other, it wouldn't make any sense without the movie stuff.

Symptomatic of Academia (1.54 / 11) (#55)
by SPYvSPY on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 11:53:17 AM EST

This article manifests the tendency of undergrads, grad students and professors at universities to blabber endlessly on paper about some pinhole-camera viewpoint on a work of art while completely ignoring that work of art's holistic, gestalt nature.

The problem with modern modes of education is that they reward this short-sighted specialization, and ignore the benefits of seeing the whole picture. Thank goodness writers like Charlie Kaufmann exist, as we would otherwise be subjected to movies based on the works of kirkjobsluder.
------------------------------------------------

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Not necessarily (none / 3) (#57)
by Belgand on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 03:40:50 PM EST

I mean, man, I fucking loved the movie. It really hit all the right notes for me and has a lot of interesting things to discuss and ruminate upon.

That said, why am I going to miss out on an opportunity to discuss contemporary ideas regarding the way in which memory works and how the film demonstrates them? What about popular (mis)perception of science and technology and how this is reinforced by film and television?


[ Parent ]

Missed opportunity or missed point? (2.00 / 6) (#61)
by SPYvSPY on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 08:14:41 PM EST

Couldn't you just talk about that without relating back to a movie that really has no dog in that fight? I keep hearing people attacking the plausibility of the science in this movie--man, how fucking narrowminded does one have to be to come away from this movie with that criticism?

It's just like all the people who said "Adaptation was great, but the ending didn't really fit.'
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

It's a balance (none / 2) (#58)
by lens flare on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 05:09:27 PM EST

You either learn a spectrum of things, or specialise. I think the American higher education system's way is far too broad - people I know are learning calculus, Biology and Philosophy in addition to majors in German and French. The British system means you spend more time on the actual degree subject - if I do a BEng, I study engineering, that's it.

[ Parent ]
Missed my point entirely. (none / 2) (#60)
by SPYvSPY on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 08:11:27 PM EST

Go get up to speed on Bucky Fuller and then we'll talk.
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

Forests and Trees. (none / 1) (#80)
by hbiki on Sun Mar 28, 2004 at 11:46:10 PM EST

The problem with modern modes of education is that they reward this short-sighted specialization, and ignore the benefits of seeing the whole picture.

Why is this a particularly modern mode of education?

This article manifests the tendency of undergrads, grad students and professors at universities to blabber endlessly on paper about some pinhole-camera viewpoint on a work of art while completely ignoring that work of art's holistic, gestalt nature.

What's your evidence of this tendency to "completely ignor[e]..." an artwork's "holistic nature"? Just because they write specialised articles, doesn't mean they're not thinking of the whole picture.

IMNSHO, the advantage of specialised articles is that together they comprise the holistic picture - a holistic picture which is more detailed and thorough than a series of articles are generalistic and (often) superficial. It's up to the reader rather than the writer to draw overall conclusions.

A dubious metaphor would be space flight. Individually, a scientist at NASA couldn't build a space shuttle -- but together, because they're are various specialisations, the overall structure can be completely, thoroughly, understood.

In other words, its important to see both the forest and the trees... but its easier to see the forest after seeing all the trees individual, than it is to see an individual tree after looking at just of an entire forest.


---
I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon
biki.net/blog/
[ Parent ]

i think the title itself (none / 0) (#62)
by tweetsygalore on Wed Mar 24, 2004 at 10:04:57 PM EST


is a test of memory recall.  :)

best
C

After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan

Stupid Memory Tricks (2.66 / 6) (#66)
by johnny on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 08:06:16 AM EST

In the spring of 1978 I drove from West Lafayette Indiana down to Bloomington to see a concert by Little Feat. Kathleen, the travel agent, was with me. My friend Len was going to meet us at one of the gates to give us our tickets. Alas, signals got crossed, and Len and I did not find each other until after the show--which he saw, and which Kathleen and I did not.

Not long after that, Lowell George-- the founder, heart and soul of Little Feat-- died.

"Waiting for Columbus", the album of Little Feat playing in concert, was then, and remains now, my favorite album of all time. I would have given anything to see that band perform. (Little Feat is still around and performing, but seeing Little Feat without Lowell George would be like seeing the Beatles without John Lennon). For years --decades -- I lamented that screwup with the tickets, and "the missed concert" became part of my personal internal mythology.

Recently I read my diary from 1978. Guess what? That concert in Bloomington? It was Frank Zappa, not Little Feat. Now then, I'm a big Zappa fan too, but by 1978 I had already seen Zappa play four times, with different bands, in different venues. Missing him would have been a disappointment, but not a life-altering disappointment like missing Little Feat. How odd that my memory had done that switch and amplified the negative emotion!

I wonder if memory has performed a mirror-immage amplification of how great was the sex with Kathleen the travel agent. But, if so, that's OK by me. (There are only oblique mentions of this topic in that year's diary).

My preoccupation in my own private, paper, diaries and here in K5 and similar places, has been this rear-guard, entropy fighting action of memory. That's why I'm the K5 nostalgia boy, forever coming back to this theme more than any other. And Proust is my patron saint.

As to the subject of analogies between human memory and computer memory-- and in particular the analogy between human dreaming and garbage-collecting runtimes --the best fictional treatment of that (or at least my very favorite fictional exploration of this conceit) is in Cheap Complex Devices, by moi. You can check it out yourself by following the link in the sig.

I also wrote a K5 story a few years ago about the concept of diaries as offline memory.

I had a lot of other comments that I wanted to make, but it's time for me to go to work. Besides, I've forgotten what I was going to say.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Che

The question begs to be asked... (none / 0) (#78)
by dusty m on Sun Mar 28, 2004 at 06:02:17 PM EST

If you had the chance to see the original Little Feat today, would you be... 'Willin'?

Oh that hurts.

[ Parent ]

oversimplification (none / 1) (#70)
by Bluephonic on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 06:34:01 PM EST

Ultimately, the film is a parable on the futility of trying to escape the past.

To channel my high school band director, that comment stuck in my craw. Eternal Sunshine wasn't a parable (nevermind one so simplistic); it was a complex story about love, humanity, and all that.

And -**SPOILER ALERT**- the mistake-repeating thing wasn't "hinted at"; it was a central point. That wasn't an an ambiguity in the script, it was one of the best endings I've seen in a long time. Good date movie.



I agree, far more complex ... even genius (none / 0) (#75)
by simul on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 04:05:46 PM EST

Ultimately what I have found is that people's opinions of this film reflect their personalities more than the film.

For example, I felt that the ending was optimistic... because I am - not because it was.

The author of the post thinks things are simple, and thus he interprets the film as simple.

This film was a short lesson in Buddhism.

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]

Bladerunner - Cloned Emotions (none / 1) (#71)
by meehawl on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 07:39:44 PM EST

Most of the movies that focus on editing memory have depended on a badly aged "brain as computer" metaphor.

I know the write-up ragged on the dodgy Total Recal movie, but another movie made from a Phil Dick work, Blade Runner also used the emotional impact of memory as the crux of its plot. The infantile genetically engineered clones had either been implanted with or indoctrinated with the memories and life experiences of adults. However, their emotional responses to those memories were skewed and pathological and, hence, rendered their replicated natures detectable using Voigt-Kampff testing methods.

Mike Rogers www.meehawl.com
Not quite (none / 0) (#84)
by ToastyKen on Mon Apr 05, 2004 at 05:22:31 AM EST

Actually, most of the replicants did NOT have fake memories.. It was only Rachael who had implanted memories, and this made her replicatedness harder to detect with the Voight-Kampff.

[ Parent ]
Either or (none / 0) (#73)
by Julian Morrison on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 02:24:13 PM EST

Either: memory is a mutable fallible subjective reconstruction of the past,

Or: the past is mutable, subjective, constructed from the present, and memory is the accurate process of this construction.

I tend to favor that latter.

That's ... umm psychotic (none / 3) (#74)
by simul on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 04:01:11 PM EST

But whatever man... it's your brain. You should seriously see a psychiatrist though.

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]
this is not (none / 0) (#77)
by relief on Sun Mar 28, 2004 at 04:40:32 PM EST

the most healthy mindset. What happens if your memory is so inconsistent from the environment? what if you could have sworn that you went to bed, but when you open your eyes you see the interior of your car, the steering wheel in your face, loud bells ringing, horns blowing, and a train approaching you not 100 meters to your right, about to hit you?

the mind is a very stable machine, but the construction (the mind) is rarely more stable than the elements (the atoms and forces that make up the train approaching you).


----------------------------
If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.
[ Parent ]

the scientific facts dont matter here... (none / 1) (#76)
by illaqueate on Sun Mar 28, 2004 at 07:06:47 AM EST

any more than some obvious facts matter less than others in a philosophical thought experiment, say brains in a vat. the movie is about the human condition, not some plausible extrapolation of scientific discovery. facts do still matter, but some are more relevant than others.

the new tv show century city is a lot more vulnerable to your kind of argument because scientific facts are more relevant to the questions it's asking of the viewer, but it still deserves some slack in a broad sense if you can avoid gritting your teeth about every little inconsistency. (that kind of show isn't my cup of tea anyway, but in principle)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the mythical memory videotape | 84 comments (54 topical, 30 editorial, 1 hidden)
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