Transhumanists like George Dvorsky are holding out for perfect memories, or total recall: “Count me in for when perfect memory finally becomes medically possible,” he has written. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but this sounds terrible. The ability to forget allows us to forgive (“time heals all wounds”) as the pain of memories fades. It also allows us to make difficult, but important life-altering decisions. Ethicist Justin Weinberg suggests perfect recall of the pain of childbirth and the tortures of new-parent sleep deprivation could impact reproduction. More than a century ago, Nietzsche speculated that active forgetting is the key to living a life unencumbered by resentment. Today, scientists concur. Memory is seen as a creative “means for endlessly rewriting the self.”Here's the full quote from my article:
Luckily for me (but not Dvorsky), perfect recollection isn’t close to being feasible. Drugs and surgery aren’t there yet, nor are digital means.
Given the choice I would still say yes.
I find the limitations of human memory infuriating. Not having control over which memories are stored and how they are recalled is an upsetting cognitive limitation. It's as if our subconscious mind is writing our own personal history in spite of us.
Our memories often present a narrative of events that may not be objectively accurate; most of our memories are lost, and those that are retained tend to have the subjective taint of some kind of emotional association (mostly negative). In other words, we can't have complete confidence in how we interpret our memories.
As for the emotional baggage, my feeling is that this concern is overstated. We involuntarily choose to remember the negative over the positive anyway, so I'm not convinced that a whole lot would change. Personally, I'd love to be able to recall some of the more thrilling and meaningful moments of my life with greater clarity.
And the point about not being able to leave our 'past selves' behind, again I have a feeling this is exaggerated. For me, maturation and personal development comes with the accumulation of experiences, not from any sense of distance from our previous selves.
So count me in for when perfect memory finally becomes medically possible.