Tabula Rasa

You never realize what a good memory you have until you try to forget something.

-Franklin P. Jones

Husband and I started watching a new British series on Netflix the other night.  It’s called Black Mirror. We’ve already finished two seasons, though in all fairness there are only 3 episodes per season.  The show is brilliant. It is a frightening look at the potential dark side of technology and most of the stories are set in the near future.

One episode in particular really struck a chord with me.  In it everyone has an implant behind their left ear that records everything they do.  It’s basically a video camera in the eye and it records your entire life.  You can rewind that interview you had and analyze the future employer’s remarks; you can re-live the one night stand you had ten years ago; you can replay a fight you had with your wife.  And not only can you replay it for yourself, you can project the images onto your television and have anyone you want to watch it.  Imagine the argument one has with his wife about the one night stand he had in college.  It was a brief fling and never meant anything, but the wife isn’t so sure so she asks him to replay the night only to discover that he dated this girl for six months.  In the future you can’t lie; you can’t reinvent your past; you can’t remember an event happening differently to suit your own conscience. It’s all there digitally stored forever.  Unless, that is, you decided to erase the memory.  Erasing the memory is possible but then you are left with a blank screen for that duration.  You can’t really erase it then can you?

In this episode the protagonist comes to realize that his life with his wife has been a lie and he removes the device from behind his ear.  Suddenly the screen goes black.  End credits roll.

By removing the implant has he erased his memories.  Is he now a tabula rasa?

If you could erase a memory from your life, would you?

I’ve asked myself this question a lot over the past few days.  I haven’t experienced anything truly terrible in my life, thank goodness (and knock on wood!) but there are some things I wonder if I would be better off forgetting I went through.   If you could erase the memory of a relationship  or the presence of a person from your memory, would you?  Would it change the person you were now if you didn’t have the memory of it? Or are we forever changed because we experienced it?  Are we better off remodeling our memories to suit our own conscience or is having a digital record better?

I wish I knew.