Soon forgetting will feel like resetting. The consequences could be enormous for man as an individual, as a society, and as a species.
Memory is the essence of man and society as well as the custody of human experience.
Forgetting is so normal, so pervasive that it has always been seen as a tribute to be paid to entropy.
Against this idea of forgetfulness, in On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche tells us that “Forgetting is not simply a kind of inertia …but rather the active faculty to … provide some silence, a ‘clean slate’ for the unconscious, to make place for the new… those are the uses for what I have called an active forgetting…”.
In Funes, the Memorious, Borges tells about Ireneo Funes, who after a fall from the horse, perceives everything in full detail and remembers all. He remembers, for example, the shape of clouds at all given moments, as well as the associated perceptions (muscular, thermal, etc.) of each moment.
The narrator, however, suggests that Funes is incapable of thought as “To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes, there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details.”
This idea is reaffirmed by Ricoeur, who in Memory, History, and Forgetting, states that forgetting is necessarily a part of remembering.
In a famous zen story, a student visited a Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the student kept talking about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The student watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. It’s full! No more will go in! the student said. This is you,” the master replied, How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup. In this story, forgetfulness is indispensable to properly know something new. This principle could be lead to extreme consequences in the coming decades.
Post-human society seems to need forgetfulness even more than the philosophers had not guessed in the past.
With the development of new technologies and the practically instantaneous possibility of access to almost all of the human knowledge, our society today seems to require continuous learning, and every learning requires not only a continuous effort to learn but also a continuous effort to forget.
With the increase in the speed with which information is created and becomes obsolete, the deletion of memories will become fundamental. Memory as a contemplation of the past will be seen as a slowing down in the continuous flow of acquisition and cancellation of knowledge.
Forgetfulness will be accused of poor accuracy, so far as a man remembers painful, useless, dangerous, unpleasant, silly things and forgets important, pleasant, vital, crucial things for his own life and others.
The efficient post-human will need to remember and forget precisely, quickly, and aiming specific purposes.
Forgetting could soon be taught in schools, favored by drugs (as is done today for particular traumas), designed with microchips and modified genetically.
So far, erasing someone’s memories has been considered dangerous from an ethical and legal point of view, but not much has been said about the political, economic, and social aspects.
In the dissemination of these new practices, in the beginning, it could be used the rhetoric of health. Everyone would love to cancel from his past bad memories, especially when these affect the good functioning of body and mind. Later on, reasons of efficiency would take over and governments, as well as companies, could recommend canceling useless memories to have a better performing mind.
Such a scenario could involve the following risks:
1) The possibility of erasing someone’s memory could be used to Orwellianly remove a politically inconvenient past.
2) Governments and corporations could need to use individual and private space of mind, such as the remembrance of old days spent at the beach, an old friend, a boring day of many years ago, etc., and take possession of that mind space for social, commercial and political uses.
3) If memory is a strong part of the individuality of a person, the removal of useless memories could depersonalize and robotize humans.
4) Man could become a stranger to himself. Today we can say that we do not remember if when we turned 12 it was Saturday or Friday, but no one could say that they do not remember whether they killed a man in the war or they spent a year at the hospital. In the future, however, no one could say with certainty that they have or have not done something. Technically, it shouldn’t even be said ‘I don’t remember. For almost all life experiences, it should be said: ‘I don’t know.
Forgetfulness will be a process closer to a computer reset.
The post-man will be very different from the Sapiens. He will not recognize himself in him and will laugh at him, while the Sapiens will feel the post-man as a stranger and will be afraid of him.