DailyDirt: How Reliable Is Your Memory?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Human memories are not as trustworthy as you might think, but we rely on our brains to remember tons of information everyday. Without a decent working memory, we wouldn't be able to function normally at all. There are at least three different kinds of memory: sensory, short-term and long-term -- but how these memories are actually stored in our brains is still a bit of a mystery. Here are a few links on the subject of how we might remember. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.


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  1.  
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    jameshogg (profile), Aug 1st, 2013 @ 5:17pm

    I posted this on Richard Dawkins' website about this exact topic:

    As someone who has performed sophisticated magic tricks, I can confidently say that the planting of false memories in audiences' minds is vital for the success of the tricks.

    Part of this involves repetition. Imagine I place a card on the table and put my hand flat on top of it. For the audience, I start rubbing the card as if to make it disappear. Crucially, I lift my hand up for a moment to "check" the card on the table and put my hand on top of it again, making a bit of a big deal about examining if the card is "set up" correctly. I'll explain why this seemingly pointless part of the "routine" is crucial in a moment. I then rub as before, build up to a climax, but it never comes as I lift my hand up to show the card is still there.

    I explain "hmm, okay, well that didn't work". Everyone relaxes. The card goes back on the deck. And now I can do a steal at this moment when everyone is off guard because they think the trick is finished. Before anyone notices the trick is beginning again I quickly slide the card from the deck in my other hand onto the table using the thumb, but steal it back onto the deck again with my thumb with this other hand at the last moment all timed as I once again supposedly as before cover the card with my initial hand. "Let me try again." Now everyone is in a state of "catching me out" as I say this, but it is too late. They've missed the key move. Thinking back to double check that seemingly innocent move is a lot harder than it seems when it was remembered during a time when no tricks were "officially" happening from my cue. Why be in a state of scrutiny if you are lead to believe there is nothing to scrutinise?

    And just in case, to really convince that the vanished card is still there I joke around and lift my hand an inch off the table, pretending to have the card stuck flat on my palm where nobody can see. I'll even pretend to struggle to keep it stuck, making it look like I am about to drop it. "It's disappeared!" I'll say. "Ah, he's just palming it in his hand" is what the audience naturally think at this time, falling for the trap: presuming that I have it at ALL. Then I put my hand down flat on the table again. "Now I'll bring it back! Magic!" As they laugh, or even moan "oh come on!", they all get reeled in even more to the idea that the card is there to begin with. Needless to say that we as magicians love well-executed convincers.

    Before the reveal, I wave my other hand over my initial hand abnormally as if I am going to perform the sneaky move now, just so I can captivate and frustrate my audience a little more and give them wild geese to chase.

    And finally, I just love the gasps I get when I look confused after more rubbing to "bring it back", slowly lift my hand up and this time clearly show my palm with no card, saying "oh.. I really have lost it..". Not a soul among them can back track through all those layers of presumption and false memories to work out what the hell happened.

    It is something so simple yet so sweet, and it proves that you actually do not need to know many sleights to achieve good effects. All you need is a sense of how to engage an audience on a social, showmanship level.

    So yes. I am obviously for the idea that eye-witness testimony in court should be heavily doubted. There are some things you can get from it: for example, if the witness reveals a piece of solid knowledge that could not have been a coincidence "I was not next to the blue Nissan car at Gray Street at 7:30pm", "but nobody in the court mentioned a blue Nissan, sir?" Things like that you probably can reasonably deduce, but more evidence is needed in cases of obscurity.

    And I also do not see why the ideas of misdirection and false memories cannot be likened with animals. We have all pretended to throw the ball for the dog to run out and catch while hiding it behind our backs.

    EDIT: Ah yes. The reason why at the start I do the routine of trying to do the trick and failing is PURELY so that I have an excuse to lift my hand up for a moment to show the card and then put my hand back down again. The hope is that after the real trick has been done, the audience will confuse what happened the first time with what happened the second time. Their final memory might reconstruct itself so that it ends up as "he lifted his hand, showed the card, put it back down, rubbed, and THEN it vanished!" If they end up remembering it like this, it becomes impossible to work out. Failing twice instead of once just to do the visual "checking" act for the audience would reinforce it more (although I would not do it three times). They may indeed miss that you did not do this check the true time you performed the trick.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous, Aug 1st, 2013 @ 5:41pm

    What was the question again?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2013 @ 6:41pm

    Re:

    TL:DR
    But in the end......
    TADA!!!!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:47am

    On the subject of copyrighted memories...

    Why We Need Tougher Mind Control Laws to Prevent Piracy

    If you think about Mickey Mouse, are you infringing Disney's copyright? What if you willfully memorize a copyrighted poem? Think hard; the answer could be worth $150,000 in court.
    According to the law, copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now or later developed, from which they [the works] can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” (Emphasis mine.)
    Note the word “tangible.” You might assume this would exclude your thoughts from copyright protection—after all, you can't touch a thought. But thanks to new advances in neuroscience, the intangible is now becoming tangible. And it's all thanks to “the aid of a machine or device.”
    In 2011, researchers used a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine to extract visual images directly from the brain. Test subjects were shown a Hollywood movie trailer, and their brain activity was monitored. By analyzing the subjects' brain activity, the researchers were able to reconstruct the original movie trailer from thought alone.
    I can just imagine the conversation that went on in the lab:

    Researcher 1: Well, here we have this awesome new technology. How should we test it out?
    Researcher 2: Let's make copies of copyrighted Hollywood movie trailers.
    Researcher 1: Oh boy, no more DRM!
    Researcher 2: I'll skip past these FBI warning messages so we can get started.

    It gets better. Their reconstruction process entailed searching for clips on YouTube that best fit whatever the subject was thinking about, then mashing the clips together to create an icky, blurry, yet still recognizable version of the original Hollywood trailer. So the researchers not only reproduced copyrighted movie trailers, they also created an unauthorized mashup comprised of copyrighted YouTube clips. I just hope for their sake that they didn't circumvent any Digital Rights Management protections that might have been protecting those trailers; the Motion Picture Association of America disapproves of that.
    But it gets even better. More recently, a group of neuroscientists created the rodent equivalent of a Borg hive mind. With the help of cutting edge brain-to-brain interfaces, two rats separated by thousands of miles were able to share thoughts with each other over the internet to solve a common task. And by “share” I mean that one rat stole stole copyrighted thoughts from the other rat without permission. How long will it be before rats connected in peer-to-peer networks are sending pirated seasons of “Game of Thrones” to each other?
    And that's not all. Researchers have been able to pinpoint individual neurons devoted to storing memories. For instance, there is a specific neuron in your brain that is lighting up right now as you think about the copyrighted character Mickey Mouse. Ask yourself: did you get permission from Disney to reproduce Mickey's iconic image in your neuron? Or are you pirating images of him with your innate human copying capabilities? Whatever you do, don't imagine a picture of Mickey Mouse wearing a pirate hat, or else you've created an unauthorized derivative work and can someday be held liable for copyright infringement when it becomes possible to record your infringing memory “with the aid of a machine or device.”
    While you're at it, control your dreams too. The same fMRI machine used to copy Hollywood movie trailers can also be used to replay your midnight ruminations. In one particular dream, a test subject was found to be visualizing some kind of printed document, doubtless a noninfringing original work or a public domain document from Project Gutenberg. It is of course illegal to reproduce copyrighted documents, videos, sound recordings, etc. regardless of the medium through which such reproduction is achieved (for instance an fMRI machine). In the future, those who choose to record their dreams will need to be careful to respect the rights of creators by not dreaming about copyrighted TV shows, movies, songs, characters or books. Although some limited usage of copyrighted material may be permissible for personal use or for purposes such as commentary, parody or news reporting, the law is clear that in most cases it is illegal to copy or distribute copyrighted material with your mind.
    Now let's fast forward twenty years, to a point in time when you can back up your memories on the cloud and upload your dreams to Youtube. You can also download thoughtfiles from the internet directly into your brain and share your thoughts with the Facebook hive. One can readily envision how this situation could present a challenge to creators concerned about controlling their work online. I believe that it is more imperative than ever that we move to combat the looming threat of thought-based piracy.
    In the upcoming rewrite of the copyright law, legislators should explore extending the DMCA into the realm of the mind. For example, creators can work together with search engines and ISPs to voluntarily monitor users' neurons for infringement. If a pirate imagines copyrighted content or tries to share restricted thoughts with other users, a takedown notice can be sent and the infringing idea quickly blocked. There also needs to be funding set aside for programs that educate casual downloaders about the law; for example, some users may not realize that it is illegal to download memories, thoughts or dreams about movies, music, art, and literature from thought-sharing sites.
    Lastly, the new law should introduce stiffer penalties for DRM circumvention and thought-sharing. Sites that deliberately enable copyright violations should be blocked from users' minds; we also need more stringent punishments for those who would abuse the human brain's natural creativity in order to create unauthorized derivative art on sites like YouTube, DeviantArt, Etsy, etc. Piracy is responsible for billions of dollars in lost sales, and better education and vigorous enforcement are necessary to meet the challenges of the cyborg age. By maximizing the powers of rightsholders and minimizing the rights of everyone else, we can achieve a fair and balanced copyright law fit for the 21st century.
    The American economy relies on strong protections for copyright. The next great copyright act must provide real protections for creators, demonstrate respect for property rights, and punish thought-theft so that we can encourage the creation of new works and enable our creative industries to remain competitive in a global marketplace. The value we place on controlling thoughts today will send a powerful message about the role of the human imagination in the society of tomorrow. Let's join together to preserve copyright for another 200 years!

    (Licensed under CC0)

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:28am

    "It's still science fiction to have the ability to download your memories onto a silicon chip. However, as we learn more about how memories are formed, it could be possible to save or copy our memories onto other media. [url]"

    Isn't this essentially what writing something down is? It's a way of encoding something in your brain, a memory, onto a paper in a way that will allow you or others to later retrieve and decode the memory? You write a reminder or a list of things to do or buy aren't you essentially 'saving' a rendition of your memory onto a piece of paper? Sure, you need to have a memory of how to decode the text but once you have do have a language to work with you have a way or an interface to essentially 'save memories' onto some media.

     

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