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Dollhouse or Eternal Sunshine?

04/07/09 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: Current Events

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might be recognized by many readers as one of the only legitimate movies Jim Carry every did. It came out back in 2004 and is around #59 on IMDB's all time greatest movies list. If you haven't seen it, you need to. Not to spoil anything, but it's essentially about a couple and memory. When things go sour, one of them has his memory erased in an effort to "get over" the other. This leads to numerous problems which you'll see in the movie, and I don't remember offhand.

Dollhouse. This is the latest installment in Josh Welden's TV shows. He also did Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the best series ever, Firefly. (That's a lie, but Firefly has a Cult follwing in the geek world that is unrivaled). For those of you in the know, Firefly is the subject of numerous XKCD jokes, proving by association that it was awesome. Anyways, the premise of dollhouse is that instead of "prostitutes", we can do better. This organization has taken people who had extraordinary problems in their life and made them an "offer". They erase their memory and personality for 5 years of service. During this time, the "dolls" are programmed to do whatever is required, be it military action, hitman, lady-friend, negotiator, etc. They are programmed with other people's combined personalities to be whatever the client wants.

Dollhouse has quickly become "that" show I watch religiously (on Hulu). Something about Sci-Fi gets me. Coincidentally, one of the main actors was in the Exit Players at Yale. I was at that show, and couldn't stop staring at him until I found him at a party later in the night and confirmed my suspicions.

Back on topic, a very interesting coincidence also occurred today. I read a New York Times article about memory and how experimenters have been able to erase it in mice. The scary thing is that everything about the show Dollhouse, is scarily real, and it just got more real. They do a good job (just like Star Trek) of justifying everything on the show with a semi-scientific reasoning, but now there's actual experimental evidence to support it.

Today's episode dealt with the ramifications of erasing memories. Some of the "Dolls" had been having relapses from their past life (Which naturally causes problems). In an effort to alleviate this, they programed the dolls as their original selves. The thought behind this was that they would find closure to the problems that had been plaguing them (which naturally they did). But the problem is, the main character demanded that she be released, and given her memories back when she discovered what was going on. So what happens?

If this technology to program people continues to evolve, will something like this ever be usable? Notice also how the NYT writer says, "when scientists find a drug to strengthen memory", not if, but when. It seems that it's only a matter of time before we have to face the genetic implications involved. Similarly, Tofer, the Yale actor, says something to the extent of, "A human brain is a natural motherboard...all we had to do was figure out how to program it". If so, how can we ever go back if we change our minds. I suppose like many decisions in life, there is simply no going back. Hope you're sure...

The book I recently finished, Next by Michael Crichton also addresses the implications of genetic tampering and exploration on society. What if we could program animals to be natural billboards? This species sponsored by Delta! The main issue he addresses, however, is the patenting of the human genome. If scientists are allowed to patent genes, drug companies can charge outrageous amounts for anything related to this gene. In addition, professors are allowed to sell their research to companies. Meaning pharmaceutical companies can snatch up the genome as it's discovered. The book takes all this to an extreme to demonstrate what these effects could do in a Capitalist society. If you discover something in a human, do you actually own that part of the person? What if your sample runs out, do you have the ability to pursue them forcefully to take back your "stolen" property they are carrying? This is all still so much more out there and further off than the memory story, (I hope). It's all so convoluted that no one really knows exactly what we know. What has already been discovered and is still lurking as a corporate or government secret. The ethics of every individual discovery and new procedure are so hard to determine, and very debatable case-by-case. So what do we do?

Ethically speaking, depending on if you see this new memory treatment as something that can relieve people of terrible memories, or something that could be used to exploit individuals, it can either provide Eternal Sunshine or a Dollhouse.

For me this topic hits too close to home, however. Being at Yale, we are at the center of Psychological research. I frequently believe that this technology has been tested on students here during the weekends. In fact I heard a story just tonight about two people who "met" this past weekend and had met before. However, one person didn't remember the other, despite having their number in their phone. Many people also have whole periods of their lives, frequently spanning hours on the weekends, when they remember nothing.

Clearly this is dangerous technology, and we must be careful how we use it. Who knows, maybe you won't remember reading this blog post in a few days. Enjoy your treatment!


1 comment

Comment from: Patty

Good article, but oh, I forgot what I was going to say. Darn!

04/07/09 @ 04:52 pm

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A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.


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