Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Theory of Memory

Think back for a moment to where you were when you viewed the above video, or even, where you were when you began reading this sentence. Chances are you are still in the same physical location as you are in now. Now take a moment to consider where you were an hour, a day, or a week ago. You will find, most likely, that your situation has changed, that you are no longer in the same place - or are you?

Our fundamental concept of memory is best described by drawing an analogy to a computer's hard drive. As we move through our lives, our brains encrypt information and store it away to be drawn upon and referenced again and again. Is this, though, the most logical diagram we can employ to gain full knowledge over our interface with the past? Perhaps.

Consider now a different approach. What if, like touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, etc., our memory truly is a sense? Instead of drawing upon bits of information stored away in our brains like files, our memory is a physical sense of the past as it truly exists? This may seem like quite a stretch, but consider the following: In modern quantum physics, the laws of entanglement basically assert a general inter-connectivity between all physical aspects of the universe. Theories of conservation and relativity dictate (among many other things) that all mass and all energy, in all of forms, is neither destroyed nor created, but pass through various phases of existence and physical perception, and back again and again. Lastly, for the purposes of this specific theory, consider Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, which introduces the concept of spacetime, and some of the principles that bind this phenomena to the same laws that govern all other aspects of the physical universe.

Basically stated, all of these principles allow for the theory in which the past exists physically, right alongside the present and the future and all of the physical matter and energy we use as an interface to interpret our positions therein. Adding together all of these principles allows us to look at our perception of the past in a much different light.

I'll reference the video clip to illustrate the point further. The majority of our physical existence is dictated by a series of interactions with our physical surroundings, i.e., I see the coffee mug in front of me, I reach for the mug, grasp, touch, and feel the mug, bring it to my lips and consume its contents, as confirmed by my sense of taste. Through a combination of physiological maneuvers, both sensory and muscular-skeletal in nature, I have performed an action. But what if this action involved a coffee mug that was not in plain sight? What if the same mug was behind me? An act of memory replaces an act of sight in becoming the first step in determining the mug's physical location. Under the assumptions of this new, different theory, instead of referencing a snapshot of the point in time where I placed my mug on the table behind me, my brain references the point in time itself.

Just as the neurological experiments of Ben Libet (explained in the clip) point to a possible connection between our physical sensations and the future, could it be that there is a physical link between our senses and the past?

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