To Whom do Out Memories Belong?
About the Burden to Remember and the Freedom to Forget
Keywords:Memory erasure, Memory dampening, Cognitive liberty, PTSD
AbstractAutobiographical memories contribute to forming the core of who we are. However, memories of traumatic events can be experienced as a burden. Recent neurotechnology research indicates the possibility of selectively dampening or even erasing specific memories. On a personal level, altering even a single memory could lead to significant changes in one’s self-understanding and psychological continuity, ultimately threatening authenticity. On a collective level, memory dampening and erasure neurotechnology could affect accountability mechanisms (e.g., in witness testimony) and more in general, alter the process of collecting and recollecting society’s historical memory. The question is whether these concerns outweigh the possible mental health benefits to the individual. We argue that the fundamental rights to cognitive liberty and mental health grant a subject the right to decide upon their own memory, within constraints and having met several conditions.
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