I have lost hundreds of photos and documents due to hard drive crashes and memory card failures. Crashes are inevitable. Electronic devices can fail anytime without any symptom. I backup some of my important data online but I don’t backup everything. Over years, hard drives turn into parts of my own memories, and they even represent my personality. I feel I lose myself every time a crash occurs. Sudden crashes have hurt me at least five times now, the recent one occurring on February 14, and I have not been able to recover everything yet.
Our brain captures our sensory perceptions and makes memories. The brain also erases the ones that are less significant. It is so spontaneous that we don’t care how the construction and deconstruction of memories occur. I have come to realize that when we actively interact with the environment, we make sharper memories compared to times when we are passive. Undivided attention helps produces better memories than when my mind is divided. My memory becomes the weakest during the times I have to multi-task. As I am writing this, my mind is trying to run quickly, but it is also interrupted by the talks of my sister and mother, and the loud TV. I am trying to understand what they are talking about but my mind processes only bits and pieces. I am sure when I wake up tomorrow, I won’t be able to remember anything of this evening except that I was typing something on my laptop.
This lack of proper memory construction a frightening situation for me. It was not always this way. I used to do home-works while watching TV in the past. My brain might not be as effective as it was 10-12 years ago; I don’t know. I might not have been able to grasp information from different senses at the same time. I can’t say for sure. Did my brain change the way it worked as I grew into an adult? I can’t say for sure. What I know for sure is that the volume of information my brain has to process is huge, and it has tired. All the things from trivial to complex calculations have affected it for a few years. The fatigue has lingered for a long time as I have not been able to give it a proper rest.
Unrested mind is unstable. It fears more, lacks confidence, and kills enthusiasm. It has so much to do but does not want to do anything. Moments of laughter decrease as worry grips every thought. Such a mind does not make good memories. It takes one deeper into abyss. Images of Riley from the movie “Inside Out” run in my mind as I write these lines. Sometimes, I see myself in her place, trying to keep myself happy against all conditions and making myself sadder as time passes.
The TV is making me listen to Yog Gurus who are focusing on happiness and Pranayam (breathing techniques) that help in the removal of all thoughts. After that, they say, we can enforce happy thoughts. I have not tried them yet, but as I look the paragraph above I become doubtful. Are we composed only of happy thought? We definitely are not. We are made up of several different kinds of emotions—happy, sad, angry, and so on that have roles in defining our personalities. And as the movie “Inside Out” showed, these feelings are ingrained in our memories.
Do memories make us human? Do they drive humanity? As long as I know, we learn a lot of things from the individual experiences of our parents, teachers, friends, and our own. We also have collective memories in the forms of communities, societies, rituals, libraries of books, and archives of different forms of media. Humanity relies on these things so that we don’t have to start from the beginning of the civilization. Humans are in a sort of relay race where the older generation passes the baton of memories to the younger generation can continue from what they have. A new generation always more privileged. Look at the progress in technology, for example.
Progress in technology means that we are relying more and more on it to keep our memories. Will a time come when the machines understand the meanings of our memories? That they will empathise with us? We are already astonished by the answers given by Siri and Sofia, aren’t we? Will they be more human than we ever are? “Blade Runner 2049”, the sequel to the classic “Blade Runner” movie triggered the question within me. Both the movies focus on memories implanted in factory-made humans; the sequel on the memories of automated programs as well. I don’t have the answers to the questions but the possibility of the machines becoming more intelligent or more human could be possible. For now, I am happy with the machines helping me put a part of me into them. It’s a risk as they may crash any time and I might lose those bits of my memories again. It’s okay because, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
 Quote from Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in Blade Runner (1982)