Memory Mine… May 09, 2020

Human memory is so very unreliable. Long term, it is nearly useless.

A memory is created. Even initially it is not a true portrayal of reality, it is a fabrication of your mind created from whatever details draw your attention.

As time passes, a memory fades. Data seems to be lost. You know that the memory was there, your mind struggles to recall it. In an effort to recall, your mind recreates the memory. Details that were there may be gone. Additional details, perhaps a mixture of different memories, memories which might not even be related to the event, are added to fill in gaps. That which you want to remember replaces that which has faded. You’d swear it happened.

This is why eyewitnesses to a criminal event cannot be accepted wholesale. People cannot remember events as if they were a video. Your eyes relate a image to the brain and the brain creates what it can from referencing things you have seen previously. Maybe so and so pulled the trigger… maybe there was no trigger to be pulled.

Then of course embellishment. An eyewitness may add details that were not even present. They might exaggerate their own reaction to the event. They might create false memories in order to cover for a misstep which could be embarrassing.

Even if a human being were to invent a mind-reading machine… non-reliability will still be inherent… a machine could only see the present memory. It could not see the event, it could not know how much has been added or subtracted. The more distant in the past the more likelihood a memory has been altered. About all you can determine is: there is a memory of an event. The event might have occurred, it might not have. The memory has been reconstructed, perhaps numerous times, from faded data. Absolutely none of the data can be trusted. People who were there may not be remembered. People who were never there may be placed there by a recreation.

A trial using eyewitness accounts, or a jury of your peers, is of nearly no value in the search for the truth. Maybe a trial using data gathered via forensic evidence will produce a more accurate search, but then even the forensic detectives can only create thoughts from past associations. They may find what they feel is the desired “truth”.

I guess we have to get by the best we can though. Our faulty brain is all we have.

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