One of the things I worry about most is not being able to recall the great experiences that have happened to me over time. It’s not about forgetting that I went to the beach in Israel that one time, or any other highlight event. Those types of events should be captured as well, of course, but I am speaking of the more subtle, and ultimately more valuable, types of positive experiences.
Leading this field in my mind is falling asleep with my girl. Cuddle (which we call “wuddle” for some silly reason) is definitely among my favorite experiences, and a very real problem presents itself to me quite often regarding this activity:
The feeling of falling asleep with your girl, in a comfortable bed, while warming each other against the cold outside the covers and telling each other how much you love one another…is simply magical. I quite often simply want to capture the moment, and I cannot.
And that’s really the issue. I cannot capture it. And because I cannot capture it, I cannot replay it.
There are so many things that could be captured. The feel of the bed. How tired you are. How achy your body is. How good it will feel to sleep. How she feels.
These all change. You have different states of your own body when going to sleep. You have better and worse beds. You have different thoughts on the mind when entering that state. Sometimes you feel triumphant, and laying with her is a prize. Other times you feel defeated, and laying with her serves as rebuilding and reassurance.
These are all subtle flavors in the single best concoction we as humans consume: experience. I’ve been with my girl for over 20 years, and we speak often about appreciating our time together. When it rains we remember our time in hotels when I would come visit her while living 7 hours apart for years at a time.
The rain is one of the flavors. The longing is another. Finally being with her after thinking of it for weeks at a time beforehand — all these things change and magnify other notes in the experience, and the result is always uniquely incandescent.
But they’re gone.
When we are 80 we will remember very little of these experiences. We will have a faint, amorphous glow where individual images used to be. A trace of a smell where a pleasant taste used to be. They will be no more. Instead of remembering, we will remember remembering.
This deeply depresses me. I want to remember each of those times. Not constantly, of course, but to have them available to experience again.
So the idea is simple, and there is no question in my being whether or not this will happen:
As we master the decoding of memory and experience, we will gain the ability to store — on demand — the current experience being felt.
It will be a snapshot — very short at first, and likely limited in many ways. But as time goes on we’ll be able to simply invoke a mental command to “save”, or “capture”, and that moment of bliss or triumph or ecstasy will be stored forever as an experience clip.
We have archaic, proxied versions of this now: photographs, audio recordings, and video. They are weak because they are stimuli that cause experiences, not experiences themselves. The experience is what happened in the brain at that moment as a result of the stimuli, and that depends on the exact conditions, thoughts, perspectives, and feelings of the subject.
We will still store the raw inputs as well, of course, as that gives you the chance to have a different experience, and for others to have one that is similar, but different, from your own. It’s valuable for a different reason, but in no way identical to storing the finished product.
I mentioned the act of storing these experiences manually, i.e. invoking a command to store. This itself will be a rudimentary implementation of the technology, as more advanced versions will simply monitor the brain and create snapshots according to rules that you’ve defined. This spawns a myriad of interesting questions, such as whether or not discrete thoughts will be stored, or only feelings — since storing thoughts that can later be retrieved presents an entirely new set of challenges1.
So, imagine if you can, instead of having photo albums, or video recordings, what if you had 40,000 experience snapshots that you could replay through your life.
Imagine a display technology that projects in three dimensions throughout your living space — where you can see a timeline of your life, marked by things like diapers, first time eating ice cream, breakups, seeing your child walk for the first time, every time you’ve cuddled with your soulmate, etc. — and upon selecting a specific moment in time you can go to all of the stored experiences there.
You will then enter some sort of special, calmed state where you will overlay or inject that experience into yourself. You will again feel the covers on your skin. You’ll feel your girl’s body on yours, you’ll hear the words about love, and feel how they made you feel.
You’ll be there.
When I’m 117, that sounds like a great way to spend a vacation. People will call them reflection periods. You take a vacation and reflect, through direct experience, on the highs (and lows perhaps)2 of your life.
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I really want this right now. Others don’t want it only because they haven’t thought about it yet. Once it becomes possible it will become necessary. Our time in this world is nothing if it isn’t experienced, and this is nothing less than the chance to live multiple times in one lifetime.
So I’ve covered above the basic idea, and now I’ll explore briefly a few ways it could manifest. I mentioned a few of the experiences that could be stored, but let’s compile a quick list — from childhood to death:
looking at your mother as a toddler
eating your first ice cream
nursing (stay with me)
pooping (think about the fixations)
eating an orange for the first time
confusing a jalapeño with a piece of candy at age 2.5
hearing “I love you” for the first time while in secondary school
catching a touchdown pass
driving your first car
getting your first paycheck
seeing your baby on ultrasound
holding your baby for the first time
watching your baby walk
watching your parents pass away, after recently replaying seeing them for the first time
watching your children do the things above
Think of anything that is a joy in this life — things that perhaps you don’t even get to do:
a pop star can export his experience of performing live in front of 10,000 people
an astronaut can export the feeling of looking down at the earth for the first time
women can export the experience of child birth
both genders can export their orgasms (see porn10)
And that brings us to the next, rather obvious and collosal point:
These experiences can be shared.
This isn’t just a way for people to re-experience (see remember) their own experiences, but also a way for the whole world to share them.
Getting away from the positive for just a moment, it’s quite predictable that charities and humanitarian groups will deploy this technology to suffering peoples and then export their experiences in order to prod the capable but apathetic into offering assistance.
The applications are staggering. It’s a way to articulate the promise of a truly shared human experience. That seems far more grand than simply having an archive of one’s own experiences, but I look to that first.
Not only will the experience archiving for personal benefit come first due to necessity (see market drive), but it’ll likely be easier as well, and thus will be possible first.
I desperately await this development. I find it almost cruel that the elderly are not just robbed of the ability to make new memories of these types, but that they are also abstracted by the limitations of the mind from the experiences they’ve already had.
We are nothing but the summation of what we’ve experienced, and this technology will serve as a way to recapture and restore tangible form to our withering identities. It’s a way to remember ourselves. ::
1 Thought police.2 The experience replay interface will be color or shape coded to indicate positive, negative, ecstasy, love, power, etc.