Ethics of Erasing a Bad Memory
When I think of all the terrible memories I have collected in my life, it seems like it would be nice to not worry about thinking of them ever again. But then memories play a huge role in learning, and how we as individuals change over time. Our personalities are a result of this, as seen in our behavior and the actions we decide to engage in at any given instant. So if we delete memories we might not be the same person. Imagine an adult who was constantly teased as a child. Later in life the memories of this verbal abuse feel weakening and the person would like to get rid of them. But these experiences also led the individual to develop into a very empathetic and kind person, never teasing others, and looking out for those who can’t defend themselves. Are we sure we can delete the memories of verbal abuse without also removing the motivation and fundamental character of the individual that developed as a result of that treatment?
Since there are both positives and negatives that come along with memory modification, we shouldn’t have to decide whether it is right or wrong to allow people to alter their memories. I believe we as individuals should choose to do so. It’s not like we have a responsibility to keep our memories, the decision to delete memories is a choice we should be allowed to make for ourselves. We don’t owe ourselves to remember our lives. Just because memory is a natural part of human consciousness, does not in itself mean we need to maintain it all costs. While an argument can be made that we have a duty to remember, it is not the default position. But further, if we have some sort of duty to remember things, this just means we also have an ethical imperative to take memory enhancing drugs to make sure we don’t forget.