Novel molecular interventions have recently shown the potential to erase, enhance and alter specific long-term memories. Unique features of this form of memory modification call for a close examination of its possible applications. While there have been discussions of the ethics of memory modification in the literature, molecular memory modification (MMM) can provide special insights. Previously raised ethical concerns regarding memory enhancement, such as safety issues, the ‘duty to remember’, selfhood and personal identity, require re-evaluation in light of MMM. As a technology that exploits the brain's updating processes, MMM helps correct the common misconception that memory is a static entity by demonstrating how memory is plastic and subject to revision even in the absence of external manipulation. Furthermore, while putatively safer than other speculative technologies because of its high specificity, MMM raises notable safety issues, including potential insidious effects on the agent's emotions and personal identity. Nonetheless, MMM possesses characteristics of a more permissible form of modification, not only because it is theoretically safer, but because its unique mechanism of action requires a heightened level of cooperation from the agent. Discussions of memory modification must consider the specific mechanisms of action, which can alter the weight and relevance of various ethical concerns. MMM also highlights the need for conceptual accuracy regarding the term ‘enhancement’; this umbrella term will have to be differentiated as new technologies are applied to a widening array of purposes.
- Technology/Risk Assessment
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Read the full text or download the PDF:
Other content recommended for you
- Psychopharmacology and memory
- Selective impact of disease on short-term and long-term components of self-reported memory: a population-based HUNT study
- Anaesthesia, amnesia and harm
- Pump, person and Parfit: why the constitutive heart matters
- Transient semantic amnesia: a new syndrome?
- Episodic memory in transient global amnesia: encoding, storage, or retrieval deficit?
- Transient global amnesia: implicit/explicit memory dissociation and PET assessment of brain perfusion and oxygen metabolism in the acute stage
- Acute-onset amnesia: transient global amnesia and other causes
- Study protocol for a randomised, controlled platform trial estimating the effect of autobiographical Memory Flexibility training (MemFlex) on relapse of recurrent major depressive disorder
- Penetrance of marked cognitive impairment in older male carriers of the FMR1 gene premutation