Pre-class questions - Week 2 (Responses)
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NameWrite one paragraph with your thoughts regarding the possible rewards and perils of memory augmentation technologies.Write one paragraph with some ideas for memory augmentation technologies for some target user group (e.g. average Joe, children, seniors with mental decline, or other).What topics would you like to present on (see readings section of the webpage or suggest a new and relevant topic)?Email address
11/02/2017 00:37:44Jiabao LiMemory augmentation allows people to trace back their treasurable moments as vivid as living back again. Inside the memory, people can enjoy the happy moments, reflect on vital conversations, revive the passed beloved ones. The current video records and photos are already a form of augmentation but with limitation in immersion, presence, and conscious. Memory is beautiful, but maybe sometimes its beauty comes out of its ambiguity. When we visualize memory, a fuzzy, faded image creates more space for imagination. As for the peril of memory augmentation, privacy, security, emotion control, accessibility are all potential issues. For example, should law suits use people’s recorded memory as evidence? Will it redefine the word lie and truth? Intelligence is considered as the sum of creativity and memory. Human intelligence has long been limited by their capacity of memory. Predecessors' legacy of knowledge cannot be directly inherited by new borns. Our learning curves are years to reach the point of creation. Modern search engines provide an approach to access predecessors’ library of wisdom, yet they are still external and unintuitive. What if a person can inherit one's memory of knowledge? Information from one computer to another can duplicated simply with copy and past. If we are cyborgs, can we paste others’ knowledge memories and form our own library? It still has capacity so we could only choose several field of interest, say, design, computer science, and art. Then the rest of my work is purely creation, without investing the huge amount of time on walking the path that predecessors already walked. Sensory substitution and augmentation
13/02/2017 20:36:45
Pedro Colon-Hernandez
Memory augmentation could make accessible to everyone a near perfect ability for recall. Combine this access of total recall with machine learning techniques for entity discovery and speech recognition, and one would never forget where he or she left the car keys, what was the new person’s name, or even a verbal lunch appointment that is tomorrow. The biggest problem that I can envision for this technology is what makes it so great. If you could recall everything in your life digitally, then the government or private entities could have access, one way or another, to your entire life. Imagine being denied a job because a corporation found out that you went to a party and got blatantly drunk. The issue that is being raised here is privacy. If the technology could only be accessible to the person whose memories are being recorded, then it would possibly succeed without too many problems, otherwise you would give an entity access to a cataloged version of your entire life. For the average person, a remembrance agent who will tell you at key times (leaving the house, around lunchtime, about to head out from work, or in a specific location like a supermarket) to remember some key items such as keys or ingredients. Another idea would be to be able to capture a 3D model of a moment and can relive it in some of the details (basically like an interactive photograph). For people with Alzheimer’s disease, an idea would be to keep track of important people (children, partner, good friends) and make the user practice to remember the key people. Two other ideas would be remembrance beacons, IOT beacons that would remind you upon synchronization of events or tasks and an ever-present agent to pick up the daily meetings.I would like to present on brain interfaces and possibly speech/communication enhancements (sub-vocalizations, alternate communication means).
15/02/2017 15:23:48GuillermoAnswering this question after watching the black mirror episode, I can’t help to stop and ask what our mind/memory is good for in our current state? It seems that the mind does a good job of only holding onto the important stuff while discarding the rest. Sure there are obvious downsides to this, but there are upsides as well. In a recent Scientific American Mind article by Ingrid Wickelgren goes onto explain the importance of forgetting:
"If you cannot shake negative memories, for example, you might be easily sucked into a bad mood. Although the inability to forget does not cause depression, research shows that depressed patients have difficulty putting aside dark thoughts. In one experiment, published in 2003, psychologist Paula T. Hertel of Trinity University in San Antonio and Melissa Gerstle, now at the Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, found that depressed students recalled many more words they had practiced suppressing than other students did. The students who had the most trouble forgetting scored the highest on measures of rumination—which is the tendency to dwell on a concern—and the frequency of unwanted thoughts."
Those who do not suffer from depression, on the other hand, benefit from the brain’s natural tendency to remember the good and forget the bad. This cognitive advantage influences us to remember a spoiled camping trip as a “great time” with friends or long nights and eating cheap ramen noodles with classmates during Undergrad as a “good bonding experience” for us. It also seems to cause women to only remember the good parts of childbirth – the end; a nice evolutionary quark that influences them to continue reproducing. Perhaps most importantly, the brain’s automatic ability to forget the bad helps people get over most personal losses, emotional trauma and bad breakups. As Jim Carrey’s character Joel Barish illustrates in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, people will go a long way to forget certain experiences if they cannot do so naturally. With this in mind, I’m glad my memory is not like a computer.
I think I can argue, that maybe the purpose of human memory is not to store information but to organize information so we can understand and predict the world.
I always experience this awkward movement when I encounter people once again after had only met them once before. They can never remember me or my name but mean while I remember every single detail from our encounter, which creates an awkward moment. So I thought what if through the act of handshake or any other similar social construct you allow to share and store information about that encounter with the people involved during that meet. So through AR if you meet them again that information will pop, this avoids awkwardness and invasion of privacy.

I have also been blessed with the most stubborn mother ever excited in this planet, and she is convinced that as you get older your brain slows down and can’t learn as much as when you were young. I had try every possible way to explain that it is not true and that all she had to do is exercise that muscle. What if we could create a series of AR games for day to day life that targets different areas of the brain in a subliminal and nonlinear way similar to Carey’s approach to learning.
Motor augmentation and substitution/ Skin augmentation. This paper is one the most cited when it comes motor learning

I also find this paper interesting by reading the title but haven’t read it yet
Gün R. Semin – Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions (link)
15/02/2017 15:26:06
Adam Haar Horowitz
It's intuitively upsetting to realize how unreliable memory is and how quickly life is passing by, and the possible reward of eliminating this discomfort is very attractive--but that doesn't mean perfect memory, like we saw in Black Mirror, is a tidy solution. We saw in the episode a masterful integration and interface for cued and conscious search of memories. In reality, this isn't how memory works--much of what we store comes back to us via recall that is involuntary (Proustian) or associative (via chaining). I worry that with access to perfect recall, everything in our environment would be a trigger for a flood of involuntary chained memories, such that thinking in general terms (associative, allegorical, abstraction) would be impossible. Understanding as well that high intensity (high affect) memories are better stored, better recalled, and more often involuntarily triggered, we could increase likelihood of PTSD. Not to mention foregoing vall of the 'forgetting to learn' (from Benedict Casey) and creativity benefits from incubating abandoned tasks (Rex Jung) because of an inability to forget or abandon. And all of this assumes that there is perfect perception available to store--this also doesn't seem to be a priority or capability of the human brain. Perhaps perfect storage does not mean complete storage--perhaps it is a function of perfect search, while leaving the brain's ability to filter perception uninterrupted. A common misconception about depression is that it is solely a disorder of affect--in fact, it is often most pronounced instead as a disorder of recall. Depression doesn't mean that patients are 'always sad', rather up and down in the moment, but tend to conceive of themselves as 'always sad' in their overgeneralized recall. Seeing black and white, as it were, and unable to remember what it's like to see in color. I think a little tech for memory augmentation can solve this problem.

In depressed patients memory tends to be; overgeneralized into category memories rather than specific memory; mood-congruent with current mood affecting categorization of recall; and intrusive into daily life. Episodic autobiographical memory (explicit autonoetic consciousness that forms our present sense of self) is a critical factor in therapeutic attempts to ground patients and turn them away from depression--it's negative overgeneralization can be crippling. Overgeneralization is a factor in PTSD, BPD, OCD, and suicidal patients as well. I'd like to take advantage of sensory anchoring and cued recall to help patients recall specific positive moments and anchor themselves accordingly. Understanding the power of cued recall (that audio recall is not modality specific, and paralinguistic speech carries valence for affect) my idea would involve an unobtrusive audio recording necklace, with category settings (positive, powerful, productive, present) for patients to discreetly press during interactions and capture 10s recordings. In future moments of overgeneralized negative recall ("I'm always useless, unproductive") patients would turn their necklace to the associated opposing setting and cue a flood of specific-vs-general, mood-incongruent, intrusive audio stimuli for affect induction.
Augmenting Expression/Hybrid Creativity. Mindful Technology/Augmenting Awareness.
15/02/2017 18:44:25Mina KhanWhen discussing the perils and advantages of memory augmentation details, I think the devil lies in the details of what type of memory we are augmenting and how we are augmenting it. I’ll discuss the drawbacks and benefits of memory augmentation from the perspective of three different types of memories: (i) Working memory (ii) Long-term semantic memory (iii) Long-term episodic memory
(i) Working memory
I think augmenting short-term working memory has the least possible drawbacks and probably makes the most sense. This is because working memory has a very limited capacity (5 to 7 items) and saving short-terms items, like a todo list or shopping list, frees up our mind for our other tasks at hand. It makes sense to not have to memorize/internalize short-term information that is not needed in the long-term, e.g. todo tasks for today, and thus, external memory (technological memory) maybe a good way to keep track of that information as long as the user knows where to look it up. External memory technologies for storing short-term items can also have a time-limit after which they deleted so that we can effectively archive old things.
(ii) Long-term semantic memory
For information that may be needed in long-term, e.g. names of new friends or new vocabulary, we can use technology to help us contextualize the objects so that we may remember them better, e.g. showing sentences or pictures related to new words that we may encounter in a language. Technology may also allow us to learn new concepts (semantic memory) in deeper ways, e.g. instead of showing pythagoras theorem, we can show them examples and animations of the application of that theorem. The advantage of memory augmentation technologies here that they aid memorization but humans are not necessarily outsourcing their memory. Technology is harmful when used to indiscriminately store and retrieve all kinds of information, without helping the user remember/internalize that information. The danger there is that technology becomes a crutch for people to avoid learning important concepts or internalizing new ideas.
(iii) Long-term episodic memory
I think that technology has a role in helping augment episodic memories as long as the user gets to decide what information is stored (i.e. a selective, not always-on recorder) and who the information is shared with. If the information is shared with everyone, then there may be privacy concerns. Also, I think it may be more beneficial to take snapshots of episodic memory like pictures, instead of complete videos so that people may use the picture to recall the experience, but not rely on a video to replace the experience, thinking that they can view it in the video at a later date.

I think as long as technology does not discourage true learning and human experience by becoming a proxy to human memory, it has a lot of advantages to offer in terms of memory augmentation. Privacy is also a big concern when it comes to recording personal information. But other than that memory augmentation technologies can really benefit people by temporarily saving information that is not needed in the long-term, contextualizing information for deeper processing, and helping people revisit information/events on-demand (e.g. flash cards or pictures).
I am interested in helping people contextualize information with augmented reality so that they can remember it better. For e.g. when listening to an audiobook or reading a paper book, we can use augmented reality to show users visuals related to what they are reading. In other words, we can make somewhat real-time illustrations for unillustrated books using augmented reality. Whenever I’m listening to audiobooks or reading other books, I always picture the content in my heads and it’s those visuals that help ingrain different details in my head.
When I was younger, I used to write my todo list on my hand. It’d be interesting in making AR technologies that let people annotate themselves with their todo list. I have heard of people who have short-term memory loss tattoo important information on their body. Maybe we can create those tattoos in augmented reality.
Another aspect of memory augmentation is related to helping people remember things better, i.e. learning. I am especially interested in the learning by doing methodology. I think interactive technologies in AR and VR can make it more engaging for people to learn mathematical and physical concepts by helping people visualize those concepts.
These are a few topics. I am happy to share relevant resources if you'd like me to :)
1. Pruning and memory (pruning is a broad area, but this maybe a relevant example:
2. Sleep and memory
3. Memory and music
15/02/2017 22:53:33
Nikhita Singh
The rise of ubiquitous computing has made it possible for us to reshape how we construct and recall memories in our daily lives. In fact, as Sparrow, Liu and Wegner suggest that the evolution of the Internet as an external memory source has already shifted how we remember in our everyday lives. While the notion of memory augmentation holds a great deal of promise, particularly for certain communities, it is not without its drawbacks. For some target groups—such as seniors with mental decline or those who have suffered damage from Alzeihmers, stroke or injuries—such technologies hold obvious benefits by affording the capacity to maintain a normal life. However, the benefits of memory augmentation can extend far beyond the obvious stakeholders. Such technologies can enable us to access unique knowledge about ourselves and evaluate situations more objectively. As Carey describes in “How We Learn”, our brain generates narratives around our memories and embeds them in our existing network of thoughts, desires, perceptions and feelings. With time, these memories evolve and change with us. Memory augmentation technologies can enable us to replay these memories as a mechanism for learning more about ourselves. This can be a powerful tool for developing skills, increasing productivity, and pursuing greater self-awareness. Beyond furthering our understanding of ourselves, this technology can provide unprecedented access to knowledge about the world, without the limitation of fading memories imposed by the brain. Overall, this could create a more “truth-driven” culture since information is easily retrievable and can be replayed. While these rewards offer a compelling picture, there are many perils to the implementation of such tools within a larger ecosystem. Most tactically, if memories can be stored and accessed, this poses significant security and privacy concerns. What does memory ownership look like? Who can access it? Under what circumstances? Can it be hacked? Additionally, as Carey demonstrates in “How We Learn”, forgetting actually acts as a “spam filter” and enables us to focus by blocking the background noise and highlighting what is important. Eliminating this ability could result in an overload of information and inhibit productivity and effective decision-making. Additionally, one could argue that our active choices to commit particular moments and information to memory plays a significant role in defining who we each are as an individual and thus leads to greater diversification within societies. In many ways, we are shaped not only by the actual memories themselves, but the narratives we build around them based on our own biases, perceptions and ideas. As we are able to look back at memories with greater objectivity through augmentation tools, we may become too focused on being “right” and compromise our ability to be truly empathetic towards others. While memory augmentation technologies do hold a great deal of promise, it is important to consider the interactions we design to avoid the potential ramifications in the future. We must look not only at the ability of these tools to benefit an individual, but also at the societal impact of creating communities with varied levels of access to such technologies and the interactions between them.The aging population presents as a compelling target user group for memory augmentation technologies. The senior population, particularly those suffering from mental decline, are often forced to live in assisted-living communities. However, research has shown that maintaining regular routines and independence longer can lead to greater wellbeing. Memory augmentation tools have the ability to help enable such affordances. Mental health is often a challenge at an older age; with families moving further apart, it is difficult to maintain traditional approaches to connecting. Memory augmentation tools could be used to create interactions where seniors are “nudged” with key happy memories from their past when feeling disheartened or just as part of their daily routines. Memory augmentation tools could also be used to promote positive behaviors and prevent forgetting of important tasks. For example, these technologies could be used by caretakers to check if a medication was taken or remind someone to take a particular medication if they haven’t. Seniors could also leverage memory augmentation tools to track and revisit their health needs over time including doctor visits, symptoms, conversations with caretakers etc. In fact, key third-party players could use the technology to help understand whether the individual is sufficiently maintaining the desired lifestyle. These tools could also be used to create powerful storytelling tools that enable seniors recall stories to their family and grandchildren.1. The potential of subliminal interfaces: Exploiting the science of physical intelligence
2. Changing thought patterns and behavioral habits (perhaps around how we can build models for and understand how “proactive” these technologies should be in a particular context)
3. How we can design fluid interactions/interfaces within the home setting
4. The implications of an ecosystem where some people have access to augmented intelligence technologies while others do not
15/02/2017 22:53:58
Anna Fuste
As machines get smarter, us, humans, are getting more and more excited about where this is going to take us. Machine learning, deep learning, size of memory units decreasing exponentially, neural networks, all for all, processes that can think for ourselves. All these new technologies are leveraging our abilities to predict, compute and remember. But at what cost? Our brains are getting used to being surrounded by answers. We are forgetting what is like to concentrate in order to pull something out of our mind, in order to remember. We don’t need it any more. A quick movement of our finger can give us answers to any question we may have. Is this making us 'dumber’? There is a clear shift of our brain processes to a new model based on the ability to find information not the ability to store it. Our brains are becoming more passive. We still face everyday situations where we have to activate our memory processes, however, new technologies and systems are slowly covering these needs. For all these reasons we have to design new systems that allow us to leverage our brain capabilities in front of this new landscape. It is not a matter of trying to force our mind to work like it did 50 years ago, but a matter of creating new technologies that adapt and evolve with our human evolution and that help us become better beings. The design and development of memory augmentation technologies have to help us in developing our brains, not focus on facilitating information retrieval. And the difference Furthermore, educating new generations becomes crucial on this whole process, as well as targeting groups with specific needs. Segmentation for personalization becomes an essential matter in order to maximize everyones capabilities and be able to understand one another. Photograph is an application to help seniors with memory loss. With an AR/VR HMD the user can focus on a picture and scan it. The system will analyze the picture and generate a virtual reality environment in realtime with images and sound that evoke the moment presented by the picture. The analysis would be done with a vision API. Colors and features would be extracted. The 3D environment would be an abstract environment but would be generated using the main colours of the photograph and silhouettes of the main elements detected by the vision API. For example, if a dog is detected, a silhouette of a dog would be present on the 3D environment and a dog barking sound would be played. Obviously, the 3D environment would be completely different from the 3D environment where the picture was created but it would evoke a feeling as it would retrieve certain aspects of that moment. We could track the biometric data of the user’s and see how this transportation to a certain moment affects their feelings and how it can improve the ability to remember.
I would also like to develop a project involving clothing and memory. Clothing is the first wearable created by humans and it is something we take with us 24 hours a day. It can gather a big amount of our day activities data and it can help us relate to others and improve our brain capabilities. I would like to develop some kind of textile badges that could be attached to the clothes and would relate to events at certain moments in life. In wearing those badges we would be relating to a certain event in the past. It would be like a keepsake from a good experience.
Augmenting Memory
Embodiment in Virtual Reality
Changing thought patterns and behavioral habits
Hybrid creativity: human-machine artists
I would like to suggest maybe a topic on communication and relationship with others. How wearables and body/mind augmentation can leverage the social dimension and the interpersonal communication with others.
16/02/2017 00:15:32Huili ChenMemory augmentation technologies could potentially help humans extend their memory capacities in the following ways. The external memory storage provided by technologies (e.g., Google Search) could function as part of our semantic memory network. When we need to recall factual information, we can easily use the technologies to retrieve. Thus, instead of remembering every detail of a given piece of information, we only need to remember the key words and phrases contained in this information. Thus, the memory augmentation techniques could release our burden of trying to remember unnecessary factual information. The effect of this reward becomes even more significant and evident nowadays in this globalized world where we are flooded with information coming from every corner of the world through either in-person communication or the Internet. In this sense, the technologies could potentially function as information filters for us, so we only need to remember what is important to us. In addition, the memory augmentation technologies would significantly benefit people who have either Alzheimer or hippocampus damage. Since this group of people have trouble forming new long-term memories despite fully functioning working memory, the technologies could enable them to easily retain and retrieve their past events and thus assist them with their daily life (e.g., daily routines). However, the memory augmentation technologies could be perilous if being used abusively. When people rely heavily on the technologies, the technologies may replace people’s problem-solving and critical thinking ability. We are not sure whether the technologies contain biases when forming memories for us. If humans just take all the information given by the technologies for granted without critically evaluating it, we may be unconsciously reinforcing the hidden biases in this artificial memory network.
The memory augmentation technologies could potentially play an important role in helping immigrants transition to new living environments and cultivating their cultural competence. It could be very hard and stressful for immigrants from different countries who have different cultures and speak different languages to adapt to a new society (e.g., Western society). Everything in this new society from food taste to school system is new to them. Their successful transition to the new environments is very critical for their overall wellbeing and career development. However, learning a new language and culture takes time, and could be overwhelming especially in the beginning, but immigrant children need to go to school and immigrant adults need to find jobs once they arrive in the new country. In other words, they will have to interact with the new society before they learn a new language and culture. In this case, memory augmentation technologies could perhaps help them with their daily life (e.g., where to buy food and how to say different types of food in the new language) in the beginning when they haven’t learned much about the new language and culture. Then, as their language ability increases and understanding of the new culture deepens, the technologies could be less and less pro-active and provide less and less help to the immigrants along the way.
I am very interested in the following topics: Augmenting expression, changing thought patterns and behavioral habits, , and the potential of subliminal interfaces.
16/02/2017 00:37:05
Michael Skuhersky
The rewards are unimaginable. In addition to obviously not having the limitatations of typical human memory, an augmented memory would allow for indefensible testimony. The only negative aspect to me personally would be the possibility that governments and hackers could possibly access your stored memories without your consent. Hopefully laws would allow for the right of people to encrypt their memories/have them legally protected.Perhaps, a head-up display that would use a facial recognition algorithm to identify and display info about people encountered in the course of work/school. This would simplify networking and remove the inconvinience of not remembering new faces.Brain Interfaces
16/02/2017 00:41:38
Yujie Hong
I think it's difficult for me to answer this question after I watched how memory augmentation technologies are designed and used in the Black Mirror movie. It kind of pre-defines the shapes of technologies, which I think maybe possible to go to different forms. I believe the rewards of memory augmentation technologies are: to increase people's working efficiency so they can cite all relevant knowledge they learnt before quickly in order to solve the current problems; to revisit the experience of failure and success from the past to inform better planning for the future; and to cherish certain moments in life for emotional needs. The perils of memory augmentation technologies are: increasing difficulties in managing privacy issues; emerging problems of privilege systems; and potential overload of information for individuals. The other readings explain how the biology of memory works and how technology has become an external memory system for human.I recommend watching the Counterclockwise-BBC documentary by Prof Ellen Langer where she conducted a study simulating a 1970's setting to bring subjects (the elderly) back in time. Subjects were assigned some tasks in this study such as takes charge of a party as host. It is found from the study that the more engaged subjects are in currently activities, the more energetic they are. After the study, they showed improvement in cognitive abilities and walking abilities, things like that. I'm interested in designing memory augmentation applications to "rewind" people's age in life. So hopefully, it can contributes to the healthcare for the elderly.Sensory substitution and augmentation; or Motor augmentation and substitution/ Skin augumentation
16/02/2017 00:43:59
John Stillman
I think that memory augmentation promises to improve the educational development of learners with poor working memory skills. Students with decreased memory function, even those who are otherwise very intelligent, are often at a disadvantage performing a sequence of complex mental tasks. Assistive technology that helps bridge gaps in short term memory could enable memory challenged students to perform at peer level. I would like to experiment with assistive technology that helps bridge gaps in short term memory. It would like to see if using AR to visually organize complex tasks into more manageable sets of subtasks could help people with memory deficiencies. I’m particularly interested to see if this would be helpful for “twice exceptional” kids (i.e. smart students with learning differences) since they have the intelligence to do complex work but are hampered the inability to visualize these tasks using short-term memory.Since memory issues are often comorbid with attention issues like ADHD I would also like to experiment with BCIs that monitor a student’s beta/theta brain wave ratios to monitor focus and help redirect attention when appropriate.
16/02/2017 00:52:40
Christian Vazquez
Augmented Memory seems like the next logical step in human augmentation. In fact, the augmentation of memory is already present in our daily lives. Think of every time you pull out your phone and query the Internet to gain that “argumentative edge” in a conversation. Think about how we used to learn the phone numbers of friends and family before the age of smartphones. Nowadays, we can’t remember more than a handful of them, because it’s no longer necessary. Information is stored in our devices (e.g. phones) or distributed in the cloud. That is perhaps the most troubling angle regarding memory augmentation, without the proper policies, everything becomes superfluous, because everything is available. This is supported in “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips”, where the user studies showed that recall of information is lower if we know that the information will be readily available to us. Sparrow presents this tests this argument on computer systems that are not “always on” or wearable. But if augmentation occurs similar to how it is exposed in “The Entire History of You”, where information is not only readily available to us, but it is also embedded into our biology, this effect can be insidious to the development of our memory. Nevertheless, it is arguable that if the machine can store all the information around us, this would allow our minds to focus on information it really cares about, like the development of new skills and learning. In “How we Learn”, the author presents the notion of “Forget To Learn”, which posits that forgetting is a vital part of learning. If this is the case, then the phenomena observed by Sparrow would not necessarily deter learning, but enhance it by allowing the clutter of our world be handled by the machine as opposed to our brain. I believe that memory augmentation is a nuanced topic with many pitfalls. I’m particularly interested in what it means for privacy. In the Black Mirror episode, authorities in the airport requested access to footage of the fliers. Likewise, the job interview was accompanied by a much-dreaded “Redo”, where employers could simply use your day-to-day activity to judge you. Having access to an augmented memory could allow us to revisit beautiful moments of our life, however, the nature of things we would like to revisit is often shifting. A soothing memory today can become a painful reminder tomorrow. What might seem meaningless data to us can be used to exploit us if not safeguarded correctly.It would be interesting to develop memory augmentation depending on the cognitive state of a person. For instance, instead of my group being “senile adults”, I’d be interested in memory augmentation for intoxicated people. One of the problems of alcohol consumption is that beyond a certain level of intoxication, the person becomes incapable of forming memories adequately. This is normally known as a “blackout”, and is surprisingly common among social drinkers. A memory augmentation tool could go as follows. The user activates a “going-to-drink” mode, which records information about the user’s interactions using a head-mounted camera. Other implementations of the system could detect when the user is intoxicated and activate the camera when the condition is met. This would allow the user to revisit lost moments the morning after. Such an implementation could help with many problems that arise from blackouts (e.g. rape). The implementation could go beyond footage (if privacy is a concern). It could take pictures periodically or track the GPS signal of the user’s phone to give a view of the localities the user visited during the intoxicated state. Furthermore, it could also use facial detection to trigger images when the user is interacting with a person, such that a compiled list of people the user interacted with is readily available.It would be interesting to delve into the privacy concerns that arise with memory augmentation. Furthermore, a view of how policies could be implemented in society to circumvent the dangers of “always on” memory augmentation solutions. The affective side effects of memory augmentation are another relevant topic. What does it mean for me to have every single moment at my fingertips? How does the technology prevent obsessive behaviors from developing?
16/02/2017 03:15:37
Ishaan Grover
There are certain tasks at which humans are better than machines while others at which machines are better than humans. In particular, machines are better at storing and retrieving vast amounts of information. Humans, on the other hand are better at inductive and deductive reasoning given the information (barring a few domains). According to the readings, research has shown that people have a higher tendency to remember information when they believe they won't have access to it later as opposed to when they believe they would. Moreover, humans tend to better recall where they stored certain information compared to the information itself. In light of the above facts, I believe that people try to augment their memories to optimize some task function. It could either be reducing cognitive load or perhaps faster retrieval of information. Memory augmentation has enabled people to accumulate relevant facts about a huge variety of topics very quickly. They are then able to process these facts to come up with meaningful insights. This symbiosis certainly seems like an optimal way to function and produce value at first glance. However, this symbiosis comes at a cost. Retrieving information is usually faster when it is stored within the brain itself. Moreover, when this information is present within the brain, it is used to inform daily decisions, affect other thoughts and sometimes our behavior too. When memory is augmented, we lose out on the advantage of knowledge enriching different parts of our lives. Memory augmentation could be a part of the google glass. As we live our lives, the glass could constantly record everything that's happening around us at any given time. At a later time, we could query the glass to provide information, perhaps a video clip, of any given point in time. This would take up a lot of space, but we could have a rolling window after which memories are deleted. This way, every single minute of our lives sits in our augmented memory. People with mental decline could use augmented memory to record little things they know they have a tendency to forget or misplace. In fact, eventually the device could learn patterns on which objects the human is most likely to lose and keep track of it at all times. Children could use memory augmentation to better their learning abilities by having the augmented memory device quiz them on any topic they like. I would like to present on one of the following topics:
1. Embodiment in VR
2. Changing thought patterns and behavioral habits
16/02/2017 05:31:54
Alexandra Rieger
Memory augmentation technologies are rewarding yet accompanied by likely perils and associated risks. The initial instinct is to weigh the benefits of augmented memory tools against the risks of employing these changes. However, as one cannot be separated from the other, it is more valuable to explore aspects of augmentation and the associated shortcomings, much like medication packet comes with a side effects warning label. In line with the article by Sparrow, Liu and Wegner, I consider a site like google to be a kind of memory augmentation tool, due to our documented reliance upon it. According to this work, one is likely to assume more knowledge over a subject due to having google easily accessible. Although this nearly-instantaneous “outsourced” retrieval process is practical for our increasingly fast-paced world, as UCLA’s Robert and Elizabeth Bjork uncovered, there is a fine balance between retrieval and storage. According to the Bjorks research highlighted in Benedict Carey’s book ‘How We Learn', when we work hard “to retrieve a memory, the greater the subsequent spike in retrieval and storage strength.” By outsourcing this retrieval process, although we may truly have stored this fact from a quick browse through google, the level of accessibility weakens our ability to manually retrieve the memory. On a more extreme level, the Black Mirror Episode, The Entire History Of You, raises questions of memory augmentation devices that are more intrusive. After having her grain stolen, the character Hallam experiences a loss of memory from the times she relied upon the grain. This raises the concern of storage and loss. To a lesser degree, we have all experienced some form of this when a phone breaks or a computer crashes. The question arises: as we come to rely more upon external memory, are we putting our most valuable memories at risk? Maryanne Garry, a psychology professor at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has explored the ever increasing phenomena of photography. Photographs alone are a form of external memory now used more frequently than ever before, often on a digital device. Studies she has conducted reveal although photographs can cue constructed memories from early childhood one would normally not remember, photographed memories tend to have marked differences from non photographed memories. Furthermore, our focus on how we capture memories in our smart-phones through angles and zooms can distance us from being in the moment, something the Black Mirror characters likely experienced. Although our grains are not implanted, we all have a sort of “grain system" on our smartphone photo/video albums. This brings into question aspects of memory filtering discussed in Carey’s book and raises questions related to filtering and memory prioritization, vital in preventing sensory overloads and allowing us to recall that which is relevant and of social importance. Memory Augmentation Technology: Sonic Memory Cuing Interface
Target User Group: Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimers
Whether in the work of Gottfried Schlaug or the writings of Oliver Sacks, the connection between patients diagnosed with Alzheimers and their response to music is well documented. These studies reveal that for patients with Alzheimers, hearing music from youth leads to a momentary spark of remembrance via association with the particular song. Furthermore, increased emotional valence and positive mood often accompany this occurrence. It would be interesting to create a form of musical cueing system that would allow patients diagnosed with Alzheimers to experience their world more richly through a curated playlist: triggered by people, places or events. Although the longterm benefits (once the music has ended) do not tend to show significance, a wearable device that gives an individual personalized reference to their current surroundings could greatly improve quality of life and overall wellbeing. One could envision this technology as a customizable platform that would allow the patient to begin entering personalized sonic associations shortly after diagnosis in the hopes that these cues will support them in their later years.
I am highly interested in presenting a topic in the realm of: Sensory substitution and augmentation, especially as I have explored facets of cross-modal correspondence and am an amateur practitioner of echolocation.
16/02/2017 09:07:45
Chrisoula Kapelonis
Memory augmentation is the holy grail of wearable Machines are good for storage and indexing, and human brains are great at patterns and relationships. So with the fusion of a brain-machine memory bank, humans would have the ability to access essentially an infinite trove of information without relying on the original biological limitations of their brain. The interesting thing is that the content doesn’t necessarily need to exist in hardware in the brain itself, but can merely be a bridge that interfaces with the brain and a cloud system. Or it could be a mechanism for triggering specific neurons to learn a new memory or skill, one that understands the patterning of the brain, and doesn’t rely on information already learned. The advantages of a system like this is the extraordinary extension of the human brain, the ability to focus on the now, and not clutter the brain with information, and the ability to recall anything, even if you were not focusing on it initially. It can also allow the brain to learn by itself, as a codifying of the neuron structures to implant memories/skills. With all these positives though, come an entire set of disadvantages. With an infinite trove of accessible information, the brain could possibly lose its ability to remember anything long term, leaving humans to rely completely on the augmentation for their existence (since we tend to remember how to access information more than the information itself if we know we can find it at a later date). It can also start to turn education and knowledge obsolete. If we can access anything at any time, or fabricate the experience of it inside our minds, then what is knowledge if it is accessible by everyone and anyone? What becomes the new meaning of intelligence? And finally, some other large disadvantage of a hyper-memory augmentation system is the distortion of the native way the biological brain works. Since we reinforce and strengthen neurons, with a memory-augmentation system, we might start to rewire the way the brain interfaces with neurons. And this could be a huge disadvantage if an external memory system were to fail, rendering us useless without it. An interesting application for a memory augmentation system would be for musicians and composers. Since motor memory is also a form of memory, could a memory augmentation system allow an aspiring violinist to learn the instrument instantaneously, or a seasoned pianist to learn to play the way Chopin did for one concert, and then adopt the motor skills of Bach for another? When we think of memory, we often think about information, but could the triggering or downloading of our motor memory skills also make us physically talented? Another application for musicians and composers could be the elimination of scores. Musical scores are tools for translating the musical memories of one person’s mind, to be physically performed by another. So essentially, with a memory augmentation interface, a composer could essentially improvise a piece, or compose a piece in their mind, and automatically send the neuron activation to a player performing in another part of the world. They could also technically send and implant their pieces directly to the minds of their fans as “ear-worms” (songs that get stuck in your mind on repeat) instead of releasing albums. “Plays” could equate to how many times fans access that piece in their devices. Skin augmentation / Motor augmentation and substitution
16/02/2017 10:58:41
Yedan Qian

One fascinating features of our brain is to retrieve the relevant information when a certain circumstances/information appears and to associate and connect them to form new meanings. With augmented memory, the process of association will be even more advance with a larger information pool and quicker access. Ultimately, we will have much higher chance to connect the hidden dots in this huge world through our long life, to find patterns, connections and create more ideas. The high risk for internal memory enhancement lies in the information overload. The more we remember/store, the harder we can filter out/bury the useless information and retrieve the relevant ones at right moment. And if we extend our memory externally, the risk might be privacy and security.
1) A memory device help people with mental decline to recall important moments: Whenever it recognizes the high arousal level moment through EEG&GSR, it records a short 360 video together and plays an unique soundscape that matches the emotion and context. Later, the visuals and sound can be the cue for memorizing that specific moment. 2) Using priming & chunking in language learning interface: let the user not focus on just one word but multiple ones with association simultaneously. For example, when learning “Apple”, there are random relevant words that you may or may not know all around “Apple”, such as “cut”, “skin”, “pie”, “electronics”, “forest”, “red”, “seed”, “worm”, “Steve Jobs”, “tree”, “peel”, “cinnamon”… And by moving around in the interface, you put new word in the center which attracts new words appearing around it. It can also be combined with images, a storytelling large image includes many illustrations of relevant words and it can be shown in 3D in a way that corresponds to their categories. Augmenting Intuition: Intuition is responsible for Problem Solving (Inferential & Holistic), Unconscious Decision Making (Judgement, Assertion, and Actions), Pattern & Cue Recognition (Context Framing & Recognition), Response Modulation & Replay (Habit Patterns) and Prediction (Cascading computation, Pre-sentience, Precognition, and Premonition).
16/02/2017 10:59:09
Laya Anasu
Memory augmentation sounds wonderful in many ways as a first reaction. Enhancing our memories to remember details that can provide us with help in crucial moments would be useful and could potentially make our lives more efficient. There have been moments when I’ve really needed to remember a password that I’ve only used a few times to log in to a specific place that I would only log in to a few specific important times. I’ve forgotten these passwords and have had to go through a long process figuring them out, wasting time and mental/physical energy. If I had some memory augmentation technology or technique in that moment, I could save that time and energy. I think, thus, the possible rewards of memory augmentation technologies is that they can help us be more efficient and save time in moments where we are dealing with passwords, facts, events, etc. I also think memory augmentation technologies can be highly useful in cases in which a person or organization is lying with nefarious/negative intentions and are denying their true intentions. Memory augmentation technologies, such as the one featured in the Black Mirror episode, could reveal who has committed a crime, who is guilty, who is in the wrong. I do think the criminal justice system would be very impacted by memory augmentation tech. Eyewitness accounts specifically, because eyewitness accounts of crimes are not the most accurate. If eyewitness memory was perfect, then evidence would be stronger and a person could be rightfully convicted of a crime. On the flip side, I think memory augmentation technologies can have some dangerous aspects. As discussed in one of the readings, forgetting is not exactly failure. Forgetting can be beneficial. Forgetting can let us focus on what's really important to us. And also, we can forget painful memories, traumatic memories. We forget facts and events that are no longer relevant to our lives. We forget the way we learned something so we can learn it in a new, more accurate way. Having memories of painful things or inaccurate things might bother our minds in negative ways and cause us to act in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others. Perhaps, being overwhelmed by strong memories of negative or traumatic events, someone might be driven to harm themselves. I think memory augmentation technologies can also be harmful in the way that people do ease on trying to memorize things they think they have access to later, as mentioned in one of the readings. I think a classic example I think of is phone numbers. I only remember mine, and maybe around 5 other peoples’ numbers. I’m fine as long as I have my phone or a device that has internet, cause I can figure out numbers I need. If I was without my phone and without a device that had internet and really needed to contact someone, I would probably have no way to. This is dangerous in a way. I’m relying on some other technology to keep the memory of something important to me. When that "other technology” is gone, a part of me is really affected. In some cases, I may not be able to function as well. My thoughts, identity, and memories are compromised to an extent. In this way, I think memory augmentation technologies can be dangerous. As I am about to think of an answer this question, I am listening to music on Spotify and getting distracted by the lyrics (or the approximation of sounds that make up lyrics) that I remember (I’m listening to music in Albanian currently, a language that I do not know). Not only do I get distracted by the sounds that I know, but I also know that I will be disrupted if there is something random entered in the music, something that doesn’t quite click with the beat of the music or ‘sound right’. This, of course, will work across languages and musical genres. If I know a song and am familiar with it, anything placed in it that will be 'off' will capture my attention and interest. So I wonder, if for the target user group of "language learners", maybe go a little deeper and say, "casual language learners", we can create a tool that allows words to be replaced in popular songs that a person is listening to. Target language can be decided upon by the user, and this tool or system would be aware of what was on the user’s playlist and slowly start to switch in words from the target language into the song so then a user can directly notice new words and start to grow curious about those words. Language learning would be rather naturally infused into daily life of a user because people listen to music quite regularly. And it wouldn’t be super disruptive or unnatural. I think this could be a cool way to get people learning language and remembering vocab words and jargon in a natural way. This same type of technology could also be present in a smart home setting. Your home could interact with you (Alexa, for example), and respond to your questions or to the words you say in another language, so you are able to practice your language in a way that is also pretty natural and not super disruptive.
Sensory substitution and augmentation
Brain Interfaces
16/02/2017 11:31:25
Wenying Wu
Memory augmentation technologies could completely change our perception of the world. The fact that we might be able to access our memory via another medium create new problems in security and privacy. The possibility of revisiting our old memories opens up opportunities in interpreting past events. We might become more invested in the past and more dependent on our gadgets now that we can go back as many times as we want. Information will become more pervasive and our ability to memorize things might decrease given that everything will be saved.Memory augmentation technologies could help children memorize school material, seniors to revisit their old past when they are experiencing mental decline or memory loss and personal detectives to investigate crime scenes. For an average Joe, memory augmentation could help them replay information that they need to revisit. There are also many entertainment possibilities in which others could be invited to watch memories together. Memories could become movies; reality TV shows, concerts or even virtual reality games. The technology could help with contextual inquiry, storytelling and facilitating empathy in the UX research process.current memory augmentation technology, implantable memory chips, wearable memorization aid
16/02/2017 11:50:13
Juan Pablo Ugarte
I would like to discuss a peril of memory augmentation associated with the evolutionary purpose of memory, and how it relates to the mental representations of people that we construct in our brains and use in social interactions. As Carey (2015) explains, forgetting has an essential role in adaptive behaviors, such as blocking one’s native customs and adopting new ones when moving from one culture to another. This characteristic of our memory —the fact that our memories’ storage and retrieval strength changes in time, and also that they are actually altered each time they are retrieved and re-stored— might play an important role in having healthy social relationships. It follows then that by changing the ways in which our memory works, we may very much change the nature of our social relationships.
In order to perform as social beings, we need our brain to produce mental representations of the people we socially interact with. To be useful, these representations must contain information that is relevant to the nature of a social relationship at a given time. This means these mental representations are specific and need to discern what is important from what is not. Furthermore, they also need to be able to change in time to reflect the changes in the nature of our social relationships to different individuals, which requires our brains to be able to selectively add and remove information from them as needed. We might start a professional relationship with a person that can later become romantic to finally end up as platonic.
If we somehow augmented our memory such that we couldn’t forget anything, then our ability to maintain these dynamic, specific and selective, adaptive mental representations of our social relationships could be hindered. This is what occurred, to some extent, to Liam in “The entire history of you”. His ability to remember every minutia of his relationship with his wife, at the end caused their (probable) rupture. And at the end, pushed him to actually remove his memory-storing device in order to forget, to unlearn what he had learned about her, in order to move on —whether that was forgetting or forgiving her.
On the other hand, a possible reward of a memory-augmentation technology such as the one presented in “The entire history of you”, could be augmenting empathy by easily allowing oneself to experience others’ experiences. Infusing memories with the capacity to be shared with others would allow people to not only see what others see, but arguably feel what others feel as well (think of mirror neurons on steroids). Furthermore, it could open the doors to shed light on some unanswered questions about perception. Although this idea was not explored in the series episode (probably for the sake of plot simplicity), it is not too far-fetched to speculate that the way memories are construed depends to a great extent on our perceptual apparatus. In other words, they reflect and encapsulate how we perceive the world. Therefore, sharing memories would not only allow us to learn a little more about how others experience the world. It would also provide a window to see how they perceive it. The possibilities to better understand the nature of the human mind and perception that memory sharing could support would certainly be fascinating.
Carey (2015) explains that our brain stores memories made of different data. Using the case of Henry Molaison, he explains that while H.M could not store “typical” memories —like new names or new faces— his brain could still register new motor information conducing to developing new physical skills —like tracing a star, or using walkers. In light of that evidence, augmenting motor memory seems as plausible as augmenting “traditional” memory.
Very much like it happens with programming-by-demonstration —i.e. robots whose motions are programmed by a human operator that physically moves the robot— one could “program” a psychomotor system doted with enhanced memory. The applications could be multiple, from learning how to play an instrument or dance, to learning a craft or to perform an assembly operation. Moreover, augmented psychomotor memory could also be used in physical therapy with rehabilitation purposes. With such a diverse field of possible applications, several target groups could benefit from it, although it would probably make sense to be applied in fully developed muscular systems. The system could be based on wearable devices —exoskeletons or other types of haptic interfaces.
Mastering any kind of dexterous physical activity depends also in one’s ability to improvise and deal with contingencies. However, it is possible to think that when using augmented psychomotor memory to learn to perform a new activity, users would only need to memorize a certain number of different motion patterns before their brains could interpolate between and extrapolate from them. In other words, it would only require that much memorizing before the brain had actually learned a new skill to the point of adapting already interiorized and mastered motion patterns in new scenarios —i.e. improvising. Let’s use guitar playing as an example to further clarify this point. Using augmented psychomotor memory, one could teach one’s hands to play a specific musical piece on the guitar. Nonetheless, that wouldn’t mean that one could play any other piece without further memorization, as the hand would be trained to only play that particular piece. However, after learning many different pieces, it would be possible that the brain had enough information and experience to be able to fill gaps on its own. At that point, the brain would have actually learned the skill of playing guitar, rather than merely memorized it, allowing oneself to play new pieces without further need of memorization. What would be potentially groundbreaking about augmented psychomotor memory and its effects on learning is that one’s creative capacities are in part informed by one’s repertoire of physical abilities. Therefore, this memory augmentation technology could potentially augment, to some degree at least, our creative capacities.
I would like to present on Motor augmentation and substitution. It could also be interesting to dig deeper on the neurological basis of motor augmentation and substitution (like the illusion of owing a third arm) and also the neurological basis of human-robot collaboration (for example, the activation of mirror neurons in human-robot interactions, see Gazzola et al. 2007 [])
16/02/2017 11:58:51
Sophia Yang
Memory augmentation technologies could potentially cure diseases and help humans become better decision makers in life. An ever present life experience recorder have the potential to increase the amount of access we have to fading memories that we could’ve enjoyed revisiting. We might be able to increase the accuracy of our recall and reduce decision making biases caused by recency effects or false memories. It could also serve as a prosthetic to those who had damaged hippocampus and can’t form new memories again. Technologies that allow us to edit emotional associations with memories might cure people with post traumatic stress disorder. Similar to other high potential technologies, there is a danger for the misuse and abuse of memory enhancing and editing technologies. Would people be satisfied with memory augmentation technologies being accessible only as a prosthetic? With an uneven distribution of wealth and power, would the divide between the haves and the have nots become greater as a result of varying degrees of effectiveness in people’s memory augmentation tools? On a personal level, there’s always the risk of over-reliance on technology assisted memory which might cause us to decrease our ability to recall the actual information that makes up our personality. From a societal perspective, memory editing techniques might reduce personality diversity that make up wonderful things about humanity. There might be a dynamic where those who feel, think and act differently might be pressured to undergo memory alterations to become more “normal”. For seniors with mental decline, an ever present life recording device could serve as a mental aid similar to reading glasses. The challenge when designing for this audience lies in the navigation model. Would they be able to remember the path to specific memories if they’re experiencing mental decline? What kind of information grouping would make the most sense to them? How would the level of augmentation evolve with their mental capacities? Those are relevant design questions for a population who’s memory capacities are constantly in flux. A similar group would be children who’s brains are still under rapid development. While it’s tempting to help them do well in school by expanding their memory storage, increase their working memory and groom them for emotional intelligence; the risk associated with over dependence, social economical inequality and self image issues will be extremely important to consider. We can already see the side effects of memory augmentation technologies such as auto correct. Many people lose their ability to spell correctly by hand because they’re used to the wrong spelling tolerable by their auto correct engines. In this case, the benefit of writing correctly spelled words faster may outweigh the side effect, and people may be able regain hand writing accuracy by using the white board more often. In the future, will over dependance on technology be easily reversed? Perhaps we could focus on using technology to help people develop better innate abilities to process and recall information. Especially for children, while their brains are still under active development, can we use technology to augment their brains biologically? Instead of recording externally and only consult the human brain for information retrieval needs, can we use brain stimulation and mnemonics to help enhance people’s abilities to record and retrieve information using their biological brain? Can we view memory augmentation technologies as learning aids instead of prosthetics for people with a normal hippocampus? For example, we could help people make lasting memories by presenting old memories that connects best with new experiences. Assume we have a perfect life logging and indexing technology, we could help people form more meaningful connections among their life experiences by presenting interesting ways to thread their memories together. They might use this tool to discover new understandings and patterns from their lives. When they encounter a new situation, our technology could present various possible connections that would help them process, categorize and make meaning. This tool might even serve as people’s creative assistants, shuffling existing memories together based on lose or strong connections. I love the topics presented in this course, I think it touches on most of the subjects I enjoy reading on my leisure time. It would be interesting to explore ways machines could help humans become more creative, and potential methods for human machine collaboration to be more than command and control. I'm looking forward for the brain machine interface section. I think there are lots of potential for human augmentation when we increase the bandwidth of human computer communication.
16/02/2017 13:15:32
Saul Lustgarten
Memory augmentation has many potential benefits. As humans are exposed to more and more information, being able to retain and recall it can help both with the synthesis of information and its use. If we could remember better, we could spend less time and resources on retention and more on other activities, thus increasing our productivity and creativity. However, it also has pitfalls. First, if we are not careful it could make inequality even worse by making the play field uneven (what happens to those who can’t “afford” the new technology?). Second, it could create dangerous dependencies on the technology. Today we ‘ve become dependent on our phones to navigate the city through gps to the point where if we don’t have reception, we may not know how to get from a to b. Imagine if every time we lost reception we also lost our memory. Third, we need to consider the security implications of memory augmentation. For example, someone could “corrupt” our memories to their benefit or capture them under ransom (as is already being reported with pictures and other sensitive information).Target group: Alzheimer patients. One of the current methods for trading patients with Alzheimers is to surround them with memories from their past so that they don’t “forget” who they are. As baby boomers and subsequent generations age, they accumulate a wealth of pictures and videos with geotags but people seldom have the time to look back on them. Sometimes, you even forget you took a picture. One potential technology could be to create an A/R platform where you can see past memories as you visit places. Imagine you are back in town where you grew up, you could see videos/pictures you took in those different locations to relive those memories and improve their recollection. Another pain point for this population is feeling disoriented. One potential technology to help cope with this would be a kind of personal assistant that “speaks” to you through a headphone providing context for the reality you see. For example, as you see your sons and daughters, it could remind you of their names, who they are, etc.subliminal interfaces, mindfulness augmentation
17/02/2017 09:37:03
Mariana Luna
The Ancient Greeks used to place Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, in the underworld. She presided over a pool in the underworld, where there was also another pool, Lethe, the pool of oblivion. In order to be reborn souls had to drink from the pool of oblivion - but initiated souls had to drink alternately from both pools. My study of memory began years ago, primarily as a literary analysis. I've spent many years thinking about the significance of it. As a filmmaker too, I spend many hours editing material, which is precisely viewing it over and over again as in the Black Mirror episode we watched. This brings up the great writer Jorge Luis Borges, whose "On Exactitude in Science" describes a map of the world so precise that the scale became equal or greater than the territory itself. Umberto Eco, inspired by Borges, wrote "On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on a Scale of 1 to 1"... Indeed, the etymological and literary histories of thought about memory, thought about thought, metacognition, have probably been going on as long as humans have been the weird sorts of beings that we are, for its perhaps this very faculty of self-reflection collapsing time and space that creates vast opportunities for pattern-recognition, thereby enabling tool-making, and systems of symbolic representation that are highly developed to such a degree that we can collectively access and use the memory of much of humanity. We appear to be getting closer and closer to a point at which the entire earth, if it does not already, feels like a brain with a central nervous system called the Internet (and increasingly Internet of Things). This giant head of a planet looks deep into space with monolithic eyes that can sense decaying light with staggering accuracy and depth - deep space astronomy is supported by neural nets. Scale. We could describe this as a process of collapsing the dimensions of time and space into a dimensional reality that increasingly erases their difference. But the problem presented in the literature of Borges, Eco, and others dating back even to Dante and St. Augustine in the Middle Ages is indeed in many ways a problem of autobiography which is really about how the individual sees herself and her world, the universe and one's place in it. It's a metaphysical problem, and increasingly metaphysical problems are problems in the domains of physics and science as much as they are problems of philosophy. The etymology of the verb, "to remember" shares a root with the word for "heart" (French modern "core", English "core", Spanish "recordar") - this also gets at the profound relationship between memory and emotion. We have strong emotional reactions to things that are evolutionarily important to recall - the face of a loved one or a friend and faces in general; we recall a moment when we may have been starving and found a place to eat; we remember in great detail the trauma of a terrible event; soldiers and others who suffer PTSD are caught between the trauma of a stressful event and an evolutionary capacity for survival (remembering and hence surviving). And so, I think it's hard to imagine precisely what the rewards and perils of memory augmentation are, but I would propose that thinking about this problem must include thinking about memory as a system - not simply remembering, but also forgetting. Mnemosyne AND Lethe. That of course brings up a series of new problems. How do we learn to forget? What are the implications of augmentation of forgetting. There are problems in that line of possibilities as well for sure. But it's also an exciting and rich imaginary indeed. How do we integrate? At the heart/at the core, of this is, not only a rich contemporary literature of neuroscience but a long tradition in art that itself should offer insights about ourselves to ourselves and this aspect of our being, which is not only individual (as it may seem from one view upon our contemporary world) but, increasingly, collective. It seems the most beneficial and best case being made for this at present pertains to neurotechnologies based on study of pathology, which is often correlated to the elderly. The problem is of course also one that it makes sense to study through pathology because it gives one a sense of how memory declines. In such cases the use seems not only augmentative but actually corrective and beneficial in pragmatic ways that restore the elderly person on a more even keel with their environment. I could imagine, for example, an elderly person with Alzheimer's not forgetting things immanent to their safety and family bonds. Such a corrective condition lies on plain of conditions that is, I would argue, radically different than memory augmentation for those who have relatively normative functional memory functioning. For me, the latter case is the radical departure. I think the Alzheimer's patient scenarios and the scenarios of pathology will be the entry point to the proliferation of memory augmentation technologies. Thus, as we think about this it seems productive to both think about the progression of how augmented memory tech may roll out beginning with corrective purposes and progressing on to augmentation. I have begun to design an AR tool that is a kind of sonar-inducing cognitive processing device. But it's a training tool - so that the purpose of it is to train the brain/body to see in new ways and exploit a synesthetic merging of specifically sound, images, and mathematical calculations. I imagine this as a kind of visual ear training device that is fun to use and simultaneously, through that fun, teaches, especially children, relationships between acoustics and mathematics so that an intuition for dimensionality, geometry, and images is embedded in the way we process information. My process for this began with my training as a musician, and while I was studying music at the Juilliard School I met people who worked on synesthesia and its high incidence of relationships to perfect pitch. I continued to do research in synesthesia, which is a major strand of how my interest in neuroscience and machine learning developed. I have since begun conversations about this with computational neuroscientists at McGovern and other places. I will do more active research on this when I'm at the COSYNE (computational systems neuroscience) conference next week, and would love to present some early iterations/explorations of this work to the group. I'm also inspired by the work of composer and engineer Stephen Malinowski of which this is one example:
17/02/2017 10:55:50
Stefania Druga
The readings made me think of how technology could enhance and also limit memory. The first chapter from "How we learn" was very inspiring as it showed how learning in the form of remembering and creating connection can be enhanced when integrated in the daily life so one could associate new learned concepts with usual tasks or events. In that regard I think wearable devices could help for enhancing associations of words, concepts, new information and situate in our specific contexts. The examples of studies around interleaving techniques and spacing over time also made me think how an augmentation agent could be a buddy to remind us when /where it would be the best time revisit something we learned in the past. The second reading was revealing in regards to potential perils of memory augmentation in the form of constant access to information. I think not having to memorize everything and knowing where to find information can be very powerful but discerning what pieces of knowledge are best to be internalized is crucial.I am imagining creating a game for elders that would help them memorize things by associating location and music, very similar to how aboriginals would create their musical and proximity based maps. Personalized learning, AI for kids, Physical Data
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