Someone comes up with a drug, or a technology, that gives the user perfect recall, the ability to rerun, in full detail, any part of his life. How would it get used?
One possibility is for self-education. Observing selected past experiences with a fifty year old mind and seventeen year old eyes might teach me a good deal about mistakes I had made, some of which I might still be making. It might provide information about what it was like to be seventeen useful in dealing with current teenagers, including my own children. In life as it now is, we get to see each episode only once. As any video game player could tell you, being able to play the same events over and over makes it possible to greatly improve your skill. In my hypothetical, unlike a video game, you don't get to try different tactics and see what happens. But you do get to see repeated replays of what you did the first time and the results.
Another possibility is entertainment. You can rerun, over and over again, your happiest, most exciting moments. Replace internet porn with memories of your first, or best, sex. Watch a reality show that was real, with yourself as star.
There is, however, a potential down side. After things go wrong, a marital breakup, a business failure, an election loss, it is tempting to go over it again and again, agonizing over what you did wrong and what you should have done. Now you can do it in living color. Forever.
The version of this scenario I have just described is probably impossible, since there is no reason to believe that a full record of my past is actually stored anywhere in my brain. But a different version, enabled by a different technology, might well come into existence in the not too distant future.
Consider a world with greatly improved surveillance
, a much advanced version of video cameras on poles combined with face recognition software and database technology. In that world, David Brin's Transparent Society
, everything that happens in a public place is recorded and findable
. And once we have video cameras with the size and aerodynamic characteristics of mosquitoes, practically every place is public.
If the system is open access we are back with perfect recall. I am no longer watching my past life through the eyes of my past self, but I still get to watch it.
I was born too early. But it might be reality for my future grandchildren.