Thursday, 10 November 2011

"Memories. You're talking about memories."

Our current project is focusing on the impact of dementia and the importance memories hold for people. During our briefing we were shown a brief clip of Bladerunner. I have been desperate to watch it ever since (one of my favourite films ever, thanks to my dad's love of 80s sci-fi), and tonight decided to indulge.
It's a very interesting thing to consider; how our memories essentially shape our personalities. In Bladerunner it suggests how memories may be the very thing that make us human. In an early scene, Deckard interviews a replicant (artificial human) to demonstrate that the replicant detection test is effective. The replicant, Rachel, is only exposed as non-human after over 100 test questions, when on average he guesses that 30 is roughly the standard amount needed. This is because Rachel is unaware that she is a replicant. She has been implanted with memories to make her more human, giving her a false past so that emotionally she is more mature.
Deckard: She's a replicant, isn't she?
Tyrell: I'm impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot one? 
Deckard:  I don't get it, Tyrell...
Tyrell: How many questions? 
Deckard: Twenty/thirty cross-referenced. 
Tyrell: It took more than a hundred for Rachel, didn't it? 
Deckard: She doesn't know. 
Tyrell: She's beginning to suspect, I think. 
Deckard: Suspect? How can it not know what it is? 
Tyrell: Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. 'More human than human' is our motto. Rachel is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognise in them a strange obsession, after all, they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we give them the past, we create a cushion or pillow for their emotions and consequently we can control them better. 
Deckard: Memories. You're talking about memories.
If it is true that memory is a key part of being human, the thought of losing it is a terrifying prospect. Without memories, the replicants in the film only exist to serve someone else's purpose for them. They have no chance to explore their own dreams or consider their own experiences to have much worth. Their lives are an empty existence.
Memories teach us how to live; they remind us of our own actions and experiences, and so we act based on our knowledge of our lives so far. Losing these memories essentially makes us less functional. Concentrating on our past is important for everyone, it reminds us of our value. A lot of people subconsciously keep their memories active by writing diaries and reading through old ones; keeping photo albums and browsing them regularly, sharing and reminiscing with family and friends; collecting personal letters/postcards/drawings and notes. I've always been keen on keeping a diary, recording random thoughts, writing down days I don't want to forget. If something needs to be treasured, human memory isn't particularly reliable on its own all the time, but sometimes a few words written down are all that's needed to refresh what is stored deep in your mind; just as photos can evoke a much richer recollection of a particular time that's been captured. For dementia patients, these kind of reminders can become invaluable. I would highly recommend that everyone keep as rich a record of their lives as possible, or eventually the little (but potentially treasurable details) will fade and be lost forever!

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