Did you lose a lot of money in the markets over the last two weeks? Do you fear you will lose even more before the bell tolls today?
Please don't worry. Some scientists will soon be able to help you.
Yes, very soon, you will realize that these awful things never happened. You will realize you lost no money. You will realize there was no need for a bailout. You will realize that tomorrow truly is a new day and that yesterday was almost as new as tomorrow.
Whatever people tell you about the future--whether it be investing in it or merely hoping for it--it seems clear that the more scientists learn about the mind, the happier and, hopefully, the richer, we will all be.
Thankfully, some very clever neurobiologists have made what could be one of the most joy-enhancing discoveries ever, one that has great implications for our future. Via the past.
All the memories that debilitate you in your daily life for one reason or another: the defeat by your archrivals at croquet, the rejection by the beautiful, intoxicated woman at your sister's wedding, and, of course, the failure to sell your Washington Mutual shares six months ago. Just imagine if none of these things had ever happened--at least in your mind.
"While memories are great teachers and obviously crucial for survival and adaptation, selectively removing incapacitating memories, such as traumatic war memories or an unwanted fear, could help many people live better lives," Joe Tsien, a neurobiologist at the Brain and Behavior Discovery Institute at the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine told the Daily Telegraph.
At the moment, Tsien and his collaborators at Shanghai's East China Normal University (Normal? What do they mean, exactly, by Normal?) have only messed with a mouse's memories.
This part's not quite for the squeamish. As I understand it, they gave the mouse an electric shock. Then, using a calcium enzyme called CamKII, they successfully removed the sizzling memory. They believe they didn't damage any of the little animal's brain cells, but one supposes mice to be not the most communicative of creatures.
It all sounds like something Naomi Campbell and PETA might get upset about. Still, the scientists are proclaiming that their work is a great success.
But here's the part that affects my innards: it appears that these fine neuroscientific boffins have a very strong idea of what sort of memories they are prepared to remove and which ones they might just refuse to touch.
While one might persuade them to remove the memory of a Webvan investment, other areas may be off-limits to their revolutionary enzymes.
Hark these words of Tsien: "If one got a bad relationship with another person, hoping to have a pill to erase the memory of that person or relationship is not the solution."
Who are you to play Morgan Freeman with my memories, Tsien? I can think of several people in my past whom I would very much like to forget. Two of them were called Suzy. And only one turned out to be a woman.
If I come to you with an honest plea to remove the mental anguish of their presence from my inner cortex, you would deny me this on the basis of what? Your own moral judgment? Your own experiences with girls? Your meaningful relationship with Dr. Phil?
We are entering a dangerous period for the world and for our inner selves. So many drink to forget, yet the effect is only temporary.
However, Tsien and his fellow brains have the talent and the power to, one day soon (they admit it may still take a few years), remove the painful parts of our past. Even our most recent past.
Surely, in this case, we are best positioned to decide which memories hurt us most.