The graveyard of memory research has turned into a fertile field budding with roses of all shapes and colors. The rose isn't a bad analogy;
while the final product will be extremely beautiful, you are likely to meet a few thorns along the way. In this book, I have reviewed our current knowledge base and laid out a comprehensive program to help you prevent memory loss due to the aging process, or to identify and treat mild memory loss if it has already set in. But all this is based on current knowledge, which is clearly limited in many ways. Given the various research directions that the field is taking, what does the future hold?
Research in molecular genetics, neuroscience, and clinical trials is growing at a blinding pace and is likely to accelerate. Part of this pressure comes from the worldwide exponential increase in knowledge, and part of it comes from you. You comprise the largest segment of the population with the most political clout, and at least when it comes to funding medical research, the politicians are responding.
If things pan out the way that some experts hope, every Kodak moment will literally be inside your head in a perfect image, and cameras will become obsolete. But I do not entirely subscribe to this view, because the fact is that human memory is finite. We all have to wipe out old, useless memories to make way for the new, important ones. We do this daily, as our hippocampi and frontal lobes deliberately forget what we ate for lunch yesterday, two days ago, a week ago, and so forth. Therefore, at least for the foreseeable future, I expect that new treatments will be able to completely block memory loss, but they will not be able to give us total recall. Total recall would mean cluttering up our brains with sundry, often worthless information, and life would become impossible to manage.
Larger societal questions will spring forth as memory enhancement becomes a universal tool. Will people in high-precision jobs that do not permit error, such as highfliers on Wall Street or surgeons in the operating room, be required to take memory enhancers as a matter of course? And the courts, which are already nightmarish in their complexity—what will they do about witnesses who do or don't take promemory agents? And what about the opposite end of the age spectrum: will children be made to take memory enhancers to perform well in school the way they now use computers and the Internet to boost academic performance?
These possibilities lie well into the future. For now, I urge you to begin, and then maintain, the Memory Program to prevent memory loss, and to directly tackle mild memory loss if it has already begun to affect your life. I predict that as time goes on, you are likely to look back with satisfaction at the results that you have achieved.
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