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on remembering everything

I like Ted Chiang’s writing a lot. Here’s a brief excerpt from his short story The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling. The premise of the story is some AI software called Remem that trawls the footage from our always on personal cameras to make connections or memories.

People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments. Which is why, even when we’ve experienced the same events as other individuals, we never constructed identical narratives: the criteria used for selecting moments were different for each of us, and a reflection of our personalities. Each of us noticed the details that caught our attention and remembered what was important to us, and the narratives we built shaped our personalities in turn. But, I wondered, if everyone remembered everything, would our differences get shaved away? What would happen to our sense of self? It seemed to me that a perfect memory couldn’t be a narrative any more than unedited security-cam footage could be a feature film.

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