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Nature has retained, by natural selection, that an organism endowed with memory lived and survived better than an organism which does not. By avoiding the repetition of dangerous situations, the organism increases its chances of survival.
Subsequently, our evolution has been able to transform a basic biological function in order - better than to survive - to build civilizations. We can thus learn about events that we have not experienced, and project ourselves into the future.
In humans, the hippocampus plays a central role in conscious and / or spatial memory. Fish have a different brain organ, and insects yet another.
Jan 07, 2022
The question is nicely asked! But also oddly posed.
Indeed, is it not the very definition of memory to be able to explore it and therefore, in a way, go back in time? So the purpose of memory would be to be able to explore it?
Note that in normal times, we all travel in the future, at the speed of light, even physicists would tell you. Our memory is neither more nor less than the capacity to now leave traces that we can use later to find information, a message addressed to ourselves, a bottle in the sea. In neurobiology, we speak of memory trace.
As for the purpose of memory, it is necessary to see the emergence of the notion of consciousness, and therefore of our survival instinct (necessarily based on our personal identity). Without memory, no self-awareness, no psychological continuity.
A simple way to approach this notion is the teleporter thought experiment.
The teleportation usually described in science fiction consists of entering Earth in a teleporter. Then, by pressing a switch, the ego on earth disappears and it appears, in a similar teleporter, but on Venus, an exact copy of the ego that was on Earth , that is, the psychology of the individual is preserved in the copy and that there is thus psychological continuity.
But what just happened? Is it transport or creation, where I cease to exist on Earth and where a simple copy of me is created, but who is really not me, on Venus?
You might think of it as transport, since there is no coexistence of the two beings at any time, but it could very well be a matter of death, disintegration of the individual and re-creation. Alike. For the person coming out of the teleporter, he sees no difference, for him there is psychological continuity. For the person who climbs there, his world stops, his life stops, he only knows nothingness.
This famous experience questions:
is our identity entirely based on our memory?
and most importantly, would you climb into the teleporter, knowing that disintegration is painless and instantaneous, and that you wouldn't realize that you would disappear?
If you are reluctant, tell yourself that maybe there, now, every moment, every billionth of a nanosecond, you disappear and reappear instantly identically, without a cut, without realizing it, in a kind of jump . The old version of you would disappear, and yet you continue to exist without even realizing it.
Memory is one of the things that keeps a person sane in hard times. Memories can be beautiful and painful which is why memories are beautifully painful. Indeed, nature created memory so that we can time travel, go to our past and relive those memories whenever we want to. We don’t physically time travel, but rather mentally. Memory is a precious gift given to us by nature and we should be grateful for it. When you don’t want to live in reality, or when you want to escape from everything, memory is the thing that helps us do that. It takes us to our past where we laughed and cried hard and helps us escape whatever we’re facing in the present. Everyone’s memories are filled with some of their happiest moments where they thought they would be like this forever and some are filled with the most torturing and agonizing moments where they thought “This is too much for me”. Many moments of hope and hopelessness are what make memories worth remembering.
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Jan 07, 2022
In Search of Lost Time
Memory allows us to travel in our past but certainly not in our future which has not yet arrived, even if we sometimes imagine it.
The memory of the brain is also the acquired knowledge which complements the innate memory of the genetic code.
It is these two memories that form the experience, one individual and the other collective, and increase our chances of survival. They are there to go and find answers or solutions to solve problems of the present.