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Memory Erasing, Coming Soon Says Cognitive Liberty Group
Paycheck Movie Raises Important Mental Rights Concerns, Experts Say

DAVIS, CA - What if you could take a pill that would safely erase unwanted memories?

Experts at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE) say that memory-erasing drugs are on the way, and they question whether the legal system is prepared to deal with the changes such drugs will bring.

Memory erasing is about to go mainstream with the new movie Paycheck-starring Ben Afflek and Uma Thurman-set to open in theaters nationwide on December 25. In the movie, Ben Afflek plays an engineer whose memory is erased to ensure that he won't divulge trade secret information to competitors. The new Paramount Pictures release is bound to generate public discussion about the ethics and legality of memory-altering technologies.

"Drugs that substantially dim memories are already in use," says Wrye Sententia, Director of the CCLE, a nonprofit law and policy center that protects freedom of thought. Ms. Sententia notes that emergency rescue workers - for example those sent to clean up after a plane crash - commonly take a drug that helps reduce their memories of the gruesome scene. Drugs like these may soon be used be used in emergency rooms to dim memories that might later trouble victims of serious accidents or violent crimes. [1]

In an August edition of Science magazine, Mark Eisenberg et al. published new findings indicating the possibility of developing a drug that selectively dumps or dims memories of incidents that may have occurred as far back as early childhood. [2] (Read More about Memory Erasing)

According to Richard Glen Boire, Legal Counsel for the CCLE, drugs or technologies that reduce or erase memory raise new legal dilemmas that society should be preparing for now. "Just like the printing press and the Internet changed the parameters of free speech, memory erasing drugs and other neuropharmaceuticals currently under development are going to change the parameters of freedom of thought," notes Boire. He questions whether current Constitutional interpretations will sufficiently address the neuroethical implications of such technologies.

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is a collaborative effort by a multi-disciplinary group of experts working to protect the future of freedom of thought. The group believes that freedom of thought will be the next big civil rights issue, and hopes that the movie Paycheck will initiate public awareness about freedom of thought issues.

Will you have a right to erase your own memories? Will your employers? Will memory-erasing drugs be prohibited, and consequently sold by street dealers rather than pharmacies? Can your employer condition your hiring or firing based on whether or not you're willing to take a memory-erasing drug?

"These are the sorts of new legal issues that we will be dealing with in our lifetime," says Boire. The rules we create today regarding our cognitive liberty will define the future of freedom of thought."

Notes

1. Goodman, Ellen, "Matter Over Mind?" Washington Post, November 16, 2002

2. Eisenberg, Mark, et al., "Stability of Retrieved Memory: Inverse Correlation with Trace Dominance," Science 22 August 2003 Vol. 301 Number 5636: 1102-1104

For more writings by Richard Glen Boire, J.D. on the issue of memory-erasing drugs, see:

Boire, Richard Glen, "Forget About It?" Brainwaves, Wednesday, August 27, 2003. Online at: http://www.corante.com/brainwaves/20030801.shtml#50203

Boire, Richard Glen, "Cognitive Liberty and the 'Right to Erase Memories' Explained" Brainwaves, September 5, 2003. Online at: http://www.corante.com/brainwaves/20030901.shtml#51336