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Monday, December 03, 2007

The Shock Fight

Memory is a funny thing, and it's sad that we can't really trust it. I have a treasured memory, and I'm not even certain it's real; perhaps the people who live in that memory will read this and tell me.

I remember being over at Tony's place, sometime between 1988 and 1991. Jeff and Tony were having a shock fight; that is, they were shuffling across the carpet in their sock feet, building up static electricity, which they then discharged by tagging each other. Jeff would shock Tony; Tony would retaliate and shock Jeff. They'd taunt each other, the rest of us would laugh; you can imagine.

The shock fight ended when Tony held up his charged finger to Jeff's face, and right before everyone's eyes, a bolt of electricity leapt from Tony's fingertip to Jeff's eyeball.


Jeff clapped his hand over his eyeball and hopped around while everyone else laughed. Jeff's vision eventually returned, and the shock fight became legendary.

I remember being there, witnessing this in person. But was I? Or did my friends who were there tell the tale so often that I simply inserted myself into the scene?

Perhaps it doesn't matter; maybe I've created my own reality. I certainly like to think I was there.


AllanX said...

I find the whole issue of false memories fascinating. If you want to be technical, it's a fact that all of your memories are false in that they are reconstructed from thousands of constituent patterns every time you remember them. And each time you do that, you alter the relationship between the patterns slightly. These are ideas I've gleaned from Kevin Kelly's amazing book "Out of Control," by the way. We're going to know much, much more about this subject in the next few years as experiments involving brain simulation proceed.

I've found that there's very little practical difference between memories of things I've experienced first hand versus recollected dreams or, as you mention, vividly described stories be they novels I've read or accounts by friends of events I never personally witnessed.

Also, I've played many immersive 3D video games now, and many of those detailed environments are remembered as though I were actually there. I figure once we have 3D head mounted displays with 3D directional sound for a fully immersive experience, this situation will become much more common. Games will also be that much more exciting and terrifying. I can't wait. I'll live with the false memories.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, you'd think I would remember that, but really, I don't. It sounds plausible, though, and as Allan points out, there's not much reason not to believe in and enjoy the story regardless of its origins.

I'm still struggling with who orginated "Smash-Things-Up". I think it was Tony. Still, if I can't remember that, how am I supposed to keep track of who stabbed a bolt of static into my frontal lobe via my optic nerve?