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The Morality of Memory Erasure

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The Morality of Memory Erasure

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The Morality of Memory Erasure

Introduction
In 2004, Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s highly acclaimed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind debuted in theatres. The film’s cult following can be attributed to incredible performances by its lead actors, its incredibly cohesive yet unorthodox romantic science fiction plot, and its brutally honest portrayal of the modern romance. However, undoubtedly one of its more captivating qualities is the enticing possibility of memory erasure. In the movie, a woman acts impulsively and goes to a medical center that provides for a service that can selectively delete memories. After having the procedure and erasing her memories of her lover, her lover feels jilted and decides to have the same procedure done onto himself to erase the memory of her. What follows is an amalgam of philosophical foreplay and heart wrenching romance. The realms of the science fiction of the past and the science of the present are no longer so mutually exclusive. Some of the technologies that seemed so implausible a decade ago are slowly becoming a reality. When the movie was made, memory erasure was mostly if not purely science fiction, but with the advent of technology and its rapidly growing pace, selective memory erasure can become a reality within a few decades’ time. In 2009, neuroscientists noticed a link between memory retention and a substance in the brain called PKMzeta. They were able to create a drug called ZIP that interferes with PKMzeta, and effectively erasing memories and learned behaviors in mice. The science holds a lot of promise in the coming decades. Assuming that there was currently a noninvasive medical procedure that could safely, efficiently, and effectively erase one’s memories, is it morally permissible to undergo such a procedure?

A Utilitarian Approach
With safe, efficient, and effective memory erasure possibilities, the applications are endless. By having the procedure done, an individual’s suffering is...