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Old September 13 2012, 07:12 AM   #78
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Envisioning the world of 2100

gturner wrote: View Post
In early attempts, the required knowledge and muscle memory would be scattered all over the brain, such as the importance of glancing at the rate-of-climb indicator and oil-pressure-gage when doing X, and then reflexively checking your rotor clearance, because of a near-fatal experience in Vietnam when you were trying to impress the kids who sold you a Coke when you were talking to their teacher about .... Visual memories, auditory memories, muscle memories, mental models of physics, flight, arm motions, eye motions, gage locations, etc.
Well, procedural memory is actually pretty robust, it doesn't have the same complex relational structure that episodic memory. This is one of the reasons people are still able to do some things halfway competently while sleepwalking, for example. They won't remember doing it -- that part of the brain is largely shut down at the time -- but they'll manage to accomplish some fairly complex tasks without being conscious of having done so. I've even had the experience myself; when I was in college and my dumbass instructor had us sub-netting IP addresses by hand for three hours straight. I fell asleep halfway through a worksheet... and woke up with the worksheet completed. Of course the answers were all wrong (wrote the same address for all ten of them) but it was written legibly enough that it might as well have been awake.

Disentangling learned procedural memory from its relational background can be tricky, though. There are alot of things you know how to do that you don't really remember learning (typing on a keyboard, for instance). But there are other things you know from experience, and the experiences themselves are a factor in your skills (ever try to spell a word and catch yourself thinking "I before E except after C"? I do, for some reason always in the voice of Linus Van Pelt). An even better example is in driving a car: everyone has that one weird habit they have as a driver that originates from something they experienced or something they were taught and they remember more or less how they were taught and why they do it that way, if only in the vaguest sense. Procedural memory is, in that way, modified by experiences stored in episodic memory.

The good news is you can probably extract discrete episodes completely independent of the larger context. You could probably transfer a memory of arguing politics with a really smart and admirable man in a dark room somewhere, though you wouldn't remember exactly what the argument was about, where the room was, how you got there or what happened when you left. But if the substance of the conversation was "... and that's why it would be a good idea to bring $5,000 to the corner of North and Madison on August 5th, 2013," you may rightly begin to suspect that that particular memory is a plant.

ETA: I just remembered, that was basically the premise for the movie "Dark City." I always remember that part where John's flashing back through his childhood and he suddenly remembers his teacher saying "You're probably wondering why I keep appearing in your memories. That's because I have implanted myself in them!" STILL one of the most awesome movies ever made.
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