Totally perfect-does god forget?

Richard Hall rhall at
Sat Sep 7 09:19:29 EST 1996

Eric Manshun Choi wrote:
> I am in the process of writing a science fiction story in which one of
> the characters has the ability to literally remember EVERYTHING that he
> sees or reads.

> How would such an ability affect his mind?  Would he be able to cope, or
> would the overload of information drive him insane?
I hope you now realize that the mind prioritizes information and further
tests the validity of that information. Factual information is suprisingly
rare and our minds are not limited to storing and recalling information.
Indeed we deal in abstractions and filling in the gaps.  We create our
realities selectively from a lot of noise.

There was a television series some 20 years ago that starred Betty Davis
and a young man, Lawerence Luckinbill, who married Lucille Ball's daughter
and who starred in one of the goofier StarTrek movies as brother of Spock.
The TV show was called the" Odessa -?"...(so much for perfect recall.)  The
theatrics necessary to make total recall imperative were a strain to
credibility.  In reality, it is difficult to see where total recall would
be of much value, and in fact, might be a decided disadvantage in novel

Many of the comments from others about packaging or storing information are
very relevant since we meter life by the heart beat and access may be
urgent.  But equalling important is the relevance of total recall to the
here and now.  We use symbolic logic to organize our thoughts-this tastes
good, that was fun, oh that was yukkie.  Education may formalize the
process, but regardless of the pigeon-holes, it is to our advantage to lump
information into categories that can be accessed in predictable and
unpredictable ways.  Once we assemble a collection of images or thoughts,
then we sort through and pick what we need and discard for the moment what
we do not.  How many times have you heard or read someone described as just
like so and so?  Useful total recall would require a parallel capacity to
evaluate relevance, but the time needed for both might negate the value of

In my parody, I tried to illustrate how subjective the value of facts and
recall can be. Much of what we know is essentially irrelevant, but spicey.
In life, total recall is probably not that important, otherwise it would
have been more strongly selected.  I suspect that god tries to forget more
than she tries to remember.  At least in my case, I'm counting on that


Richard Hall
Comparative Animal Physiologist
Division of Sciences and Mathematics
University of the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas, USVI  00802

rhall at

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