Better reCollectIons

About the author

We have many memories that are warm and fuzzy even without artificial brain stimulation, often when we have a friend on either side.

Better reCollectIons by Brendan ZaChary AllIson

“Arnie? I’m almost ready for movie night, wanna watch that documentary about the dolphins?”

“Yeah! Say, Sharon, remember on that trip to Cabo, when we- “

“Honey, why do you keep mentioning that fucking trip lately? We didn’t see dolphins. Everyone kept speaking Spanish. The KFC served us that disgusting milk they called lay-chay. You spent most of it puking and sunburned. I walked out on you twice.”

“I told you. I was saving up to go to Better Recollections, they- “

Sharon looked stone-faced. “So you went to those limbic butchers?”

“No. I mean, yeah, I went there. But it’s not like Total Recall across the street from them. They don’t really provide total recall. They’re just declarative memories of lies.”

“I saw and thought their ads too. This is just some spin-off, a new way to be a dick to your brain.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t go off to my own. Everything that I recall really happened. It’s still our trip. All they do is modify emotional memory. We used to fight and argue all the time about it. Now it was happy.”

“Yeah, but it’s still not really true. It’s not what happened.”

“It is. Just nicer. Less stressful. Remember that beach with the cool music-“

“When you fell off a Juanny Cab while throwing a grubby handful of ceviche at a tuba player?”

He paused. “Oh yeah. I remember. See, it’s not like I forgot. I just wasn’t thinking about it.”

“OK. Fine. What about me?”

“You can do it too! We just gotta save up another few months and then-“

“No. Not what I meant.” She sighed. “Never mind.” He missed movie night.

Author Commentary

This is an homage to “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by P. K. Dick. This bci-fi classic was published way back in 1966, although it became better known through “Total Recall” movies in 1990 and then 2012. The story various shout-outs or easter eggs to the author and movie.

Incidentally, no film has ever really followed the original PKD short story past the middle. If you liked Total Recall, check out PKD’s original story. PKD was criticized for his portrayal of women. Indeed, if any movie portrayed the receptionist at Total Recall like they did in the book, it would raise eyebrows and something else in horny men.

I was thinking about different memory types. PKD didn’t really know that memory relies on different brain regions and processes for different types of memory. Declarative memory (facts and events) and emotional memory are different. Why recall fake events if you could just be happier with the memories you have?


This was realistic over 50 years ago with invasive technology.

The general idea here isn’t remotely new in neuroscience or BCI-fi. Consider The Terminal Man, written in 1972 by someone who recently graduated Harvard Medical School, Michael Crichton. His medical expertise is obvious. It describes, quite realistically, how implants around the amygdala could influence mood as well as seizures. Even earlier, starting in the 50s, Heath did a lot of unethical work with Deep Brain Stimulation for conditioning emotion and other goals.

The most growth is in non-invasive brain stimulation along with therapy (which I patented in 2008). This technology is FDA approved and gaining traction.


There are a myriad of directions you could go with emotional modulation like this. Changing emotional valence may not be correlated with altriusm. Reducing traumatic memories could kill (removing fear of heights can be fatal), whereas creating or enhancing them could be lifesaving (treating severe addiction).

Edit History

I wrote this in October 2022.

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