Wednesday, 22 March 2017


Memory is conscious or unconscious. Apparently, every experience is recorded unconsciously. A finite brain cannot accumulate unconscious memories indefinitely. Would memory overload drive an immortal brain mad or would the brain merely stop recording? In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars, the memories of immortals are artificially edited whereas, in Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years, the handful of immortals learn within themselves how to cope with memory overload. Should we have been shown at least one who did not cope?

If an immortal being were to remain identical with his earlier self, then surely he would have to consciously remember earlier experiences some of the time? However, he would be able to remember any particular experience less and less often as he grew older. Thus, he would effectively become a different person, as if one had died and another had been born, but that is how life works in any case.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    The problem of memory overload in a finite brain was mentioned by Poul Anderson as early as his humorously ironic fantasy story "Pact." And I think Poul Anderson is right: given more or less an indefinitely prolonged life span, some means of editing memories will become necessary. And this is seen not only in WORLD WITHOUT STARS but also in FOR LOVE AND GLORY.

    I do wonder if the "immortals" of THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS skirted a bit too easily the problem of memory overload. We do see mention of how they had to suffer thru a period of "dementia" or "senility" till they somehow managed to cope. But HOW was this done? And I think some discussion of what happened to an "immortal" who did not manage to cope with memory overload would have been a good idea.

    Both WORLD WITHOUT STARS and FOR LOVE AND GLORY put some stress on how memory editing would focus not only only removing "excess" memories but also on retaining sufficient memories thru out a person's life for him to remain "himself". FLAG also mentions how a patient who underwent memory editing would be given a record of the deleted memories for him to look up, if he wished to do so.


    1. Sean,
      I forgot FLAG. With PA, it is impossible to remember everything relevant.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Too true! I needed to look up THE HIGH CRUSADE in order to comment in another blog piece.

      And I think the need to periodically take life extending treatments in FLAG was more plausible than an antithanatic you only had to take once, as seen in WORLD WITHOUT STARS.