The truth – as we may not know it

It was only a few days after I’d watched a TV biopic on the last days of Winston Churchill that I discovered that the central nurse character was a fictional invention. Some days after that, I read a Guardian article (02Mar2016, page 8) quoting Tim Bliss, who had just won a share of an award from the Lundbeck Brain Research Foundation for his research on memory. Bliss said that we now have a pretty good handle on what happens with memory and asked, if that’s the case could we instil memories that we didn’t actually have? He went on to say that there’s very good evidence that we can start to erase memories using drugs and that this may  be useful eventually for the treatment of PTSD. This got me thinking that the truth is in danger, as we produce and consume more information, as we exploit virtuality, and as we get more technologically sophisticated. By ’in danger’, I mean we are becoming less able to distinguish fact from fiction with a commensurate reduction in trust and increase in suspicion, disagreement and hostility. Perhaps we need to start being more rigorous about declaring fictions; and maybe we should start exploring how we can adjust our laws to cope with an increasingly malleable future.

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