The Grain, The Mandela effect and Blockchain

A few nights ago, I was having dinner with my family, and my teenage daughter started telling us a story about a customer at her job that was annoyed with her performance. During this story she let it slip that she rolled her eyes at the customer. Later when I asked her about that detail she immediately asked if her brother told me about it. She had no memory of telling me and insisted she never said it. We went back and forth on this detail jokingly for close to 10 minutes and in that moment, I wish I had the conversation on video to play back to her to prove she did indeed tell me about her small lapse in judgement.

In the world of Black Mirror, this technology exists in the form of something called a “grain”; a small implant that records everything one sees and does and can be replayed back at their discretion. While the show does show some legitimate and good use of this technology (such as playing back events for security screening before boarding a plane), it largely focuses on the bad. These devices in this future world become the absolute truth. Nothing is forgotten, and events can be replayed an infinite number of times and re-interpreted. This absolutely cannot be healthy.

It never is really explained how the technology works, but other episodes make me believe the idea is that the memory from the brain is uploaded into the cloud and retrieved on demand. If this is indeed the case I have a billion questions about security, and storage. If I were to address all of these questions one by one this blog post would be incredibly long, so I’ll just choose one… What about false memories?

The most common kind of false memory, one that is simply created or altered over time due to suggestion and other casual factors wouldn’t be a problem because of the grain. These memories are very prevalent today… consider the Mandela affect, the phenomenon of a group of people who swear something used to be one way but it never was. Here’s an example… Remember that line “Luke, I am your father” from Star Wars? Actually, you don’t. It was never spoken. Also, Hannibal Lecter NEVER uttered the words “Hello, Clarice” when he met her in jail. (I know – you’re going to go back and watch these movies again now aren’t you?)

What does concern me are memories that are created due to mental illness as well as the possibility of implanted memories in the future (like Total Recall – you don’t have to go on vacation; we’ll implant the memory of a perfect vacation!). For this first scenario think of individuals who swear they have relationships with celebrities they have never met. They get arrested breaking into their homes or exhibiting other inappropriate behavior. How in the future can we distinguish these distorted memories from real ones? I think the likely answer is we turn to Blockchain.

Blockchain is the perfect solution when we need consensus on what really happened. The memories recorded would be immutable and all parties would agree to the memory before it was officially recorded. This would prevent us from all swearing C3PO was 100% gold (he always had a silver leg), or that the Betty and Fred’s last name was Flintstone (it is Flinstone folks, there was never a T).

When we’re recording memories and considering them absolute truth there is no room for disagreement. Either something happened, or it didn’t. Blockchain would be a necessary part of the grain architecture to ensure we’re all comfortable putting all of our faith in this solution.



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