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Imagine this: using newly discovered scientific methods, governments have gained the ability to wipe out all the memories of the worst criminals. Do you think that this would be a just punishment for some crimes? If so, which crimes would this be perfect for and which crimes would it not be perfect for? Do you think these criminals could be released back into society after their memories are wiped? Do you think people who commit crimes do it because of what they've experienced in life or because of who they are? Would wiping their memories restore them to being a cooperative citizen?

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I think Wiping memories means wiping who they are, they are nothing without their memories, they cant even speak, talk or stuff like that. They could be normal citizens after that in my opinion because I think lot of the criminals are like that because of their bad experiences in their younger lives or some kind of inner conflict in their minds.

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(edited)

I feel this quote is appropriate:

 

“We are our memories," Dodge said. "That's all we are. That's what makes us the person we are. The sum of all our memories from the day we were born. If you took a person and replaced his set of memories with another set, he'd be a different person. He'd think, act, and feel things differently.”

 

Brian Falkner

 

I've thought of this before actually and I still compare the erasure of memories to be akin to the death penalty. Yes, even if that person would now be a functioning member of society, our memories and experiences define us, who we are and how we act. Take those away and you're taking away someone's very identity. Even if you were to eventually return those memories, they would very likely be interpreted very differently because their former owner is now a completely different person. In short, that person would essentially cease to exist and replaced by someone with his face. 

Edited by PoisonClaw
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Actually, I think that would be worse. If you erased their memories and released them back into society, then what's stopping them from commiting the same crime? They wouldn't remember any punishment from the first time, so...

 

Or maybe I just misunderstand this :wacko:

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Warning: Very long philosophical diatribe below.

 

From a philosophical perspective, this is quite an interesting question (this particularly falls within the question of personal identity). According to John Locke, it would be a just punishment, as memories are what define us, and make us who we are, so wiping someone's memories would, according to Locke, make them an entirely different person, and therefore they should not be imprisoned, as they would not be the person who committed the crime.

 

In my view, however, the wiping of memories, essentially the destruction of someone's identity would be incredibly inhumane, and, from the perspectives of both rehabilitation and retribution in the justice system, would be very much frowned upon, practical issues aside. From the retributive side, they would not believe that the criminal was actually being punished, as he would be allowed to walk free, and his victims would not be given any closure, in addition to not acting as a deterrent (even though there isn't really such a thing as a deterrent in the justice system, but that's a whole other kettle of fish). From the rehabilitative side, it would technically be a form of rehabilitation, as they believe that justice should be about making sure the person doesn't offend again, without using retributive measures. However, rehabilitation is also about treating the offender humanely, and I very much doubt that many people would consider the deletion of a person's memories to be very humane.

 

Furthermore, this would only really work for people who were actually influenced by their memories to commit crimes, such as people who had a traumatic upbringing. This would not affect people who actually have a psychological condition, such as Antisocial Personality Disorder (from which an estimated 47% of male prisoners and 21% of female prisoners suffer[1]) or other such mental conditions. These conditions can be influenced by genetics (although trauma caused by upbringing can also be a cause of ASPD[2]), as such, the erasure of memories would have little to no effect on whether or not a certain prisoner would re-offend.

 

Finally, this time from a practical perspective, the area where the brain stores episodic and autobiographical (i.e. events and details about oneself, including memories of childhood trauma) memories is the hippocampus( or Hippocampi, considering there are two of them in the brain), which also plays a role in spatial navigation[3]. This contains most short-term and long-term memories that aren't essential for daily operations, stuff like how to walk and most linguistics are handled elsewhere. However, if an offender were influenced by childhood trauma, then wiping this area would not be effective, as, if this offender were an adult at the time of sentencing, then the traumatic memories would have been moved elsewhere in the brain[4] and they could have caused rewiring in areas such as the Prefrontal Cortex[5] (which handles logic and reasoning). Obviously, modifying the prefrontal cortex in any way could have profound effects on an individual's mental faculties, and it would be inhumane to do so. Additionally, traumatic memories also affect the amygdalae[5], where emotional things are recorded. This part also affects a large number of human behaviours and disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Alcoholism[6], so, again, it would be extremely unethical to modify any of these areas, as it could cause PTSD or alcoholism, among other disorders, so it would be a bad idea to try and affect anything in these areas.

 

To conclude, from a philosophical (specifically personal identity) point of view, it would be a punishment of sorts, akin to the death penalty, as it would be the termination of one person's existence, only it would lead to the creation of another person as well. However, from both a practical and ethical point of view, I disagree with this idea, and believe we should pursue much more rehabilitative forms of justice, rather than memory deletion.

 

TL;DR: No.

 

 

 

[1]http://www.thelancet.com/action/showFullTextImages?pii=S0140-6736%2802%2907740-1

[2]http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx

[3]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus#Role_in_spatial_memory_and_navigation

[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus#Role_in_memory

[5]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/

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(edited)

I'm going to approach this from an idealistic standpoint.  That is, let's imagine that the technology to perform such an operation were perfected, and the healthy areas of a person's personality, including everything that enables them to function everyday, were retained, while the negative sections were excised.  So, they would be the same person minus everything that was bad about them.  No doubt, this would still be an alteration to that person's personality, so one could still compare this method to the death penalty even in the ideal scenario.

 

We have to assume that everybody knows about this person's crime, and that they would eventually find out about it, as well.  Having no memory of committing the crime, the person who used to be a criminal can be said to be 100% innocent, because it was the other, malevolent personality who committed the crime.  They would walk around believing that other person they used to be was the guilty one, and they are innocent, while everyone who sees them would give them a wide berth when they see them walking down the street.  They would therefore be a pariah, and suffer punishment for a crime they believe someone else committed, someone who was erased from existence.

 

There's also the matter of whether this person retains any meaningful lesson after having their memory erased.  When I think about stupid things I've done in the past, and consider whether I would prefer if they were erased, I decide that I would not, because without those memories and the lessons they imparted to me, I might make those same stupid mistakes again.  If a person knows intellectually that a crime is bad, but has no personal, negative emotion to support that idea, it doesn't quite have the same restraining effect which would prevent them from committing the crime.  For example, when I was little, I stole a Kit-Kat bar from a store when my mom wouldn't buy it for me.  Then I faced the consequences of that action, and never thought about stealing another candy bar ever again.  What if my memory of the crime were erased?  I think I'd have another candy bar.

 

This also brings up an interesting idea related to religion.  For those who believe that a person is judged when they die and are either rewarded or punished for their deeds, how would such a person be judged?  It's not the same person who committed the crime, but not in the sense that they atoned for their crime themselves, since they have no memory of it, and would not be able to genuinely make atonement.  Maybe the soul would be split, and one part would be judged separate from the other?

 

I don't think this would be a step in the right direction.  People undergo personal growth by learning from their mistakes, which is impossible if they can't remember what those mistakes were.  Plus, this isn't a form of justice if the person who suffers from alienation from society isn't the same person who committed the crime.

Edited by Draxon
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This has been used in various science fiction novels and stories. The sentencing of "Brain Wipe" or "Mind Wipe" typically strikes terror in the heart of the most hardened of criminals. To me, it would be far worse than death.

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In general, I'm against pretty much any kind of tampering with people's minds. That's a pretty slippery slope. I'm not sure how much it would accomplish, anyway. I'm more of the belief that people's personalities are something they're born with, not a result of their experiences in life (barring extreme cases).

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(edited)

Imagine this: using newly discovered scientific methods, governments have gained the ability to wipe out all the memories of the worst criminals. Do you think that this would be a just punishment for some crimes? If so, which crimes would this be perfect for and which crimes would it not be perfect for? Do you think these criminals could be released back into society after their memories are wiped? Do you think people who commit crimes do it because of what they've experienced in life or because of who they are? Would wiping their memories restore them to being a cooperative citizen?

The US government already had the technology to do things like that and it's Called "MK Ultra"

But that operation was shut down after they released some of the documents containing that they researched/tested this on humans but yea it might make some criminals become good people of society

Edited by MLG4Ever
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This could work on some criminals. That said, don't except this to be a reliable solution.

 

People are not blank slates, nor are they solely a collection of experiences. Some people are inherently different than others; this is not something that the environment may necessarily be able to change.

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In all seriousness it could be used for good sure...but it would be best if only the worst memories could be erased. I'm subscribed to a channel that frequently does videos on certain serial killers and a common trait is a traumatic experience in childhood or just an overall bad upbringing. Depending on the criminal you could erase the memories like these that made them lean towards their tendencies, if all that's existed in their life is their wish to do harm then perhaps wiping their memory completely would be best. But there are actually some criminals who have families and a second life aside from their life of crime, if only the bad memories could be targetted it would help greatly :)

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