Memory, C-beams & The Fragility of the Human Condition

Image result for tears in rain

99 percent of every person is the memory of what he or she knows. What you remember about your life is what makes you you, and me me. Take away my memories, and what is left? My nose. My glasses. Even my jokes will not be the same if I don’t have a memory.” — Stepan Pachikov

Ever since watching Blade Runner* as a kid – and subsequently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick – I knew I wasn’t alone in a near-obsession-like fascination with memory. Silicon Valley pioneer, visionary, and Evernote founder Stepan Pachikov shares this same trait. Only, he has done, is doing, and will continue to do something about it.

Senior copywriter for @Evernote Pamela Rosen (@Pambieworld) wrote a moving, compelling and stop-drinking-your-coffee-right-freaking-now-and-finish-this-damn piece on Mr. Pachikov entitled “On Preserving Human Memory: Evernote Founder’s Impossible Mission.”

Per the blog post by Ms. Rosen, who actually works at Evernote and knows Mr. Pachikov, “As the inventor and founder of Evernote, Pachikov’s life work has been the human memory, untangling personal thoughts from the greater narrative of history, and then putting the particles back together again for future generations. It’s an obsession that goes back to his youth, before the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Mr. Pachikov takes this one step further and opines philosophically, “When we decide about good and evil, it’s really about memory. Civilizations are so easy to destroy. It’s our mission, our goal, to protect life, and all we have is memories, so we have to protect them.”

While Stepan Pachikov and Evernote will relentlessly move forward on the tech side to preserve human memory, the more literary-inclined will continue to cherish great books that make us think more profoundly about this critical issue. If you’re looking for a list of works on the subject, check out a piece from The Guardian in which author Charles Fernyhough put together his “Top 10 books on memory” a few years ago. I know that I, for one, am intrigued at the selections on this list.


* You know a film – a specific scene or line, in fact – has moved you when, decades later, you can still recite it from memory. Rutger Hauer’s final moment onscreen – what the Welsh writer and philosopher Mark Rowlands once called “perhaps the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history” – is one such example, a passage Hauer himself wrote and delivered with universe-shaking conviction, the “Tears in Rain” monologue:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”




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