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Transferable Memory
aka: Tanks For The Memories
Memories are a wonderful thing. When you think about it, they kind of make up your whole identity. But, man, talk about limiting! We have to carry them in these lousy meatbag bodies.

Let's use our phlebotinum to fix that. Memories aren't just things you hold in your head anymore. They can now be deleted, manipulated, sold, backed up in case of death, shared with the world, or kept secret even from yourself.

This trope is most popular as a central issue in a plot and it's easy to see why. Memory manipulation brings some pretty heavy issues to the forefront. Are we people without our memories? By removing them, do we indirectly kill a part of ourselves, or others? If memories are interchangeable, are we really any different from machines who upload and back up data in the same way?

Alternatively, this trope can also be used simply as a clue in a mystery. Being able to acquire a reliable narration of how events actually happened goes a long way toward giving us a definitive answer.

Compare Liquid Assets and Powers as Programs. See also Brain Uploading, where some or all of the subject's personality is copied/transferred along with the memories. May be used in Memory Gambit. This trope can intersect with Ghost Memory if memories from one person are copy-and-pasted into another.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Kaiba takes this trope on front and center. Only the privileged can afford effective memory treatment, and on many planets the poor sell their good memories (and sometimes bodies) to make ends meet. We're introduced early on via newscast to a group of known terrorists who sabotage memory treatment facilities, but little is elaborated on that topic until about halfway through Kaiba visits a memory theme park. When it closes down, several memories scream to be taken out of their misery as they're forced to remain in a state of not-quite-life-or-death. The elderly patrons Kaiba was with just thought it was All Part of the Show.
  • In The Big O, memories are a MacGuffin.
  • In Baccano!, immortals can transfer memories to other immortals by placing their right hand on the recipient's head and willing it. Of course, since this is also the method immortals use to kill each other (the only difference being what you think when you're doing it), most potential recipients aren't willing to take the risk.
  • One of the Genei Ryudan in Hunter Hunter can copy her memories into bullets, and then transfer those memories to other people by shooting them in the head (Memory bullets don't inflict physical injuries).
  • Tsukimiya from Bloody Cross is a Dhampyr who can read people's memories by drinking their blood.
  • Characters in Ghost in the Shell often store memories in external storage devices via their cyberbrains, it's apparently a similar mechanism to that which hackers use to insert Fake Memories.

    Fanfiction 

    Film 
  • Blade Runner. Rachel is given memories copied from Tyrell's niece to improve her emotional stability.
  • The original Total Recall (1990), as well as its source material We Can Remember It For You Wholesale uses these as a central plot point. The memories in question are intended to give a person the illusion of having had an exciting vacation on Mars without incurring the extreme expense of such a trip. A central plot point is how these memories can possibly have any sense of being genuine if the man who "owns" them knows that they're false- this leads to the movie's central ambiguity as to whether the uncovering of Quaid's secret agent memories is real, or whether they simply must appear to be real to make the memories seem plausible. This differs from other incantations of the trope, where the internal consistency of conflicting memories is rarely at issue, largely because characters know the difference between their implanted memories and their real ones.. Some people consider this a clue that Quaid's experiences are real.
  • Dr. Schriber of Dark City implants Fake Memories into peoples heads with syringes, and he's later seen him concocting the fluids that make up these memories.
  • In the Underworld movies, vampires can access the memories of other vampires by drinking their blood. This is used by Vampire Elders to catch up with the events that transpired while they were in torpor.

    Literature 
  • Keith Laumer's A Trace of Memory. An amnesiac alien living as a human on Earth must recover the device in which his full memories are stored. He later discovers that on his home planet almost everyone has this problem.
  • The Yuuzhan Vong from the New Jedi Order can literally manufacture memories. Usually this is used as a way to learn new skills quickly, but with time and careful application can also overwrite entire personalities. For the latter, though, as it requires a very complex set of memories, it's easiest to just use someone's preexisting ones rather than grow a whole new set, however.
    • The gentle Caamasi can make memories of important events into a memnis, an especially vivid memory that can be telepathically transferred between related Caamasi, and which are passed down like family photos. Memnii can also be transferred to Jedi that are good friends with Caamasi, who can use the Force to share them further.
  • Physical memories appear in the Harry Potter series with the Pensieve. Interestingly, the existence of these objects is revealed a book before readers find out about wizards' ability to force their ways into other minds, which requires the use of Occulumency to guard against. It turns out that extracting memories from a person willingly to use later is a decidedly less evil use of these skills. Skilled wizards can draw their own memories out of their heads - they take the appearance of silvery wisps of an almost cloud-like string.
  • The Rambosian aliens of Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series are filled with a fluid that keeps their memories. The keep jars of this fluid, and regularly back them up with newer memories. If they suffer some fatal misfortune, they can be patched up, refilled and returned to life.
  • A Magic Mirror in The Elric Saga story Elric of Melnibone steals memories from people.
  • In Animorphs, the Iskoort aliens have a technology that allows them to buy people's memories; and the alien explaining this technology is quick to reassure the Animorphs that they don't lose their own memories, it just means making a copy of their memories. These copies of human memories turn out to be very useful, because it seems that when they force their Omnicidal Maniac enemies the Howlers to experience the memories of a human, this makes the Howlers not only cease to be "pure evil," but it's so much of an impurity that the Howlers's evil master is no longer able to use them.
    • The Helmacrons are also really close to this, since their minds are fungible and when one dies, the mind is absorbed by the rest of the group.
    • When Jake is infested by the Yeerk that once controlled his brother, the Yeerk's memories of its hosts are dumped into Jake's memory as the Yeerk is dying of starvation.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Worthing Saga, the cold sleep used to enable starflight has the unfortunate side effect of completely wiping a person's memory. The solution, spheres which record this and replay it into the subject's brain.
  • Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series introduces the "stack", a cigarette-filter-sized implant at the base of the brain. It contains a complete record of the user's personality and memories, which can be backed up, sent elsewhere, or installed in a new body (aka "sleeve"). If your body dies but the stack is not destroyed, you can be revived. As an added bonus, a human brain is the only thing that can readily make use of the information in a stack, so even if others get access to your backups, they can't view/edit your mind in cut-and-paste fashion. Your memories can only be recovered by creating another "you" in the process. The novels come complete with a very large and well-thought-out list of the technology's consequences.
  • A Strugatsky Brothers short story involves the attempt to store the mind of a dying great scientist. The story goes into detail about the limitations of this new technology. The entire town is blacked out and perpetual storm clouds block out the sunlight in order to remove any EM interference. The "town" is actually made up of large warehouses holding a special substance that can contain vast amounts of data. After all, it's not just the information from brain cells but also the neurons that link these brain cells, and neurons that link those neurons, etc. The experiment is a partial success, as the man expires with 2% of his mind still unrecorded. Additionally, the scientists performing the experiment have no idea what to do with the stored memories, as they have no way to actually interpret the information. The idea is to eventually develop the means to allow people to live on as electronic entities, but that is far off.
  • One of The History of the Galaxy novels has a scientist/politician create a device that probes the mind of a person and downloads the memories. He mentions that it would normally be a very difficult process to figure out how to interpret the memories, but the fact that there was a war on allowed him to convince the top brass to fit each soldier with such probe, coupled with a camera. Then all he had to do was analyze the millions of probe scans with their respective video footages to create a "dictionary" of sorts. In Black Moon, he is able to use the device to extract memories of a group of frozen Delphons. However, he hits a wall in attempting to decode the data, as no computer is capable of doing that. He then downloads the memories of a Delphon into the mind of a human, hoping the human brain is powerful enough to interpret the alien memories. It works.
  • The Forerunners of Halo could transfer memories and experiences so perfectly into another person's mind that they essentially become the person they're copied from. When Bornstellar is given the Ur-Didact's memories and returns to the latter's wife of thousands of years, she treats him no differently than she would her husband, even though she knows full well what's happened.
  • The Dreamweavers from The Age of the Five can 'link' to swap memories. Ironically, the best way to avoid having your personality drowned out by link memories is... more linking.note 
  • The Memory Bulbs from Jeff VanderMeer's Finch allow the Graycaps to access the memories of recently deceased individuals. You simply sprinkle some spores on the corpse, wait for awhile for the fungoid bulb grow from their head and then eat it. The experience is extremely confusing, at least for humans, trying to perceive range of events in a non-linear fashion, like picking them up randomly from the air. Since the memories always belong to a dead person, experiencing the memory of their deaths can be traumatic, as well. But worst of all, sometimes the process simply goes wrong when a human ingests the bulb; one detective's body breaks down into a mass of spores after going through the process one too many times.
  • Memories are what The Giver is giving to his successor.
  • In Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series, the Pack and Ontongard can both transfer memories between themselves by drawing out blood and handing the resulting animal to another member to be absorbed.
  • In SA Swann's Apotheosis series, Uploaded minds can be downloaded into either A.I. level computers or living brains. The colonists of Salmagundi download the minds of their ancestors as a religious observance.
  • Larry Niven's World of Ptavvs. A human telepath mindreads a much more powerful alien telepath. Identity confusion and plot result.
  • A variation in Mikhail Akhmanov's Call of the Abyss duology. After the first manned expedition arrives in orbit of Mars, the psychic among the crew begins to see vivid visions of historical events from the viewpoint of someone else. Centuries later, an areostationary station is established over the spot where the visions come through with an alien psychic channeling them onto recording devices. Anyone can then play these visions back in his or her mind by sitting on a special chair. At first, it's assumed that these are recordings of Earth made by aliens over millennia. Then they find out that the visions diverge from our history at some point during the Renaissance, meaning they are actually sent by humans from an Alternate Reality. The vision in question is that of Charles Babbage inventing the first vacuum tube computer in the 19th century. The main "vision" of the first novel is the life of an Ancient Egyptian named Unamun, whose journey to Byblos is verified via a papyrus in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. The second book is focused on the vision of the life of a 17th century English Privateer named Peter Shelton.

    Live Action TV 
  • The New Twilight Zone episode "The Mind of Simon Foster". A homeless man must sell his memories to survive.
  • Red Dwarf: "Thanks For The Memories", Lister gives Rimmer his memories of one of his past relationships. It goes so badly that the entire crew have their memories of the past few days erased.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Angel's explanation is that when a person is vamped, the vampire demon gets their memories and body, but not their soul.
    • Slayers inherit memories of previous slayers, albeit through dreams.
  • Dollhouse A very central concept, along with the ability to transfer and back up etc personalities.
  • In Supernatural, seraphs and archangels have the ability to read, delete, edit, replay, or straight-up create fake memories.
  • The third episode of Black Mirror focuses around a device called a Grain. It records memories and is capable of replay with all kinds of features like zoom, crop, reconstruction. You can also share memories with people and there is a black market for people's grains.
  • A planet visited in the nineth season of Stargate SG-1 developed a device that allowed memories to be copied from one individual and transferred to another, but not changing what happened in existing memories. They could delete memories, too, although this wasn't the primary function of the device.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons again got one of everything. The Thought Bottle, an item that appeared in Tome of Magic, does exactly this. Possible uses as a relatively secure data medium or Memory Gambit prop were mentioned.
    • In Forgotten Realms tel'kiira ("elven lore-gem") are memory storage devices used as write-at-will personal logs and spellbooks, normally usable only by elves and worn mostly by nobility. Physically, it's a little gem stuck on the forehead of its wearer, most of the time sunk in and not visible. Ancestral lore-gem worn by generations of heirs of a noble House has a value much like the flag of a military unit: not waved around in vain, and losing it counts as a major disgrace. An elven kingdom that didn't allowed humans into capital knighted a human just for carrying one of these from a dying heir to the new rightful wearer, past their guards. Variants include books of elven advanced magic, secret agents' tools and occasional hybrids with other enchanted gems, up to ioun stones turned into semi-sentient defensive spellgem following the owner.
  • In Exalted there are several means of memory transfer. The most obvious is the celestial exaltations themselves, given that a celestial exaltation is a recycled part of god-soul that holds aspects of all its former incarnations. The other is dream stones and other memory crystals. These can be found in tombs or on the black market (dream stones are apparently nearly as addictive as the Xbox of the gods). Makes sense when you realize that the mortal vessels needed to be brought back up to snuff relatively quickly in order to deal with the Primordials or they'd pretty much be reduced to glittering fodder.
  • From Wraith The Oblivion, we get the Mnemoi and their Arcanos, Mnemosynis, the sole purpose of which is to transfer and manipulate memories. In a place where memories are important for maintaining one's existence, the Mnemoi are far from welcome, and are therefore one of the three Forbidden Guilds. In actuality, the Mnemoi are using their talents to store the memories of Charon for his return, and the whole persecuted thing is a ruse. One that, sadly, works a bit too well in the end.
  • In Nomine has Memory Pearl artifacts which are pearl-like objects that can be used to remove/store memories, often used {especially by demons} to remove inconvenient knowledge from a temporary employee/associate often as part of the terms of employment.
  • "Slinkys" (Sensory links) in GURPS Transhuman Space are technically recordings of one's experiences while their "upslink" implant is active, but they fill the same function.
  • "XPs" (Experience Playbacks) in Eclipse Phase are essentially the same thing as slinkys. Though one with the "mnemmonic augmentation" implant can make them from archived memories stored in their cortical stack.
  • A central part of Mindjammer is the Mindscape, essentially an entire wireless internet devoted entirely to storing and sharing "exomemories". The name of the setting even comes from the starships used to keep the Mindscape up-to-date across interstellar distances (FTL Travel but no communications).

    Video Games 
  • A truly bizarre version of this occurs in Kingdom Hearts. Xion is a whole character made out of memories.
  • Final Fantasy VII: One of Jenova's abilities is copying the form and memories of other beings. Just knowledge of this is used to great advantage by Sephiroth to give Cloud even more psychological problems than he already had.
    • If one compares the "Sephiroth in the reactor" cutscenes of FFVII and Crisis Core, one comes to the conclusion that Cloud has memories of things that happened to Zack when he wasn't there. This makes his accidental identity theft much less embarrassing, since apparently Project S genuinely put some Zack in him.
  • The Protheans are shown to have been able to absorb the memories of other beings by merely touching objects they've handled in Mass Effect 3. Whether this is a biological or biotic power is never really explained.
  • The Sensen brain implant technology of Remember Me allows people to transfer memories between each other. In one of Nilin's memory remixes, a bounty hunter is trying to cure her husband by transferring her memories to him while he is in the hospital.
  • Professor Eri Anzai is kidnapped by Ze Balmary Empire in Shin Super Robot Wars because of her rather detailed Mu civilization theory. No item confirming the existence of this mythical people has ever come to light, but the Balmar sure seem convinced. They went so far as to digitize all of Professor Anzai's research data plus her brainwaves, despite the fact that even Professor Anzai herself has no clear idea of where the Mu might have dwelt.
  • The Sword of Melqart in Tears To Tiara 2 stores the memories of all its past users. However, they are not easily accessible, and not being strong enough would cause the sword to wipe the memory of the user. Hasdrubal uses this to purposely wipe the memory of his son Hamil so the secrets of their family does not fall into the hands of The Empire.

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, the Epsilon AI was created from the Alpha AI's memories. Agent Washington eventually receives these memories when he implants Epsilon into his head, providing the catalyst for the series' events.

    Web Comics 
  • Amorphs in Schlock Mercenary have this as a part of their Bizarre Alien Biology. Since they evolved from a type of biological computer memory their entire body is essentially their brain and memory. As such they can exchange memories by breaking off a part of themselves that contains a copy of the memory and giving it to another amorph to "eat".

Super IntelligenceMemory TropesTrauma-Induced Amnesia

alternative title(s): Tanks For The Memories
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