I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about the nature of the retrieval procedure at first; the idea of a ship’s AI poking around in my memory was a little daunting, to say the least. But now that I fully understand Hoyle’s proposed treatment, it doesn’t seem too scary at all. Even though the method seems a little bizarre, almost like something out of the nu-age pseudoscience that was rampant on Earth before the swarms. But it might just work.Hoyle himself explained it to me, appearing on a flat screen in the sickbay ward I was in. The AI Hoyle adopts the image and personality of an old-time English professor; I have never seen an Englishman of that kind in real life, but they appear in plenty of historical simulations. With twinkling good humour and a strange didactic demeanor the AI described eir proposal to me.
“Sit down, and make yourself comfortable; I tend to waffle on a bit, so stop me if I wander off into a digression, won’t you?
Now then. It seems to me apparent that the loss of your memories - the loss of your life’s history - is very distressing, and many others on the ship are similarly affected. If I can’t do anything about it, we will have a ship full of unhappy colonists refusing to re-enter hibernation, and almost certainly we will not have enough resources to reach the destination with a single soul alive.
But what to do, eh?Well now.
I think that some, or many of your memories are still there, somewhere; they are just a little buried. Perhaps we can dig them up. You may have lost all your conscious recollections, but there are still almost certainly remnants buried in your subconscious. Every night, when you sleep, you may wander in those memories, recalling things your waking mind has forgotten. But every morning you forget your dreams again; this is a well-known and understood mechanism, which stops you confusing your dream-life with the real world.
For a long time there have been techniques which suppress that mechanism, and allow dreams to be recalled either partially or in full. You may have seen the commercial dream-recordings that some virtual media companies advertise for sale; a fully pre-packaged dream scenario implanted into your sleeping mind, generally associated with one of those virtual world scenarios that were popular on Earth before the Great Expulsion. Now there is no purpose in a company selling pre-packaged dreams if the customer forgets the dream immediately on waking, is there? Eh?
Indeed, there are ways of allowing you to remember your dreams. I can do that easily. But I intend to gently nudge you into recalling your lost past in your sleep. I have studied this subject in detail, both using the mass of scientific data in my databanks, and also experimentally using a number of volunteers (including Harlan, here; thank you, young man). I am now convinced that there is a subtle difference in the brain’s chemistry when you recall events from your past, whether awake or no. You might call it nostalgia: a slight aching or longing for things past, which manifests itself as a distinct and reproducible biochemical state in your brain at certain loci.
By reproducing this state while you are in REM sleep I will attempt to make you dream of your past; whatever information remains in your head concerning your past will hopefully surface, and be sorted into more or less coherent memories. I believe I can give you your past back.”
Harlan enthusiastically added that he had been subjected to this form of induced nostalgia, and had vivid dreams of his past, including things he had seemingly forgotten. But Hoyle needed to try the procedure on a number of volunteers with substantial memory loss; after a short debate with myself, I agreed to help with the trials.After all, it was only dreaming; how risky could it be?