A special report on advances in understanding memory

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Deep Dive - Neuroscience

Special report: The future of forgetting

Illustration of hole floating in space shown through alternating green and black lines in a style of optical illusion.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

We are desperate to fight forgetting — it scares us, it annoys us, and it can cost us. Yet there are also memories we want to forget.

Why it matters: Rather than being a flip side or failure of memory, forgetting is now being studied by neuroscientists as a brain process in its own right. They're starting to understand how neurons forget information, in hopes of developing new treatments for degenerative diseases that cause debilitating forgetting and for helping those who need to forget.

Saving AI from catastrophic forgetting

Illustration of a raised robot hand with a red string around it's index finger.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the quest to build AI that goes beyond today's single-purpose machines, scientists are developing new tools to help AI remember the right things — and forget the rest.

Why it matters: Getting that balance right is the difference between a machine that can trade stocks like a pro but can't make head or tail of a crossword puzzle, and one that learns all that plus a variety of other skills, and continually improves them — an important step toward human-like intelligence.