Making Sense of Data Stored in Our Machines—& in Our Heads – Facts So Romantic

The 2008 animated movie Waltz With Bashir starts with 26 bloodthirsty dogs hurtling down a road, causing havoc and terrorizing nearby people. It turns out to be a dream: Boaz Rein-Buskila keeps seeing that image while sleeping and can’t figure out why. He shares it with his friend, Ari Folman, hoping Folman, the director of the film, can help explain what it means. Waltz With Bashir probes into the two men’s memories of the 1982 Lebanon War, which they participated in as young Israeli soldiers. Folman, too, had been having his share of nightmares. He would dream of fleeting images of naked soldiers walking along the beach and watching flares light up Beirut. There was something strange about these images. They seemed to be free-floating bits of memory that kept bobbing above the waterline but never quite revealing what lay underneath. His challenge in making the movie was in reassembling the mysterious fragments from his distant past—in making sense of his faded memory.

We do that a lot—try to retrieve and make sense of our brain’s marooned information. The desire to anchor these thoughts has also crossed over into research. For instance, DARPA, the U.S. military research agency, is working…
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