Memories are nothing but chemicals. At that level, there’s no difference between a real and a fake memory, so if we have the appropriate nanotech, we can write some code to create memories, virtual experiences indistinguishable from those taking place in reality. Such is the concept of OtherLife. The movie’s titular company plans to sell vacation memories, allowing users to experience a day’s worth of snowboarding in less than a minute of real time. Why not take a vacation every day before going to work, arriving fresh and relaxed?
So far we’re in Total Recall territory, but the twist here isn’t secret double agents on Mars. Just a tech startup that needs funding. One founder, our heroine, created the company to further develop the tech and perhaps revive her brother from a coma. The other founder, in order to secure some necessary bridge funding days before launch, is in some shady talks with the prison bureau to develop a line of virtual imprisonment. Very near term, contemporary science fiction. It’s actually set in 2017. Just some stealth mode startup you haven’t heard about yet.
From here we explore the nature and ethics of memories. Is subjecting someone to a year of virtual solitary confinement that elapses in one real minute more or less ethical than taking away a year of their actual life? How do we know what’s real? Shades of Inception here, but with much less boom boom gusto. Very Black Mirror, with a bit of a twist, but a touch less pessimism. We’ve seen this concept before, but this might be the most grounded, without trying too hard to impress.