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"Amnesia and the Self That Remains When Memory Is Lost"


"Please forgive me for asking this, but I do this with everybody. Could you tell me your name again and how it is that I know you?"

" name is Dan. Dan Levitin."

There was neither recognition nor unrecognition. Just a calm, interested face staring back at me.

"We were students together at Stanford," I continued. "We took a couple of psychology classes together."

"Oh, yes, I have a degree in psychology."

"We were in Professor Pribram's class, and we worked in a lab together, Roger Shepard's lab."


"Roger Shepard. He had a music and perception lab."

"Wow. That sounds like it must have been interesting. What did I work on there?"

"I don't know. I guess ... I guess I was absorbed in my own work. I'm really sorry."

"That's okay. Did I like being in the lab?"

"Yes, I think you did. I mean, you never complained. You always seemed pretty focused."

"That's good. I'd hate to think that I was doing something I didn't enjoy." He was sitting on the edge of the old sofa and I could see that the pillows were caved in under him. "So we were students together. I guess that was many years ago. Did we stay in touch after that?"

"Well, we ended up working, a few years later, for the same company. A research corporation in Palo Alto."

"Did we work together?"

"No, we were in different divisions. You worked with Joy, and I worked with Bob. But we saw each other from time to time, and I was interested in what your group was doing. Your team gave a really good presentation during the annual roundup. I remember you had worked on a very clever new musical instrument called the 'bead box.' People could move different beads around on spindles, and the beads would play different musical licks. It was a way for non-musicians to have fun with music, without having to devote themselves to years of practice."

"Huh?" he said, looking at the ceiling, "the 'bead box.' Doesn't ring a bell. But I don't get many bells ringing these days!"

"Well it was very cool."

He looked over at me. "So, were we friends?"

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