A group of people from a particular family are born with an ability to see into the past. They would like to exploit this for money but there is no obvious way to do so.


By closing their eyes and by an act of will they can see, hear, feel, taste smell in perfect detail anything that happened to them up to about 1 hour ago. They can run it forward and backwards at any speed.

This could have amazing benefits for the individual doing it (the least of which is remembering where you put your keys). However the commercial value to others is not obvious.


I can see many ways that this could be useful to the person themself. However I believe that there is absolutely no useful way that they could sell this ability to another person or organisation as all the memories are their own. Am I right?


This is not time travel. Being taken to a crime scene and being asked to say what happened 1 hour before won't work, unless of course they were already at the crime scene. Otherwise they will just remember being brought there, too late to witness anything.

None of their other abilities are adversely affected by the talent unlike for some savants.

It's effectively raw input so they can apply a different thought process to it the second (and subsequent ) times around. Of course it only goes back 1 hr so they will progressively lose the tail end of it.

While they are recalling, they are unable to observe the present. They can describe what they are experiencing.

From a computing perspective your superpower is a 1 hour FIFO buffer.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's refreshing to have someone see into the past, not in the future like always :) $\endgroup$
    – Tobias F.
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ So, what you're really asking is, "what are the practical benefits to a good memory?" $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this helps, but maybe doing some exceptional card counting? Most of the time that people get caught right now is because of some form of keeping track- like a notebook or something. But being able to re-traverse what's happened would get around the need of manual tracking $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Tobias F. - Unfortunately it is simply an exact duplicate of what they saw, heard, felt etc, at the time. Unless they already have X-ray vision (which they don't) and looked at the card, then closed boxes remain closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ We are all born with a great memory. We just choose not to use it because it's not needed. You can train yourself to have Tremendous memory lasting more than 1 hours. Nice for personal use. For any other? We have phone for that. Why remember that deal you signed? Just photo it and mad it OCR-ed with app. Turn camera on and you have 4K Hd everything movie with sound at your disposal. But to answer your question. When was the last time you watched your vacation photographs from last year? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:55

6 Answers 6


Needless to say, any games/activities that require memory. The first thing that comes to mind is to become a carnival cheat, or to capitalize on other carnival games. Things like lining up like-cards, and the three cups and one ball game. Many magicians play memory tricks, such as being able to relay the contents of an entire deck of cards while only having seen it once. This is topically done through memory palaces or other neat retention exercises.

If you want more upscale professions, a lawyer would benefit greatly from such an ability, to retain/remember completely what witnesses have said (even if it's just one hour). As would a detective, to a certain degree, though 1 hour is quite limiting.

That's my two cents. The further back you stretch this ability beyond 1 hour, the more useful it'll become.

Edit: To clarify the detective thing, it wouldn't much be for actively investigating a crime scene, but to retain details during active pursuits. This would also go for any sort of policing professions by extension. Or even, say, a medieval guard might benefit from this, though probably in such a way to milk it for money.

  • $\begingroup$ i was writing mine while you puplished. didnt see, otherwise wouldnt have bothered. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ No worries, you have a few interesting points in yours that I didn't capture. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. You are mainly saying what the benefits are for the possessor of the talent. However I'm asking what memory effects can they sell to someone else. E.g. John: "I've got an amazing memory - I can solve crimes! Pay me a load of money and I'll solve one of your crimes." Detective: "How will you having a good memory help me solve one of my crimes?" How would you answer the detective? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ Like I said in the edit: A good memory as a police officer wouldn't be so much solving a crime, but retaining details (such as a perp's face) while in pursuit of an ongoing crime. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:06

Having a short-term memory of about one hour would give the bearer an excellent advantage in all kinds of mental exercises: Calculation by heart (you can memorise a huge amount of intermediate results), playing games of mental skill like chess or go, to mention just a few possibilities. Becoming a professional in some mental activity will be a way to monetarise such a gift.

EDIT: Examples of professions are

  • A professional chess player (in our contemporary world)
  • A professional calculator (in German Rechenmeister) in our world in the 18th century or earlier
  • A professional mathematician
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I have already noted the personal benefits to the one with the power. However yours is a generic answer. What specifically are these 'mental activities' of which you speak. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ This response has been flagged as low quality. Could you please expand & clarify? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK e.g, become a professional chess player in our world. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ @jknappen - How does that work? You only have a perfect memory of 1 hour. You can remember the moves you just made but presumably you are more interested in looking ahead. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @jknappen i can memorize the moves im a chess game, but am an absolute zero at the game. Chess moves reduce to 4 characters per move, that is not something that professional players need to be exceptional at. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 15:58

How fast can you rewind and look through their memory? Can you check their 'past 1 hour' memory in like 5 minutes and experience all the details at the same level / play their memory in 12x speed?

If so, then one could recursively extend this memory ability and find potential use with LIFETIME SUPER MEMORY:

  • hour 1: read 20 books, each takes about 3 minutes, you don't need to read carefully, just skim through it but make sure each word is went through.
  • hour 2: in the first 5 minutes, check all the (super) memories and you'll essentially be able to locate each word; use the remaining 55 minutes to read new books / get new experience etc.
  • hour 3: use the first 5 minutes to re-experience the past hour, so you can locate the words in all books you've read in hour 1 since you already 'experienced' them in the first 5 minutes of hour 2, you can also locate all words you've read in hour 2 since it's within the last hour; use the remaining 55 minutes to read new books / get new experience etc.
  • hour 4: use 5 minutes to re-experience; use the rest 55 minutes to observe present. You can see the pattern.

That's how you extend your 'super memory' not limited to the past hour. Importantly, can you preserve these memory overnight? Will you be able to memorize your past 1 hour before you get up, or before you go to sleep? The first case will extend your ability to 18-ish hours, the second case will extend it to lifetime as long as you don't 'forget' to refresh it.

And at which historical time are you setting up the story? I believe such a 'librarian' ability could be more helpful in ages without google or computer-based searching system.

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    $\begingroup$ Ingenious but the problem is the 1 hour buffer. When you wake up you will remember the most recent hour. This presumably includes any dreams you were having or, if you weren't dreaming, the sensations (if any) of being unconscious. Even if you can reconstructed the whole of your experience it would simply be what you heard and felt while lying down asleep. You wouldn't see anything because your eyes were closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, this is really to say one can extend the 1 hour buffer to maximum 48-ish hours by recursion, thus more potential maybe? The (lame) ways I find this ability useful is either in a freak show, a medical school exam, or peeking at other people's password :( $\endgroup$
    – Chenxi GE
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:42

You could bank on the exceptionality of that gift.

Ethical: Go on gameshows and morning shows, showcasing your gift and essentially being a freakshow of one.

Unethical: Same morning shows, but also: It all came about because you produce and consume a tonic that drastically enhances memory, then advertise it with your brilliant 10-minute memory. As you yourself drink a bottle of it every day, your eidetic memory will, after just a year or so, have expanded to 25 minutes (250% !!1!1!). And it will keep getting better... up to one hour. But at that point you should be a cornerstone of the additives community.

Just as with jumping very high and handling a ball well, the specific gift will not be paid for, but if the industry that runs on showcasing that talent already exists, you'll be able to profit.

There are several trades that require good memory (ATC, taster, police, investigator, editor, lector, ...), but they all require additional skills and are not geared towards someone that posesses one insular superhuman value on an otherwise existing scale, so you'd just get a modest boost there.

In light of the now positively superhuman skill of replaying raw sensory input, there might be a way to exploit the worlds general lack of knowledge about this skill (so no morning shows): Prototypes (electronics, software, design, music, receipes, ) are sometimes shown to select groups who are beforehand relieved of all recording devices. In those showings there is often more visible than would be shown if the presence of what essentially would be a scanner, was known. The 1 hour time window will severely impact your MO, but you'll still be able to make a dent.

You'd also be able to do Johnny Mnemonic-type work: Connect two airgapped USB disabled systems, Carrying one time pads, or updates. Your bandwith would be as high as you typist-skill, but the guaranteed deletion of the data might make up for it. Even harder to find an employer, though


Intelligence gathering services

You can sell your services to government and corporate entities, probably at some very high rates. The 1 hour thing is very limiting, but consider that the person is equivalent to having a full suite of monitoring equipment (cameras, microphones, etc) - in situations where such equipment is prohibited, being able to "smuggle" it all in with zero risk of detection can be very valuable (this obviously presumes that the counter-party is not aware of the ability.)

You also might be able to leverage the ability into becoming a very good lie detector (both because you can use it to train your skills, and also to closely examine the subject after the fact.) It may still be impossible to catch a skilled lier, but this could nonetheless have significant value to employers.

  • $\begingroup$ The problem is the 1 hour buffer size. I suppose if you went into a secret meeting you could remember it perfectly but only for an hour. If the meeting went on for an hour, you would begin to forget it as soon as you walked out of the door. By the time you got to your associates you would have forgotten most of it and then you still have to run through it in order to dictate to them what happened. You'll only remember the end and you will have to talk very fast. (a picture is worth a thousand words). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK In the comments it's clarified that you can recall the act of recalling. So if you go into recall mode as soon as you leave the meeting and keep looping that, you can hold on to that hour indefinitely. $\endgroup$
    – Gene
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Yes but, as stated you can't experience the present while recalling. How will you be able to get out of the meeting room when you are reliving the past? Recall needs a safe environment. As stated you can described the sensations in words to a listener. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ In that scenario I assume you have accomplices that can direct you, drive the car, etc. Given that you'd be a hired hand, you'd probably just be an accessory in that secret meeting anyway. Alternatively, you might stop for a few minutes to edit the memory down the the critical portions. Or, since you can change recall speed at will, you can play it back real fast so that you just need 5 minutes out of every hour to "refresh" the compressed memory, and then slow it down when it's ready for review. $\endgroup$
    – Gene
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... interesting. The problem is that have you have a 1 hour buffer. If you use compression, you will lose resolution. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:00

Reading books and stuff like that are kind of useless. While remembering, the buffer gets replaced with the experience of remembering something. In the case of reading books, this has the same effect as reading it all over again without using the ability. Even if you remember it at half the speed, the buffer gets replaced with the new experience and half of the memory would be lost.

This ability can best be exploited in controlled situations where you can be sure that you are safe while remembering the past hour.

  1. Being an expensive lab rat for medical researchers. Anything auditory and visual can be recorded so those memories aren't as valuable. Your other senses can't be recorded by any camera so you can describe it to them with perfect detail and a higher degree of certainty. The results of tests would be much, much more reliable. Health risks and costs will be significantly reduced since each test will only need to be done once with you so there is no need to repeat to get more accurate description of the feelings or sensations.

  2. If you have a good palate, a chef would buy some accurate taste testing. They wouldn't need to waste all the rare ingredients that can only be found after climbing the 7th mountain or crossing the 7th sea just so they can make the perfect recipe. At least not as much waste as not having your abilities.

  3. Buying your abilities can still save a lot of money for a design company instead of hiring a lot of people for their opinion. You can accurately describe design flaws when it comes to UX for any software or product. A normal tester might be able to repeat an entire test case, but the second time is never the same. Would you still be scared of playing the same horror game multiple times? Experiencing your first impression all over again and describing it in great detail is very valuable in the industry that is sensitive to subjective opinions.


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