The interview uses the term ‘memory editing’ which is not a great label for these drugs, such as beta-blocker propranolol, which largely work by reducing the emotional ‘kick’ stored with a memory of a painful or traumatic experience when taken after the experience or during recall.
However, it is also not true that propranolol solely effects the emotional aspects. Careful reading of the studies show that people treated with the compound do typically show a slight reduction in their actual memory for traumatic events.
But the interview makes the interesting point that maybe we’re a bit too focused on removing or reducing memories, the problem of inducing false memories is probably more serious:
Wired.com: I’ve asked about memory removal ‚Äî but should the discussion involve adding memories, too?
Sandberg: People are more worried about deletion. We have a preoccupation with amnesia, and are more fearful of losing something than adding falsehoods.
The problem is that it’s the falsehoods that really mess you up. If you don’t know something, you can look it up, remedy your lack of information. But if you believe something falsely, that might make you act much more erroneously.
You can imagine someone modifying their memories of war to make them look less cowardly and more brave. Now they’ll think they’re a brave person. At that point, you end up with the interesting question of whether, in a crisis situation, they would now be brave.
Link to ‘The Messy Future of Memory-Editing Drugs’.