Blankout: Changes since 2049/09/30

A blankout or time skip is a brief episode of short-term memory loss that has been known to occur with individuals who have a neural colloid implant. First recorded in early 2049, blankouts tend to last only short periods of time and do not impact speech or functioning, leaving those affected in a disoriented state when the blankout passes as they are suddenly unable to recall their most recent actions. The effect has been commonly described as “skipping ahead in time.”

The underlying cause of blankouts is currently unknown, though early research has established a possible link with cases of cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD), which can briefly block the flow of blood in the brain and cause memory loss.

Signs and symptoms

A blankout is identified by its main symptom, which is the brief and temporary inability to form new memories. People experiencing a blankout do not appear disoriented or confused until after it passes, when they are suddenly unable to remember the moments that were blanked out. Once a blankout has passed, people can once again form new memories and there are no further ill effects. Increased public awareness and anticipation of blankouts has led to accounts of people succeeding in actively recalling blanked events with a certain degree of focus.

While a blankout is considered harmless, they can cause emotional distress and have resulted in accidents and physical injuries, which generally occur when someone switches physical activities and then loses the memories of doing so. Examples include people thrown from their vehicles, falling down stairs or tripping over inclines, and dropping what they’re suddenly carrying. Media reports of such incidents have led to people “bracing” for possible blankouts.

One of the most notable incidents caused by a blankout involved the near crash of a private plane in Indiana, United States (US) on July 29th 2049. The plane was coming into South Bend International Airport when the pilot, Doug Kieselbach, reportedly blanked out at an altitude of approximately 80 metres and “jumped ahead” to the moment he was touching down. Kieselbach “saw the ground rushing up in an instant” and pulled back on the throttle out of shock, nearly stalling out the plane before he recovered and made a successful landing on his second approach. The publicity surrounding Kieselbach’s subsequent review by a civil aviation board is credited with blankouts receiving more attention from the medical community.

Diagnosis

There are currently no diagnostic criteria for blankouts. Most verified accounts of blankouts are based on the testimonies of those affected and accompanying witness reports. The condition was initially described as acute transient global amnesia (TGA), though this description has fallen out of favour. While TGA and blankouts both deal with disruptions of short-term memory, an episode of TGA generally lasts between two to eight hours whereas a blankout passes within minutes of its onset. Additionally, TGA usually occurs in people between the ages of 50 and 70 whereas blankouts appear to affect all ages.

There have been instances of individuals experiencing a blankout while one of their neural colloids was being pinged for a live montage. Analysis of these montages have shown no discernible abnormality or seizure activity that could account for a blankout.

Possible causes

Blankouts have proven difficult to study because they occur unpredictably and last only seconds or minutes at a time. They are not tied to any significant precipitating event and there are no apparent risk factors beyond having at least one colloid implant. Recent G6 reports have indicated that blankouts tend to be accompanied by increased bouts of anxiety.

The leading hypothesis relates blankouts to some kind of blockage or other abnormality with the flow of blood in the brain. This hypothesis has been linked to the rise in cases of cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD), which was first detected by G6 in 2047. CSVD has been known to briefly block the flow of blood to specific parts of the brain and cause memory loss. Other working theories include an epileptic event and a mass psychogenic illness.

Authorities and human rights activists have expressed concerns that blankouts could be a new type of brainjacking, making people perform actions against their will and then “deleting” the memories of those actions. These concerns have been disputed by researchers, as colloid-enabled neurotechnology is not capable of forcing people into complex actions or removing memories, and there have been no witness reports of people doing anything illegal or out of character during blankouts.

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