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"There's no point in making a mistake unless you understand the mistake so that you donít make it again."
- Alfred Bester

RNA Shots  
  An injection prepared from the tissues of a person with knowledge or experience that you need.  

Don't read Cliff notes - eat Cliff.

"I learned your speech through RNA training, many years ago. You'll learn your trade the same way if you get that far. You'll be amazed at how fast you learn with RNA shots to help you along..."

"You said you learned English with RNA injections. Where does the RNA come from?

Pierce smiled and walked away.

From A World Out of Time, by Larry Niven.
Published by Random House in 1976
Additional resources -

Experiments with RNA have, in fact, demonstrated actual chemical memeory transfer. Michigan psychologist James McConnell has shown this with Planaria, or flatworms. He conditions them by electrical shock to contract when a light is flashed. Then he grinds the worms up and feeds them to untrained worms, who are then able to learn to contract twice as fast as their predecessors. What happens is that the first group of worms form new RNA which molds new proteins containing the message that light is a signal to contract. Then the second group, having consumed the memory proteins, don't need to manufacture so much of their own; they have swallowed memory, so to speak. The same kind of experiments have been performed with rats wherein they are taught to fear darkness, after which their brains are ground up and injected into mice, which then react to darkness the same way. RNA, therefore, chemically converts experiences into learning which can then be transfered to the cells of another creature. In 1964, Hyden and Egyhazi found that rats trained to use their nonpreferred paws to obtain food showed both higher amounts and different types of RNA in the brain region controlling that paw. Control animals who used their prefeoued paws (and hence required no new learning) showed no changes in RNA. Simply showing changes in RNA as the result of learning, however, does not explain whether the RNA molecules carry the memories, or if the changes in RNA are the result of other brain changes caused by memory formation.

All of which has lead McConnell to speculate whimsically: "Why should we waste all the knowledge a distinguished professor has accumulated simply because he's reached retirement age?" Instead, McConnell proposes, the students should eat the professor.

In 1970, Ungar reported the isolation of an extract obtained from the brains of mice that had learned to avoid shock by leaving a dark compartment. When injected into naive mice, it caused them to leave their normally preferred dark chambers, in the absence of experiences with aversive consequences. Ungar named this extract scotophobin (a Greek word meaning "fear of the dark").

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A World Out of Time
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to A World Out of Time
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

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