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- "Our DNA functions as an archive. It contains not only genetic instructions passed down from previous generations, but memories as well. The memories of our ancestors."
- ―Warren Vidic, a leading figure in genetic memory, 2012.[src]
Genetic memory is the collection of memories of one's ancestors that are passed down into subsequent generations through DNA. It enables instinctive skills in animals, and acted as an archive of history in humans.
The corporation Abstergo Industries developed the Animus virtual machine explicitly to decode and render such memories in a three-dimensional feed, allowing the reliving of past events and the discovery of hidden information. After extraction, genetic memories could also be reviewed by people who did not hold them, through the use of another Abstergo creation, the Data Dump Scanner.
- Main article: Animus Project
This eventually led to the creation of the Animus Project, headed by Dr. Warren Vidic. The project involved acquiring several human subjects with historically relevant ancestors, particularly those of notable Assassins or Templars, and analyzing their genetic memories. Animus Subjects 1 through 17 were placed into the Animus for extensive review, where large sections of their genetic memories were analyzed.
Genetic memories could be obtained from both willing or unwilling subjects. Should one not co-operate in entering an Animus and reliving a memory, a coma could simply be induced on the subject and the memories extracted from their dormant mind.
However, in regards to this method, William Miles revealed that by being uncooperative and refusing to move, it would make reviewing memories hard enough so that it would take weeks to try and force such information out of an individual.
Even when done voluntarily, initially reliving genetic memories could prove difficult, as most participants subconsciously rejected the foreign memories. Traumatic genetic memories were also difficult to access, at least until the subject had greatly increased their synchronization with their ancestor.
Additionally, genetic memory of one individual stopped upon the conception of the next ancestor, from which the viewer was descended. On the occasion where Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad and Maria Thorpe conceived their second son, Desmond's ancestral memories shifted from Altaïr to the child.
Memory within memory patterns could also be exhibited, given certain conditions. Subject 15, for example, relived genetic memories while she was pregnant. During this time, the memories decoded by the Animus competed for priority, as the machine attempted to read the memories of both the fetus' mother and father.
A similar case occurred when Desmond viewed the later memories of Ezio Auditore. At one point where he attempted to relive the Siege of Viana, at the time, Ezio himself was recalling the Siege of Monteriggioni, thus forcing Desmond back into that memory.
Synchronizing memories from the 20th century proved challenging for Abstergo Entertainment, as reliving someone driving for lengthy periods of time led to researchers experiencing the same semi-catatonic state people enter when driving in real life, rendering progression more difficult.
- Main article: Memory extraction
By the early 21st century, Abstergo had found a way to extract memories from the genetic memory of certain individuals and to let other subjects relive those memories using the Data Dump Scanner software.
Memory extraction served as the basis for Abstergo's Project Legacy, which focused on obtaining information on the Assassins and the Pieces of Eden though extracted memories, and the Animi Training Program, which used extracted memories as a means to train Abstergo's agents. Extracted memories were also later inserted into the privatized Animi sold by Abstergo Entertainment.