I had a great dream last night. It was one of those long winded dreams where I was traversing the globe doing amazing things that I might never get the chance to do, or might even be impossible in real life. As soon as I woke up, I knew I had experienced something amazing, and I needed to tell others about it.
There is one problem… I can’t remember any of it.
No doubt you have had dreams like this, in one moment you are part of a complete and amazing story with all the depth of a classic novel and all the action of a hollywood blockbuster, and in the next moment it all shatters away as you smash into consciousness. Everything, lost in a moment. A whole universe just flushed down the drain.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In the future, we will connect our dreams directly to the world wide web. If you have heard of the blog, sleep talkin’ man then you’ll know that the internet has already made some hilarious forays into the world of dreams. But the ability to capture your dreams and communicate them to the world need not be restricted to those few blessed with sleep cinema disorder.
In this video of the reconstructed brain activity of someone watching another video you can see that science has also come close to being able to visualize the activity of someone’s brain. Yes, it was a fairly limited experiment, using a restricted subset of input that the researchers were drawing on, but it still represents a window into the world of the mind (albeit a blurry one).
What will this technology look like in a decade or two? It may never be an exact high-fidelity movie of your dreams, but even if computers can tap into this vein of creativity in a somewhat fuzzy way, it could be very interesting. Imagine for instance, a movie or a video game wherein a computer uses the creative impetus of a dream to reconstruct a living story. Even if it is not perfect, it still might provide an fascinating conduit for us to finally be able to re-experience our own dreams or maybe experience the dreams of others.
This might also open up new avenues for artificial intelligence. Much as distributed computing projects like SETI at home make use of wasted computing cycles available on the computers around the globe, computers could capitalize on the wasted cycles of creativity used in dreaming. Just as teams of humans and computers working together make the best chess players, combining the ability of computers to distil vast amounts of information with the raw creative power of a dreaming brain might make for a powerful storyteller.
Now what if in addition to connecting our dreams to the world, we could connect the world to our dreams? The Remee lucid dreaming mask is a programmable sleep mask that allows you to program a light pattern that will be activated during your REM sleep. Apparently, you can train yourself to recognize the lights and take control of your dreams from within (a process known as lucid dreaming). Now, what if you were to add some level of connectivity to the sleep mask? Maybe you could play sounds from the internet during your dream.
Combining this technology with the dream conduit, you could envision a person, experiencing your dream and actually interacting with you in real time. As brain computer interfaces advance, in the future we may spend more time in a dreamy internet existence, then we spend truly awake.
The inevitable intrusion of technology into our dreams, has long been predicted in science fiction. As you can see from what I have described, this possibility may not remain science fiction for long. It seems that some level of interaction with dreams might be actually (almost) feasible with today’s technology. The idea that we would connect our dreams to the internet might be shocking to someone of today (Is no space sacred?). But, the total inundation of media that we live with today probably would have been equally shocking to someone of the past.
Interacting directly with each other’s dreams could actually be healthy for our acceptance of ourselves. We can’t always control the way we think, sometimes we all have thoughts and desires that might be socially unacceptable. In waking life we feel that our thoughts must be acceptable because we are somehow responsible for what we think. But, putting our dreams out there is a way to be totally honest with the world in such a way that we don’t have to feel responsible for what we think. We aren’t expected to control our dreams.
By connecting the totally free creative space that is the dream-world to the world, maybe we will finally know each other, and know ourselves.