The Death of Lucid Dreaming

26 Jul

Will virtual reality mean the death of lucid dreaming?

exisTenZRecently I saw the movie eXistenZ by David Cronenburg. It’s about a fully-encompassing virtual reality game, where of course, something screwy happens and you begin to question what’s real and what’s not.

To play, you have to surgically install a “bio-port” at the base of the spine that the game plugs into. Conceivably, the game interacts with the brain via the nervous system via the spine. Users then “plug in” and are transported into full-scale virtual world in which they can interact with others and the environment, just like they would in the real world. Pretty neat.

Ultimately, eXistenZ suffers the same fate of so many other science fictions film; cheesy characters, bad acting, with predictable scenes all along the way.

But 45 minutes into the film it actually goes from “this is starting to suck” to “okay this is getting interesting” once they go into the game known as eXistenZ.

Anyhow, the movie got me thinking about lucid dreaming and virtual reality, and how similar the two experiences are.

There’s a scene in existenz where they’re speaking in front of a game character about the fact that they’re in a game, and guy just stands there, wobbling back in forth, in a “game loop,” not understanding what they’re saying. This cracked me up and reminds me so much of just the general weirdness that the existence of a dream character entails, and how strange it can be to tell a dream character that they are just part of your dream.

Binary TunnelBeyond this little snippet though, the overall experience of being in an “unreal” environment that fully encompasses all the senses is what makes lucid dreaming and virtual reality so very similar. Obviously, lucid dreaming is a kind of virtual reality, and I think it rightfully fuels an interest in the development of virtual reality systems.

However, I don’t think the reverse will be true.

Virtual reality, once possible, could very likely have a negative effect on the growing culture of lucid dreaming.

Because, let’s face it – lucid dreaming is hard!

If you could simply enter into a virtual world at the touch of a button, wouldn’t you do it?

And wouldn’t it be awesome?!

Ah…but it’s just a fantasy right?

Well, I really don’t think so. If global warming or a nuclear war doesn’t ruin everything, we could develop the technology for virtual reality systems here in a few decades.

If this sounds ridiculous – and it probably does, considering, well, futurists are always wrong – go grab a snack, get comfortable, put on your thinking cap and then read this presentation by Ray Kurzweil titled The Human Machine Merger: Why We Will Spend Most of Our Time in Virtual Reality in the Twenty-first Century.

Ray Kurzweil is one of a few dozen figureheads who speak about the exponential acceleration of technology, and how this is going to result in a “Singularity.”

This term has become somewhat of fuzzy concept with lots of different meanings, but it’s safe to say it includes the point where we create an Artificial Intelligence that exceeds human intelligence. Once this AI is created, it will create increasingly more capable AI’s, who in turn do the same, and so on, creating a point at which the future simply whisps off into a singularity beyond our capacity to even imagine.

Whew!

(Yeah, that’s a lot to take in. I realize it sounds pretty absurd if you’re hearing it for the first time. If you’d like to learn more, get ready to have your mind blown so hard that it’s gonna splatter on a nearby wall and check out The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil and Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies – and What It Means to Be Human by Joel Garreau. Radical Evolution is a more unbiased look at what’s coming and I recommend reading it first for anyone not already familiar with Kurzweil’s ideas.)

Anyhow:

What’s this got to do with lucid dreaming?virtual merger

Nothing in particular, just that I think those of us who are fascinated with the idea of being in a lucid dreaming world where we can do whatever we want will likely find it fascinating that we’ll be able to replicate this concept virtually, without going to sleep, without any special skills, without supplements, and without techniques, cheaply and easily here a few decades.

Supposedly. 🙂

For me personally –

If I could enter into a virtual world at the click of a button, I bet I’d eventually spend much less time exploring the world of dreams.

What would you do?


7 Responses to “The Death of Lucid Dreaming”

  1. Hapexamendios July 27, 2007 at 10:11 am #

    Hm, that’s some scary stuff.

    I think I’d stick with lucid dreaming. Those new machines would be way too expensive for someone like me anyway. The main consequence of the creation of such a device would be that less and less people would be interested in getting there themselves.

    One thing I’m sure of is that it won’t be able to reproduce worlds such as the ones you access via dreaming. They would taste different, like something heated up in a microwave vs. on a stove 😀

    Oh, and the main advantage of sticking with lucid dreaming is that you could virtually do it whenever you’d like. (I start from the principle that LDing is a natural thing to do and all we need is to find the proper method/s for us.) No batteries, electricity nor upgrades needed. You wouldn’t be obliged to share it with your siblings either, ha!

    ps: I saw Existenz a few years after it came out because a lot of people had recommended it to me and didn’t like it at all. Predictable and gross. The only part I liked was the game loop scene.

  2. The Mad Hatter July 28, 2007 at 7:42 pm #

    Interesting idea. I think that Lucid dreaming is still something I would consider better because it allows you to communicate with your subconscious so easily. The virtual reality games might be entertaining and easier to get into, but the feel of dreaming and the quality of it would be difficult if not impossible to replicate. At least until that super computer comes along and solves everything.

    -Hatter

  3. Ben July 29, 2007 at 12:31 am #

    In a virtual reality world you would also lose that sense of euphoria & utter excitement that comes with realizing you are actually inside your own dreaming mind.

  4. Kristen August 12, 2007 at 1:48 am #

    I’ve often wondered if the availability of virtual reality experiences might actually have more of an effect on WAKING reality, making our physical reality experience more like a lucid dream. I remember Robert Monroe had an experience of tripping down some stairs once (in physical reality) where he just sort of floated down easily and didn’t hurt himself – this after he’d spent so much time in the astral, etc. Interesting concept to mull over though – thanks!

  5. Ben August 12, 2007 at 11:21 pm #

    Kristen,
    In what sense do you mean this exactly? Are you saying waking reality would become more like a lucid dream if we could overlay a virtual reality on top of it?

    I hadn’t thought of that. That would have a huge effect on waking reality. For one thing, imagine the crazy games that would become invented with such technology!

    I think I read that about Robert Monroe too. Weird.

  6. Kristen August 21, 2007 at 11:37 pm #

    I was thinking that if we train our conscious minds to respond to situations with more than just typical physical reality abilities, they might bleed through into our physical lives, like that RM example. Something like that. Anyway – just a thought! 🙂

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