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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Second Life and Lucid Dreaming

I have been fortunate throughout my life to have had lucid dreams on a fairly regular basis. This is an extremely interesting experience on many levels.

Since you know you are dreaming, in principle none of the rules of reality are necessarily applicable. For example walking through walls and flying around are usually possible. But other powers are curiously not on the menu.

I have not been able to make objects materialize or directly control the actions of people. However, telekinesis is often possible.

I find it interesting that the ways of invoking these actions is almost identical to the technologies that I have become accustomed to using, especially Second Life. Telekinesis is achieved by holding out my arm in the direction of the object and executing a kind of mental "right mouse click" then moving the object freely in 3D.

Flying can usually be initiated by lifting my arms, exactly the way it appears in Second Life. Last night I was following somebody flying around and his arms were in the classic Second Life flying position. He was going so fast that I was wishing I could pull up a mini-map view and chase him as a green dot, as is done in Second Life.

My interpretation of this is that the way our subconscious solves problems is governed by following rules that it has learned from experience. And the technology we spend time using sets the parameter space of what is allowed or possible. If this is true it suggests that spending time in diverse complex environments could make us more creative.

I think this has implications for how researchers think about and plan their experiments and how they collaborate and teach others.

I would bet that getting used to telekinesis in an environment like Second Life makes you more susceptible to thinking about remotely controlling experiments or using robotics. Similarly using a tool like the Amazon Mechanical Turk extensively in research must change the way you automatically conceptualize the role of people in projects.

It is fascinating how simulated people behave in lucid dreams. I think my subconscious does a good job of replicating the social mores to which I am accustomed, whether in person or via social software. Basically the people in lucid dreams display a range of personalities. To get them to interact, first you have to find the friendly ones then approach them politely. I wonder if the simulated people in the lucid dreams of those in the military obey direct orders without any problem. Because they certainly don't take kindly to it when I try.

Another surprising property of the subconscious in a lucid dream is that it behaves like a separate individual. You can speak to it and it understands, sometimes responding with a sense of humor. As I mentioned before, I have never been able to make an object materialize in front of me just by willing it. But what I can do is say out loud "You know it would be very nice for you to make me a nice juicy steak - and don't forget to activate my sense of taste." Nothing will happen for a few seconds but as I turn a corner there will be a meal waiting.

So in a very real sense, if the subconscious plays the role of God in lucid dreams, "prayers" do get answered sometimes!

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