Interesting ideas interspersed with nonsense - RSS - by nikhil bhatla, -
Home Archives February 2006

« Brief Guide to Persuasion from Power of Persuasion - Some simple ideas »
Building a Dream Machine
Feb 7, 2006, 10:27a - Technology

Ever since I was in high school, I thought it would be awesome to have a device that let you resume your dreams. I remember the numerous times that my dreams were interrupted by my morning alarm clock, the repetitive ringing entering the dream as a telephone or a fire alarm before completely drowning out the dream and pushing my consciousness up for air.

I always imagined the dream machine to be the ultimate entertainment device. It would surpass movies and video games as the preeminent form of visual entertainment, because it would be personal, private, interactive, limitless, and as real as reality (no "suspension of disbelief" required).

Soon, I think we'll actually be able to build such a device, based on technological advancements in monitoring brain output (via the SQUID [superconducting quantum interference device] helmet) and direct stimulation of the brain (via TMS [transcranial magentic stimulation]). If we believe that the brain is fundamentally a deterministic state machine (which is currently unproven), then the dream machine would work as follows:

1) Before going to bed, put on the dream machine, which is a thin cap + eye cover that includes thousands of SQUID sensors and communicates wirelessly to the base station next to your bed.

2) When you're sleeping, the device detects when you enter REM sleep, indicating that dreaming has begun, and starts recording the magnetic waves picked up by the SQUID. When REM is finished, it stops recording, noting the time and duration.

3) In the morning, you examine your dream log to see how many dreams you had, with the option of annotating the night with what you remember about your dreams.

4) The following night, before going to sleep, you instruct the device to resume the last dream from the previous night.

5) When you're sleeping and start REM again, the device uses thousands of TMS coils to paste the brain state back into the brain that the SQUIDs had copied the previous night. Viola, the dream is resumed!

Note that the 1st-generation device cannot necessarily read people's minds. It has no knowledge of the content of each dream, just the mental state, as recorded in magnetic waves, of the dreamer during the dream. So it won't be able to let you conduct arbitrary searches without manual annotation of your dreams.

Of course, the 2nd-generation device would enable network play so you can dream together in the same dream-world as your friends or even strangers, and let you share your dreams with others. You would also be able to download someone else's dream directly into your mind. And of course, anyone who was capable of dreaming could publish their dreams for others to use.

The 2nd-gen version seems more complex though - I'd be happy just getting the 1st-gen version working first :)

Read comments (1) - Comment

omar - Feb 7, 2006, 7:40p
hey nikhil,

now i realize what you were talking about with me on the train -- it's not a time machine, it's a dream machine!

there are many dreams that i've wanted to escape (nightmares..) but certainly a few i've wanted to keep.

i posted something about our chat at ... more to come. i've added you back to my web clips, btw ;)

« Brief Guide to Persuasion from Power of Persuasion - Some simple ideas »

Come back soon! Better yet, stay up-to-date with RSS and an RSS Reader. Creative Commons License