Evolutionary Source Code of Dreams: The Dreaming Brain in a Vat

Technological Singularity -or- Looking Backwards: 2060-1995 

In the mid 1990's, shortly after my daughter was born, I had a dream where I moved forward in time to somewhere between 2050 and 2060 AD. The psychological problem that I experienced was that in terms of dreaming and consciousness, I could not see beyond this time period window. Dream vision travel to the future is not a new idea, from a literary perspective Ralph Bellamy had done so in "Looking Backwards: 2000-1887", as did Morris in "News from Nowhere".  

What was different? While the future could be imagined by Bellamy and by Morris, in my dream, the "futurology" of dreaming and the imagination had hit a wall. That wall is rapidly approaching, we can find it on the human event horizon of our collective dream patterns, it is known today as the coming of a "technological singularity". We are fast approaching a time in our biological, technological and cultural evolution where the possibility of the science fiction dream of philosophical "transcendence" is becoming a reality. 

Walter Benjamin had long ago astutely recognized with the advent of new technology each generation dreams the dreams of the future epoch. As a University student, I was interested in such works as "An Experiment with Time" by John Dunne who believed that dreaming the future was not an occult experience, instead one that physicists would come to explain. From the perspective of Flechtheim's concepts of "futurology" we can see our technological future driven by "Moore's Law". Soon we will have the tools to achieve transcendental philosophical "thought experiments" and dreams. 

In the "post-modern" dreams such as "Postmodern Theatre of Dream Vision" posted at the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) we can begin to see the psychological seeds of the coming singularity. The IIDR article "Science Fiction -or- Fear and Loathing in the Global Village" discusses both the utopian and dystopian possibilities. The documentary "Transcendent Man"  speaks of the coming a technological singularity. Dreams that I have had in the last nearly ten years, point to the coming singularity being driven by "quantum computers" and nanotechnology. 

The singularity will cause and result in nothing less than a "revolution in dreaming", whether this revolution is similar to the ones experienced in such films as "The Matrix", "Avatar", "Inception" or "Source Code" is uncertain. Perhaps one of the most underrated and chilling Hollywood dreaming "brain in a vat" films is "Jacob's Ladder". I believe the definitive Hollywood dream factory science fiction film has yet to be made. From a historical and philosophical perspective the idea of "brain in a vat" is not a new idea, Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" and the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi's "dream of being a butterfly" illustrate the thinking. From a scientific perspective, almost 400 years ago Rene Descartes' evil demon and dream argument provided the scientific foundation for the thought experiments of the "brain in a vat" philosophical conversation which is still going on.

Further Reading: 

Alexei Panshin and Cory Panshin, "The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence" features the fascinating story of science fiction beginning with Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto".


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.