The Mind’s AI
So there he was, Richard Dawson, in all of his ’70s glory — with a dark blazer and medallion over gray turtleneck — seated behind a large, ornate desk in a room lined with bookshelves. The camera pulled in on him as credits appeared on screen announcing that I’d come across some kind of documentary series on talk shows.
I landed on this sight while flipping television channels in a dream.
Waking up, I got the sense that I hadn’t actually been flipping channels but rather watching the results of artificial intelligence tasked with creating such a program. It was still a dream, of course, no matter the rationale behind what was on that monitor in my unconscious mind’s eye; as I rapidly became conscious, however, I found myself intensely musing on similarities between dreams and imagery generated by omnivorous algorithm.
One fascinating thing about dreams to me is that they can draw on the entirety of what we’ve taken in, knowingly or subconsciously, to inform the plots and dress the virtual sets of the movies that play in our head as we sleep.
I dreamt once about my cats, adopted when they were pretty much fully grown at eight months old, delighting in what was basically a false memory of seeing them as tiny kittens. While I never knew them that young in reality, I’d been around cats in their infancy before, so all the data was there for my brain to extrapolate.
That oneiric calculus has been put to use countless times in ways that I’d love to be able to unlock.
I have become aware in dreams that I was dreaming, but almost invariably awoken before I could explore much in a lucid state. How wonderful it would be to immerse myself in new comic books from my childhood so far only fleetingly glimpsed, whipped up by remixing the art styles and characters and trade dress so familiar to me; or to harness all the input absorbed over a lifetime to better practice another language; or to have rich conversations with simulacra of loved ones lost, imbued with every last detail, remembered or forgotten, of which my onboard computer ever took note.
Perhaps down that alluring road lies madness, should we learn to conjure immersive scenarios so enthralling that addiction invariably ensues, although if we’re headed there anyhow I’d probably rather vanish into recombinations of my own memories than endlessly chase the high of results on a screen — except, come to think of it, this all began with a television in a dream…