The brilliant entrepreneur, producer, and animation innovator Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” So, can dreams reveal and even help us realize hidden human potential?
My last three blogs — “Extending Our Brains to Become Superhumans,” “What If I could Fly? — well, very soon,” and “I am god… So Are You” — have all dealt with a huge wave of human augmentation that is coming our way.
1) we’re spending time and money to see how we can essentially take our brain into overdrive, to capacities not seen by typical humans – turning us into superhumans;
2) we may not be used to thinking of humans as freely moving entities but what if there are no longer any limitations on our movement, what if we could actually fly;
3) as we continue to evolve as a species, nanobiotechnologies will help us live longer, become faster, build muscle, grow taller…and we may even reach immortality.
As each previous Blog suggests, our capacity as humans is far more than we give credit to. So what about our dreams?
We really don’t understand our dreams, or even why we dream. There’s so much scientific data yet there’s so much contradiction about the nature of dreams, from the causes to true meaning. The thinking ranges from psychological importance to physiological. Some science argues that we dream to sort out the daily data intake, others that it helps isolate our experience devoid of emotions that we attach to those everyday experiences.
As fascinating as all those concepts are, I don’t want to focus on them in this blog, but rather on another impeccable characteristic of dreams that unveils hidden human potential.
But first, those familiar with high-functioning autism, and more specifically with Asperger’s syndrome, have seen unreal cases, scenarios that go beyond normal human experience. Do you remember actor Dustin Hoffman, who played a savant alongside his brother Tom Cruise, in the Oscar winning movie Rain Man — well, there are real “savants” doing amazing things today.
Savants such as Stephen Wiltshire often have problems with simple communication, but he’s also nicknamed the “living camera” for drawing immaculate renditions of what he sees. He once seamlessly drew part of Rome’s magnificent city center, from the Pantheon to the Colosseum, on a 16 foot-wide panoramic panel of paper after just a 45-minute helicopter ride — without a second glance, and without an aerial view prior to that. View the video and be wowed! Like most of us, Stephen loves to be applauded for his “art” but unlike most humans, he displays talent that goes into the superhuman realm.
By the way, savants are increasingly finding their way into the biotech and high-tech worlds. Wired magazine named Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) the Geek Syndrome. And, observers note a recurring cultural meme. Just Google “autism” along with any high-tech entrepreneur name — Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, etc.
Now back to our dreams. We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep. The average lifespan of a person in the US is about 80 years, so that means a full 26 years of our lives could pass us by underutilized. But what if we could harness the 2-3 hours a night when we actively dream?
Think about your own dreams and how real they already can appear. In our dreams we often become savant-like. We “draw” elaborate stories and tell them with such precise details as to timing, decoration, spacing, colors, the clothing people wear, etc. as if we are long time authors. We dream of human faces that we have never been seen.
Yet we provide great details of their shapes, almost as if we are master impressionists. In many cases, those faces are of people that we’ve already come across on the streets or through a media source — our conscious mind hadn’t captured it, but our subconscious had and then stored it deep in our memories, where we think we have no access until we shut our eyes. In our memory bank we have copies of those images, just like savant Wiltshire did of Rome. But unlike him, we don’t possess the tools (yet!) to tap into those memories and reproduce a drawing of Rome or even our own street, where we walk and drive by day after day.
Imagine gaining further access to our brains as we do to our subconscious mind during sleep. People who have Inception-style “lucid” dreams talk of ‘waking up’ and flying at will or manipulating the imaginary world around them. Already, research into lucid dreaming finds that it also has real-world benefits such as losing weight, confronting phobias, and becoming more aware and productive in the real world. Practicing a physical activity during a lucid dream could improve performance in waking life.
With possibilities endless, when a bridge is made, in our daytime we may become as masterful as we are at night…
Fascinating subject. We still have a lot to explore when it comes to our world, but to think that something that is happening inside our head can have as mysterious of causes and effects.
Look forward to the day we learn to understand our dreams – could be a key to understanding ourselves.
On a lighter note, would prefer some dreams to be unrealized 😱
Hope we don’t fall prey to Maladaptive Daydreaming and forget to draw a clear line between our dream world and reality.
Your articles never cease to disappoint, Armen. I find each more stimulating than the last.
While space has been proclaimed the final frontier for humanity, I feel that the dream world is often overlooked as a final frontier of an internal, rather than external, nature. I look forward to discussing this topic and others with you next week in DC.