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The most basic of plot summaries for the move Inception: Dominic Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) is a master of his art, paid handsomely by well-funded businessmen to extract information from people’s brains. But his latest job is something different – he must plant a thought in someone’s head in such a way that they believe it was their own. Almost impossible apparently, even with the best team in the business around him – Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is Cobb’s right-hand man, Eames (Tom Hardy) is a forger who can take on different identities in the dream world, Yusef (Dileep Rao) is the chemist and Ariadne (Ellen Page) the architect. The much-vaunted trailer put particular emphasis on the stunning visuals which are enought to wow even the most hardened cinema-goer
I have seen the movie and it is very good for action, plot, acting, effects, pacing, script and for concepts and contemplation of the mind and relationships.
Wikipedia discusses the real world of lucid dreaming. A lucid dream is a dream in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming. A lucid dreamer can actively participate in and manipulate imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can seem extremely real and vivid, depending on a person’s level of self-awareness during the lucid dream. A lucid dream can begin in one of two ways. A dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD) starts as a normal dream, and the dreamer eventually concludes it is a dream, while a wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. Lucid dreaming has been researched scientifically, and its existence is well established
I have personally experienced wake-initiated lucid dream and dream-initiated lucid dream back when I was in high school and early university. I was able to initiate them about 10% of the time for about three years. I could have dreams and then realize that I was dreaming, which might cause me to wake up and then I could re-initiate the dream as a wake-initiated lucid dream but then have control.
Eventually I abandoned lucid dreaming because it effected the quality of sleep and because of a series of nightmares which I could not use lucid dreaming to control. I will discuss what wikipedia describes about lucid dreaming, out of body experiences and sleep paralysis and compare it to my own experience. I will not refer any more to the movie Inception (other than an embedded trailer) as a close comparison and analysis would involve too many spoilers.
Perception of time in a lucid dream
The rate at which time passes while lucid dreaming has been shown to be about the same as while waking. However, a 1995 study in Germany indicated that lucid dreaming can also have varied time spans, in which the dreamer can control the length. The study took place during sleep and upon awakening, and required the participants to record their dreams in a log and how long the dreams lasted. In 1985, LaBerge performed a pilot study where lucid dreamers counted out ten seconds while dreaming, signaling the end of counting with a pre-arranged eye signal measured with electrooculogram recording. LaBerge’s results were confirmed by German researchers in 2004. The German study, by D. Erlacher and M. Schredl, also studied motor activity and found that deep knee bends took 44% longer to perform while lucid dreaming
In my own experience far more time would pass in reality for the equivalent time in the dream.
Awareness and reasoning
Düsum Khyenpa was a master-level practitioner of Tibetan lucid dream yoga. While dream control and dream awareness are correlated, neither requires the other—LaBerge has found dreams which exhibit one clearly without the capacity for the other; also, in some dreams where the dreamer is lucid and aware they could exercise control, they choose simply to observe. In 1992, a study by Deirdre Barrett examined whether lucid dreams contained four “corollaries” of lucidity: knowing that dreamt people are indeed dreamt, that objects won’t persist beyond waking, that physical laws need not apply, and having clear memory of the waking world, and found less than a quarter of lucidity accounts exhibited all four. A related and reciprocal category of dreams that are lucid in terms of some of these four corollaries, but miss the realization that “I’m dreaming” were also reported. Scores on these corollaries and correctly identifying the experience as a dream increased with lucidity experience
One problem faced by people wishing to experience lucid dreams is awakening prematurely. This premature awakening can be frustrating after investing considerable time into achieving lucidity in the first place. Stephen LaBerge proposed two ways to prolong a lucid dream. The first technique involves spinning one’s dream body. He proposed that when spinning, the dreamer is engaging parts of the brain that may also be involved in REM activity, helping to prolong REM sleep. The second technique is rubbing one’s hands. This technique is intended to engage the dreamer’s brain in producing the sensation of rubbing hands, preventing the sensation of lying in bed from creeping into awareness. LaBerge tested his hypothesis by asking 34 volunteers to either spin, rub their hands, or do nothing. Results showed 90% of dreams were prolonged by hand rubbing and 96% prolonged by spinning. Only 33% of lucid dreams were prolonged with taking no action
The “impossible architecture” of M. C. EscherReality testing (or reality checking) is a common method used by people to determine whether or not they are dreaming. It involves performing an action and observing if the results are consistent with results which would be expected in a state of wakefulness. By practicing these tests during waking life, one may eventually decide to perform such a test while dreaming, which may fail and let the dreamer realize that they are dreaming.
The pain test — “Pinch me, I think I’m dreaming!” — is only effective in very few dreams. In Stephen LaBerge’s book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming it is proven that dreamed action produces real effects on the brain and body. Therefore, if the dreamer pinches itself, it will indeed feel pain but it will be unlikely to induce lucidity, because the schema for pain in the dreamer’s brain will activate and the dreamer will feel pain even if there is no real physical stimulus. This same logic applies for other sensations, such as pleasure, heat, cold and a variety of other feelings the dreamer could experience in the waking world.
Looking at text or one’s digital watch (remembering the words or the time), looking away, and looking back. The text or time will probably have changed randomly and radically at the second glance or contain strange letters and characters. (Analog watches do not usually change in dreams, while text and digital watches have a great tendency to do so.) A digital watch or clock may feature strange characters or the numbers all out of order.
Flipping a light switch. Light levels rarely change as a result of the switch flipping in dreams.
Looking into a mirror; in dreams, reflections from a mirror often appear to be blurred, distorted, incorrect, or frightening.
Looking at the ground beneath one’s feet or at one’s hands. If one does this within a dream the difference in appearance of the ground or one’s hands from the normal waking state is often enough to alert the conscious to the dream state.
If you listen to music while you sleep, listen to see if the lyrics are changed or if the tempo of the song changes
I have had the experience of sleep paralysis about four times and twice during the period when I was attempting and sometimes succeeding to lucid dream and once before and once after. My own take on is it is that one is lucid with partial awareness of body senses but where one still has REM activity.
During REM sleep the body paralyses itself as a protection mechanism in order to prevent the movements which occur in the dream from causing the physical body to move. However, it is possible for this mechanism to be triggered before, during, or after normal sleep while the brain awakens. This can lead to a state where a person is lying in bed and feels paralyzed. Hypnagogic hallucination may occur in this state, especially auditory ones. Effects of sleep paralysis include heaviness or inability to move the muscles, rushing or pulsating noises, and brief hypnogogic imagery. Experiencing sleep paralysis is a necessary part of WILD, in which dreamers essentially detach their “dream” body from the paralyzed one. Also see OBE or Out-Of-Body-Experience, opposing the scientific theory of these occurrences stating that the paralysis is actually an occurrence to one who is already “separated” from their physical body meaning that “physical action potentials” have no effect here but “mental actions” do – a hint given that those who are finding difficulty moving are using the wrong “mechanism”.
An out-of-body experience (OBE or sometimes OOBE) is an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one’s body and, in some cases, perceiving one’s physical body from a place outside one’s body (autoscopy). About one in ten people think they have had an out-of-body experience at some time in their lives. Scientists are learning about the phenomenon
I have had four experiences of out of body sensations while sleeping. However, I believe that those were tricks of the subconscious, where the dream was a simulation and memory of the room and the area outside. Perhaps this means that I did not have true out of body experiences. The reason that I think they were tricks of the subconscious was that when I reviewed the experiences, the room where I “left my body” and the area outside as I moved out of the house were not accurate and correct to what was actually there. It did not pass the after the fact “reality check”.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.