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Inception: Lucid Dreaming as Radical Life Extension
Jønathan Lyons   Nov 17, 2013   Ethical Technology  

I teach a course on science fiction and futurism. As a result, sci-fi ideas often influence my transhumanist essays for the IEET. This essay is no exception.

In the science-fiction movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, an expert at entering other people’s dreams, often for the purpose of corporate espionage. One aspect of dreaming as portrayed in the movie is the alteration of the passage of time: One minute of time spent dreaming equals 12 minutes experienced.

One unexplored aspect of this effect is that it could be seen as a method of radical life extension. This factor of experiencing 12 times more life lived than one would in the waking world is already a pretty radical extension of life experienced. In fact, the character Yusuf, a master pharmacologist/chemist, has a clientele of people who meet up each day to share their dream state. In a setting that eerily echoes an opium den, these people come each day not, as their caretaker puts it, to dream, but to wake up. Their dreams have become their lives.

Yusuf has also created a concoction dreaming that increases the time-altering effect of dreaming, raising the multiple to a factor of 20.

The effect is compounded by going into dreams within the dreams; when the dreamers get to the third level -- a dream within a dream within a dream, the character Ariadne realizes that on the 10-hour transpacific flight they are planning will take an astonishing 10 years.

Ten years of life in a 10-hour dream? Anyone who wished to maximize the amount of life they experience would sign on.

It goes further. At the bottom level of dreaming is a level called Limbo. Limbo is unstructured dreamspace, in which dreamers can create and shape whatever they wish. Cobb and his now-deceased wife spent a nap in Limbo, and they created a world of their own, populated with their memories and creations; they lived there and grew old together before they awoke.

So if the rules of Inception applied, and one managed to drop into Limbo, one could conceivably live a long life, with superhuman control over the reality of the dreamworld, and grow old many, many times. Were this the case, I think many people would sign up for at least some time experiencing the time-dilating properties of at least some level of controlled dreaming.

Jønathan Lyons is an affiliate scholar for the IEET. He is also a transhumanist parent, an essayist, and an author of experimental fiction both long and short. He lives in central Pennsylvania and teaches at Bucknell University. His fiction publications include Minnows: A Shattered Novel.


Friendly reminder: Inception is an excellent work of Science FICTION… (Coincidentally, I just finished re-watching it last night…) The best movie which describes how dreams Really Work (tm) is “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

I know it’s science fiction; that’s why I used “if,” rather than something more certain.
I teach a science fiction & futurism course, and show both Inception and Eternal Sunshine - both great flicks.

Such dream states are certainly a lovely game to play.. but consciousness is very related to identity…

I just think that we will have extreme longevity in a world that matters with a core identity that matches actions to consequences in the world where identity exists.

It doesn’t matter to me if that’s in a world where my identity functions on a non-biological strata or on a biological one that’s similar to what I have now.

It does matter if I’m looking at the physical world. I want to be aware of the world where meteors hit solid objects like planets and spaceships and non-human (And sometimes human) organisms would look at me as a source of food.

Having one’s energy and focus pointed inward so that one didn’t notice that an alien life form was making sushi of the strata on which one was living would be unfortunate.

Dreams, stories, games, fantasy… great and lovely fun..but they are games that make frosting on the cake.. not the cake itself.

What if you could combine the time dilation effects of the sleep state with a direct brain to computer interface that is generating a virtual reality?

This should provide several benefits:

1. You could have continuity between sessions.
2. You could retrieve information you create during a session while in the waking state.
3. You could monitor the physical environment where your body is resting.
4. You could interact with other people, who may be sleeping or awake.
5. You could think and act on shared data at an accelerated rate relative to people in the waking state. This might create an advantage for teams made of sleepers and wakers in situations where sleepers could interact with sensor networks and data flows at very high frequencies while communicating to their waking companions.

Dilated Time Virtual Reality (DTVR)?

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