Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real?

What if you were unable to wake from that dream… how would you know the difference between the dream, and the real world?

This is what Morpheus asks Neo in The Matrix, just before Neo wakes from the computer simulation humanity is living in.

And it’s true. Some dreams can seem so real it takes us a long time before we feel confident we’re really awake and not still trapped in a dream.

If you’ve ever had sleep paralysis, you’ll know all too well the line between dreams and reality can be very thin at times.

If you’re not familiar with it, sleep paralysis is what happens when your mind wakes up, but your is still asleep.

You will usually experience visual and auditory hallucinations, just as if you were dreaming, but your eyes will be open and you’ll be able to look around the room.

In short, it’s terrifying.

You try to scream, but nothing comes out. You try to sit up, but you’re pinned to the bed. All the while, you can see menacing figures and faces around you and hear strange noises. And what makes it worse is it’s usually accompanied by a crushing, suffocating feeling on your chest.

John Henry Fuseli – The Nightmare. Source: public domain

It’s actually a fairly common problem, and when you know it’s a genuine medical condition, and not some sort of demonic possession, it’s less terrifying.

I’ve had it since I was a kid, although not very often. Maybe three or four times a year.

I once had a nightmare I was being chased around a mansion by a witch. She managed to catch me and told me she was going to come for me in the one place I couldn’t protect myself.

I woke up into sleep paralysis and refused to open my eyes because I knew she’d be right there in front of me. Of course I knew it would only be a figment of my unconscious. But I didn’t want to see it all the same. The nightmare was scary enough on its own.

Sleep paralysis, it turns out, is responsible for many “hauntings” and “alien abductions”. Different cultures experience different hallucinations. Most in the US sees aliens. Other cultures see devils and witches. The hallucinations are almost all malevolent and bring with them a feeling of complete and total dread.

Seeing into your dreams

The reason I’m writing about it today – other than the fact I find it an incredibly interesting subject – is there is now work underway to be able to see these dreams.

A couple of weeks ago Discover magazine released an article into the race to record people’s dreams.

What I didn’t realise was that the technology to record your thoughts is already here. From the article:

In 2011, researchers from the Gallant Lab at the University of California, Berkeley had participants watch movie trailers, and researchers were then able to reconstruct low-resolution videos of what they were viewing using only their brain activity. They improved on the process and published a follow-up study in 2016. The actual reconstructions were rough patterns rather than high-definition reproductions of the trailers. Still, this computational marvel piqued the curiosity of other scientists who wonder if a similar approach could be used to record dreams.

And what’s even better, is that link takes you to the actual video those researchers made. (Click on the video to watch it in your browser.)

On the top left is the original video the participants watched. On the bottom left is the video’s outline. On the right is then the constructed outline, taken from brain scans. And on the top right is a generated video based on these scans.

As you can see, it’s not exactly an ultra-high definition 4k picture. But it’s incredible nonetheless.

As functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines get better, these images should also get better along with them.

And just today, Eoin Treacy has written to his Frontier Tech Investor subscribers about a company making a new superconductor that could drastically improve fMRI technology.

Not only that, but this superconductor material is also being credited with bringing the fabled nuclear fusion power to reality.

Eoin is calling it “the biggest moonshot of his career” because the potential in this new technology is truly world changing.

As Eoin says: “These new superconductors hold the key to fusion. They’ve enabled MIT tests to generate ‘positive’ fusion – a reaction that gives off more energy than it requires to get started. Scientists believe soon these reactions will give off enough energy to power a small city – in one ten-second pulse.”

And if you want to learn more about sleep paralysis, the Wikipedia page has loads of good information.

Have you ever had sleep paralysis? Would you mind people watching your dreams? Let me know your thoughts at: harry@southbankresearch.com.

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

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