REM Sleep Dreams and Glitches in the Matrix

Why have dreams if we are living in a computer simulation?

Posted Sep 27, 2020

The simulation hypothesis states that we are characters in a computer simulation. Scientists have taken this hypothesis seriously I think because it offers interesting potential explanations for a number of previously unexplained physical phenomena. The observer effect in quantum physics for example is explained within simulation theory because fine grained visual detail in a computer game or simulation is never coded. The only things you need to code in a video game are the things that the players are going to see next. Things in a simulation appear only when they are needed—when they are about to be, or are observed. Similarly, entanglement between two particles across vast distances occurs because they share the same coding and so on. The simulation hypothesis depends on the claim that we or our descendants will be able to create such detailed simulations that the simulation will include creatures like ourselves with full dreaming capacity and with consciousness. Note that such creation is consistent with the idea that consciousness is a fundamental element of the universe and that you cannot get consciousness from non-conscious matter. The claim is that consciousness is essentially computer code or bits or “information,” and that information is fundamental to the universe.

So let us assume that some version of the simulation hypothesis is true. The coders who created us felt it necessary to create us with REM sleep dreaming. Now REM dreaming is essentially cognitive simulation or world creation. Dreaming involves the production of worlds which are invested with reality by the dreamer. Consciousness itself whether within dreams or within waking cognition not only involves experiences of qualia. It also involves creation of counterfactual simulations of possible worlds. We see this fantastic simulation ability of the human mind most clearly in dreams.

But if the simulators or coders have extraordinary computational resources available to them why simulate beings who dream? I can see why you might want to create beings that are conscious as they can learn more rapidly. But why create beings who can dream? You can have conscious machines that do not dream. Why include processes that intrinsically involve ongoing creation of constant and ever changing possible worlds or simulations?

Perhaps the coders wanted to create beings like themselves—beings with the intrinsic capacity to imagine and to simulate (in extraordinary detail) alternative worlds. Were the coders using a model to create us—namely themselves? Did they want to replicate themselves and their capacity to code, to create alternative universes? That creative coding capacity meant that the simulation had to include REM dreaming. REM dreaming is a capacity that is intrinsically creative or simulative—that spontaneously creates alternative worlds each and every night in such detail that the dreamer is convinced that the world is real.

If the creators wanted to replicate themselves in a slightly altered possible world counterfactual to their own, they may have done so in order to learn about themselves. They would watch us in order to gain insight about their own simulation abilities. If this surmise is correct then it may be the case that we could use our own situation within the simulation to reason about things outside the simulation—including our creators. In this way we could obtain information about the base reality outside the simulation. The coders must be a lot like ourselves so when we think about ourselves we can learn about them.

The coders created beings who could also code—that is entertain counterfactual worlds (via REM dreaming). But if they did so they must have certainly known that if you create beings with the ability to code and entertain counterfactual worlds, then you are also creating beings with the capacity to one day discover a way to send messages outside of the simulation and therefore to communicate with the base reality—with their creators.

How do we as simulated characters leave Plato’s cave and walk out into the daylight of reality? We do so via our own rational-imaginative, simulative capacities—that is, via REM dreaming. REM dreaming was given to us by the creators just in order to communicate with them and possibly one day leave the cave. While we cannot hack the code itself of the simulation we are in, our creators gave us another route via which to communicate with them and even possibly one day to leave the simulation. We leave the simulation by sending the essence of who we are, essentially a DNA-like information packet captured in the complex imagery of the dream ego, through the REM dream portal to the other realm. But how do we choose the right possible world to enter? I do not know. Many religious traditions have given us clues as to how to use dreams to choose a “heavenly” realm but one would have to tread carefully through all that literature to separate the gold from the mass of dross intrinsic to religious traditions. An additional method of course, would be to scientifically study REM sleep and dreams. But alas mainstream science has yet to awaken to the blinding daylight reality of dreams.