Why is there so much emphasis on the thoughts and actions that govern our day to day lives, but not as much on the ones that happen as we sleep?
It’s difficult to understate the influence of modern technology because its effects are so tangible. We see how platforms like TARTLE are geared towards a clear end goal. We’re connected to our smartphones and devices around the clock. But we seem to be forgetting about the first device and data set that we were given to work with: the human mind, and our subconscious.
At most, dreams are an interesting icebreaker or topic for idle talk—but we think that they can mean something more. It is time to revisit how dreams can have an impact on the course of our lives, as well as that of the people around us.
Sidarta Ribeiro shared a personal experience with a fellow PhD candidate. One day, Sidarta Ribeiro needed a ride to the field center of Rockefeller University for an experiment. However, he was unable to push through with his activity because it was used by another candidate.
This setback meant that he had to reschedule his experiment, which affected his productivity. Understandably, this affected Sidarta Ribeiro’s perception of the person. He went to sleep feeling annoyed and irritated.
However, he dreamt of a scenario where he angrily confronted the person and ended up getting physically hurt. When he woke up, he found himself in the right mindset and mood to peacefully discuss what happened with his colleague, and they made amends.
This is a personal example of how dreams can be used to simulate instances of the future using references that we have made in the past. It can help guide us and give us insight. Giving the mind some space to process what has happened throughout our day can have some benefits for our wellbeing.
Alex mentioned how, surprisingly, we only spend 55 percent of our lives awake. This means that if we don’t pay attention to our dreams, we’re missing out on almost half of our entire life experience In the modern world, there is a growing dichotomy between inner work and outer work that we need to bring our attention to— especially when we put so much value on what is external, but choose to forego focused introspection on the self.
Sidarta Ribeiro pointed out that today’s research into mental health and wellbeing appear to be closely intertwined with drugs that induce a dream-like state. This could be the first step in a collective effort to bring back emphasis on our subconscious.
It’s time to return to our inner world and start using dreams, one of our most ancient technologies, to our advantage once more.
The dream state has had a massive impact on the course of history. One solid example is the Oracle of Delphi, a widely revered high priestess of the Temple of Apollo who gave predictions and guidance to both individuals and city-states. Her words influenced the decisions of important figureheads such as Aegeus, the king of Athens; Croesus, the king of Lydia; and Alexander the Great, conqueror of the ancient world.
Ancient and contemporary Mayan religion also posited that dreams are sacred, because they functioned as portals that helped an individual connect with their ancestors for guidance. The dream state is closely intertwined in the definition of spirituality across several religions and concepts of faith.
Today, the role that our dreams fulfilled in old societies is now being fulfilled by a variety of different mechanisms and technologies. Amidst all this progress, it’s time to take a break and ask ourselves: do we like where we’re going, now that we’re leaving our subconscious in the dust?
We are consistently pressured to maximize our productivity and levels of efficiency. The technologies we develop are influencing us to think of our value according to the volume of our work. While our reliance on the dream state has, to a large extent, been diminished due to our increased proficiency in technical knowledge, we forget to ask ourselves about the implications of this change.
It is undeniable that our subconscious has played a massive role—not just in the individual lives of ordinary people, but in the rise and fall of civilizations. The dream state is a data mine that we, as a collective, are slowly losing out on. It’s an opportunity for introspection that can help us make better decisions. Most importantly, it helps us regulate our wellbeing through proper rest and recreation.
What’s your data worth?
Alexander McCaig (00:07):
[inaudible 00:00:07], thank you for joining me on TARTLEcast here. This is frankly a topic a lot of people will wonder like, when we focus on data, why would we be talking about the dream state? And from my own personal experience, and how I view the world is that we spend about 55% of our lives awake, living in the physical, taking that as our stimuli and input. And for majority of us, that's all we tend to reflect on is the physical aspects of what are happening. But the other 45%, when our subconscious and conscious are interlinked, when we're sleeping, many people don't pay attention to, but there's a great body of knowledge and learning that can come from that 45% of our life. So when I thought about this, if I'm living even to 100 years, I've only really lived 55 of those years, because I've missed the other 45, when my eyes were closed, I was laying down and resting.
Alexander McCaig (01:09):
But it's such a major function of my emotional states, my psyche, all those other things that really determine how I operate and what I would say the 55%, the very physical world. And you wrote this book, The Oracle of Night. And I was thinking about it, there's so much historical data in context, around dreaming, and dreaming was actually used as a tool with the data of the subconscious or unconscious state, whichever one you want to choose to [inaudible 00:01:40] whether you're a Freudian or not. That information was not taken very lightly. It was extremely serious event that demanded a lot of interpretation. And that interpretation was the definition of many empires, it was the definition of how people chose to create some of our greatest technological breakthroughs. And there's been a drop off in that overtime. And I know I'm monologuing here, but I'm just kind of teeing you up.
Alexander McCaig (02:13):
I want to focus on why there has been a drop off, and why I frankly think that the data of dreams, people don't see the value in it anymore. And it's actually slowed the growth, our consciousness growth. Growth in our ethics and morals and how we view and respect other human beings. But technology has completely superseded that, where we've put all of our weight and all of our value into something very external, but choose not to focus introspectively on the self. So to kick it off, what is a dream? How do you define it? And then where does that lead us in terms of analysis in the history of that very special thing, that 45% of our life? I'll stop talking now.
Sidarta Ribeiro (03:00):
Well, thanks, Alex. Thanks for having me here. It's a pleasure to release the book in English now and engage in this dialogue. Why is it that dreams were so important for our ancestors, and until very recently in all countries in the world. And then the interest in dreams dropped off so dramatically, and they stopped being used to guide us in any way, in our private lives, in our public lives, the states, businesses. The development of capitalism decoupled from dreaming to a large extent, not entirely, not completely, because people continue to dream and they continue to come up with new ideas during dreams, and this continues to percolate into society. But it's completely pale compared to what it was a few 100 years ago. One thing I like to speculate is that somehow this probabilistic oracle, this neurobiological machine that somehow simulates possible futures, something that was very useful throughout the Paleolithic throughout the ancient times.
Sidarta Ribeiro (04:20):
And until recently, until maybe 500 years ago, this was substituted to a large extent by technical knowledge by knowledge that allows us to predict things in a logical mathematical manner and not in a fuzzy somehow sketched manner, which is what dreams provides. But this happened at the expense of our sensibility. So science is really good for what it can see and measure and predict, and it keeps expanding very fast and faster and faster, but it misses this is other realm of integration of probabilities and of really screening the environment for cues that can produce a very compelling image like in a dream that can propel people forward. And surely that's what happens as our ancestors left the cave and we got so fast to the point where we are at now.
Sidarta Ribeiro (05:23):
And somehow we forgot that dreams were important for that. And this may be related to this weird feeling of the 21st century, which is everything is possible and still there is no future. It's a mix of notions, that it's a paradox. If we don't do so much, then there should be fantastic future for all sentient beings. And if we're not seeing that future, maybe it's because we're constantly losing our time and space to sleep and dream and share those dreams with others.
Alexander McCaig (05:59):
[inaudible 00:05:59] I think that's interesting, because in the book you talked about dreaming of bone and stone, when we talked about that very Paleolithic, Caveman ask dream state. But there's some interesting things that happen here, right? You go from that into like animal husbandry, and then like bringing in wolves in to get the right genetic one. Some sort of stimulus is coming in, in creating what seems to be a fuzzy world. When I have a dream, it doesn't have the same sort of brightness of color, if I were walking around in daylight, but it carries the same color, it carries the same depth of effect. But because I'm at this point where like, "Man, I don't feel like I slept very long." Well, in the very physical sense for the self, maybe I was sleeping for eight hours, but the dream could feel much, much longer and much, much shorter. So I have a function of like time dilation.
Alexander McCaig (06:59):
So I'm put into a place where I can learn very extensive scenarios, emotional inputs, a course of logic. And if I review that, I have the ability to take in so much catalyst in such a brief amount of time, much more than I could ever do in the waking state. So when people focus on those dreams, when I'm reading your book, it affords them the opportunity to take so much learning element and much quicker than the outside. So if they only wrote this down and reviewed it for themselves, they could deal with many personal traumas, social traumas, political traumas or physical traumas that may be happening in their lives. Because you're essentially getting this world, and some people want to be about this, like a virtual reality, where they can go in and actually test the emotions, the catalysts, the aspects of it, and then you can bring it over to the real world.
Alexander McCaig (07:57):
So next time you're teed up with that specific thing, you'd be like, "I know how to handle this." The reason I say that, because when you spoke about the two big projects of dream bank, and whatever the one was, I'm forgetting about it, where they're dealing with Vietnam War vets and their dreams. There are many fanatic similarities between individuals. All of us have different aspects how we go about our life, we all have different problems to some sort of variants. But the general theme of those problems, the themes of our learning, are pretty much the same. And this is just my theory here is that that specific data of these dream sets is actually telling us that the state of our evolution, whether it be our consciousness, or ethics, or morals, whatever it might be, are generally for the aggregate of us all at the same place at the same time.
Alexander McCaig (08:49):
When you go into a classroom, we're all going to interpret a book a different way, people interpret the Bible, Vedic scripts, anything in their own way. But it's still a shared general theme. I think that's what's happening with the dream state itself. So when I look at these larger datasets of people that choose to put their dreams into this, so it can be analyzed the commonalities there, because I think we're all really at the same evolutionary state of where we are as a collective. And we're trying to work our way out of that, but introspection is going to be the key. I feel like this is the number one most understudied, most underutilized tool that we have. And it's so prevalent in absolutely everyone's life, like my dog's dream. Like why is no one focusing on that? There's something to be said here about learning when we're sleeping.
Alexander McCaig (09:37):
I think that we've put so much faith into technology that it is far evolved and far surpassed us for technology's sake, but not for humanity's sake. I think what you are doing in your research in your book creates a bridge of technology by using data, using these subsets and bringing it together with the development of the human being at the same time. I think that's where something beautiful happens. And a lot of people have really missed that, a great part of our history, even where you are currently down in South America, dreams were a great foundation of those cultures, [crosstalk 00:10:17] their foundational items that have built up civilizations. You call it the Oracle of Night. But that's for the self. But think about kings and emperors, and I'll share this part of book. Alexander the Great first went to the Oracle of Delphi, and then he had the Oracle of Siwa.
Alexander McCaig (10:38):
So regardless of where he was in his campaigns, there was still someone of an external sense, a shamanic sense, whatever it might have been helping guide and interpret that individual. That individual had massive, massive influence all over the world. The dream itself is a key driver for how human beings develop and create choices. And those choices have direct effects on our physical world. So why have we been ignoring that startup? Why has there been such a decline?
Sidarta Ribeiro (11:10):
Well, we have to see that the role that dreams fulfilled in those societies is now fulfilled by a variety of different mechanisms. And these roles were really about having ideas pop out, come from the unconscious into the conscious mind, and then presented to other people, be interpreted to generate a decision. So this is a very ancient routine that was performed in Sumeria, in Mesopotamia, in general. It was performed in Egypt and China, in India, everywhere. The Lakota and the [inaudible 00:11:46] were dreaming and paying attention to dreams as they were trying to protect the territory. So this has been going on and it's still going on in hunter gatherer peoples in South America, in Australia, the Aboriginal peoples. So this is a very old technology that uses memories from the past, to try to simulate the future.
Sidarta Ribeiro (12:08):
And this didn't start with humans, it started 220 million years ago in the mammalian lineage because most mammals, if not all, have REM sleep phase in which we have very vivid dreams. And this is something that most likely started in the daily necessity to negotiate life and death and basically to attend to three main needs to survive, to find something to eat, not to be eaten by anybody else, and to eventually breed. So those three, let's say, Darwinian imperatives, they govern life, they govern the interactions of animals. And they put a pressure, a very strong selective pressure on figuring out what's going to happen in the future. Now, when this started, a good 200 million years ago or more, it was an oracle, a neurobiological machine of simulation of possible futures, which was basically replaying memories from the past with some noise.
Sidarta Ribeiro (13:11):
And this would generate a little bit of differences in the scenario, generating emotions that would then drive behavior the next day. So it started as a very simple based on yesterday, how is tomorrow? Now, when we see the project of millions of years of evolution of this neurobiological machine, in the human historical records, which is only 4500 years ago, we see that this notion of Oracle flourished, it became so complex and it became so intertwined with social mechanisms of existence with the very notion of state. So as you mentioned, it's not just private life that was guided by it, it was the entire nation, it was the entire people guided by some memory replay with some noise. So you ask me, what is a dream? A dream is produced by the passage of electrical activity through a specific neuronal mesh, a specific sequence of neuronal assemblies that eventually encode memories.
Sidarta Ribeiro (14:19):
And this is done not in a free manner, but in a manner that is guided by desire and anti-desire which is fear, the things you fear. So based on the things you need, and want and wish and based on the things you fear, this will shape the script of the dream. Now, you can pay attention to that, you may not pay any attention to that. For most people, either they don't even recall the dreams every night or when they can remember the dreams they don't know what they mean and they forget about it immediately. But for some people that are undergoing particular stress, people that are undergoing severe disease or the loss somebody that they love, or they lost jobs. People that are experiencing distress, they often go back to a very clear pattern of dreaming in which the dreams very strongly depict the problems the person [inaudible 00:15:13] says. It may be a very, very literal depiction, it may be an exact copy of what's going on, or it may be a very metaphorical image that nevertheless can be related to their condition.
Sidarta Ribeiro (15:29):
This is very clearly seen in veterans when they develop PTSD. And one of the most important symptoms is exactly the recurrence of nightmares. Now, this can be treated. This is basically the reflection of a scar, of a memory that is a scar. And there are several ways in which this can be approached nowadays with this whole notion of the psychedelic revolution, with especially the role of MDMA to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. So now we're looking into a future of psychiatry that can try to ameliorate these kinds of problems. Now, it is interesting to think that the substances that seemed to be most useful to deal with those traumas are substances that somehow induce a dreamlike state. So the classical psychedelics and the THC in cannabis as well.
Alexander McCaig (16:19):
It's like the consciousness or the body wants to heal itself. But it can't heal how it operates in the regular world without the subconscious data, teeing it up with catalysts. And when individuals view it more like the dream state causing them harm rather than a learning experience, it prolongs those nightmares. And it's funny that when you take a psychoactive substance, like these ones you're talking about MDMA, things of that nature, it's forcing you to go into the dreams and confront whatever this thing might be. It puts you right back into it. But the difference is, you are consciously telling yourself, I'm going to take this psychoactive to come face to face with this subconscious data that is trying to tell me about a trauma, and I am taking the steps to heal it. I think that is a very interesting aspect of this entire thing, is the confrontation not in a negative sense, but a confrontation of learning to say that this is here, and it requires the healing for me to move to the next step.
Alexander McCaig (17:28):
And if we look at the data of all the people with certain mental disorders to emotional trauma that have been come recurring and debilitating to the physical self, many of them can create healing when they have focus on these traumas themselves. And if you put the people in safe environments with the psychoactive substances, and bring on this sort of awakened dream state, where the body's still awake, but it's being moved through the same sort of REM processes, and alpha, gamma patterns that are happening in the brainwaves puts you there in the weak world, so you can say, "Okay, I'm here to focus on this. I have the support. I'm in the environment and I want to find that healing." And I really do think that, that here's what's interesting. It's not only one of the most the oldest technologies like you stated, it's also our most well developed technology, outside of the biological sense of ourselves. This thing has been developed longer than any machine, IBM or anyone else could have ever created.
Alexander McCaig (18:30):
But we throw this technology to the wayside. And we say, let's focus on all the other stuff. Well, it's like you have something so perfectly developed here, why not choose that tool? And we should be duly reminded, like your book says, of using this oracle. This is the thing that gives us the personal answers to open us up to these freeing, less creative, less debilitating structures in our lives, and allows us to then focus on things that can actually propel us forward. Because if I'm not consistently focused on trauma, Siddhartha, I can then focus on possibilities or other probabilities that are better for me, my family, my social groups.
Sidarta Ribeiro (19:11):
Absolutely. I think it's the dichotomy between inner work and outer work. The development of capitalism requests people to work more and more and more efficiently. However, it will not grow in the best of manners, if there is no inner work done. I mean, if you think about it, the inequality in the world has never been so big. That accumulation of capital is tremendous, the accumulation of knowledge is tremendous. Why is it that we cannot make this world a good place for everybody?
Alexander McCaig (19:43):
That's because [crosstalk 00:19:44] knowledge does not mean understanding, Sidarta. [inaudible 00:19:47].
Sidarta Ribeiro (19:49):
[inaudible 00:19:49] the work, because they're [inaudible 00:19:50] doing the work. What I'm proposing in the book is that our difficulties in the West in particular with reconnecting with dreams maybe at the roots of our civilization, [inaudible 00:20:04] might be maybe at the roots of us having all the means and still not finding the way. For example, just to give a simple example, if we as a species had reacted to the virus, to COVID, to the emergence of COVID in the united manner, if we had quickly, all gotten vaccinated as fast as possible, irrespective of social class, irrespective of anything, we would all be better off. Now, we're dealing with the consequences of a lack of cohesion in the group. Now, this goes back to a long, long period. Actually, the most of our ancestors had to negotiate this tension between competition cooperation. So fine, we cooperate among ourselves, and we compete with everybody else. Now, so this is well known psychologist, the inner group, outer group dichotomy.
Sidarta Ribeiro (21:06):
Now, how do we deal with this at this particular moment? We're still doing that. We're still doing, some countries are doing better, some countries are doing worse, some people in some regions of a country are doing better than others. And our inability to have to share a dream share this dream, let's dream that this thing is going to be over. Let's dream it together, let's make it happen for everybody. Our failure to do that is costing us tremendously. And if you look at the curve of new cases of infections in the world, it's basically a line like this with a very clear slope and the slope is not changing because of vaccination. Why? Because they don't work. No, they work, but they don't work well if we vaccinate people in such a heterogeneous manner. So slowly, with pockets here and there. Now we have the Delta variants, we don't know what this is going.
Sidarta Ribeiro (22:02):
And what I'm claiming in the book is that we need to go back to our in a world, we need to do more of our inner work and use ascension technology as you say very, very aptly. This is something that has been evolving for so many million years. It has been very useful for all our ancestors. It will be useful for us again, if we let it be, if we let it happen. It's so natural to dream and to remember as natural as breathing. So if we do this kind of work, we will figure that in fact, we are drowning in the glass of water, that we actually have the resources. We have all the actors that we need to put together not just in science, but also in the wisdom of traditional societies to find the path forward, not just for our species for the other species as well, because we cannot continue producing the sort of impact. So those are things that ecology knows about those things, but people don't feel them.
Sidarta Ribeiro (23:00):
They don't feel them, because they're still too focused on as you put very, very, very nicely from the beginning. It focused on the waking life, and the waking life is a life of accumulation of things of experiences. It's just more and more and more and more, but when do we do the homework? When is it that we learn to really find what is important in life, find what is important life? It's none of that. It's none of that. And all religions say it, but people are losing the connection to this. I think our difficulty with dreamwork is a big part of that. People don't ask about their beloved ones dreams. They don't say, "Oh, what was the [inaudible 00:23:39] dream tonight, darling."
Sidarta Ribeiro (23:42):
The parents don't do it to the children, the grandparents are also not connected. It's just a big disconnection from something that was so fundamental. It's actually puzzling that we got ourselves into this position. And I agree with you, let's be optimistic. Let's get out of this mess. And by that I mean, let's do the inner work. Let's do what it takes. And it's really about protecting ourselves, treat yourself well. Put yourself to bed early. Don't wake up in a hurry. Don't wake up in a hurry. Take your time to do your dream diary.
Alexander McCaig (24:18):
That's really funny because waking up in the hurry has always been one of the most detrimental things for the remembrance of my dream state. Because then my focus immediately upon waking is on the next physical activity rather than doing that reflection. In a moment where very relaxed and science has shown through a great body of data that when you're in the most relaxed state, you can take a lot of new learning catalysts in and it can do a lot more good. If things don't work well when you're uncomfortable. And you speak to looking about what that future dream is. We'll never find political or social understanding amongst ourselves if we don't understand ourselves first. How am I supposed to understand another in their culture if I don't even understand who I am, or why I'm acting or feeling the specific way?
Alexander McCaig (25:10):
But the dream data affords you the opportunity for the introspection that you can take this model of self, and then go apply it to other selfs. And that's when it becomes interesting. And that's why the dream banks and things like that are like, wow, there's a lot of common themes among people, whether I'm a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or Christian, or nothing in between, we still share the same thematic approaches to our dreaming. There's something here with the collective learning that brings us all together. [inaudible 00:25:40] inherently ignoring the specific thing. So I'll use myself as an example because that's what I know best, myself. I have written well over 500 pages of specific dreams. When I had come to the realization some moons ago, many moons ago, that 45% of my life was missed, that massive amount of that dataset of personal self. I said, I need to focus on this.
Alexander McCaig (26:08):
And I can absolutely 100% back the data of you saying that as you begin to focus on it, you very quickly get to the point of remembering all of it. And then after that, I can even take the remembrance of it and start to apply it to my waking life, and then go back and review it. As I began to record those dreams, the quality, the depth, the realization of multiple probabilities of continuity were happening at the same time. And when I had viewed the dreams and [inaudible 00:26:39] someone on the outside might look [inaudible 00:26:40] and say, "It seems really illogical. It lacks chronology." What I found is that the dream state can actually deal with multiple chronologies in logical flows at the same time. So some people might say that seems a little fuzzy. But in truth, it's working with different themes of learning, all at one moment, and I don't know any other computer system on earth that can manage something like that.
Alexander McCaig (27:02):
The fact that I can deal with multiple chronologies, multiple probabilities, and multiple different catalysts, and logical flow, and I can dip in and out of them, depending on the day or whatever happened to bring me back into that timeline, I think it's fundamentally one of the greatest datasets of all time. And that's my personal data set. It's one of the most understudied things for us. And here's the best part, it doesn't matter what religion you have, or what you believe in, it's there for you. This is an agnostic learning tool. So focus on it, you use it for your benefit. Do you record your dreams?
Sidarta Ribeiro (27:37):
Yes, I do. Yes. In fact, I mean, dreams have played a big role in my life early on, because of good things and bad things. And I paid a lot of attention to them throughout my life, but it was only when I was beginning PhD, that they became like an object of study for me. Over the years, I've been keeping dream diaries for some periods, and some of other periods have been just sharing them with my spouse. But what I noticed is that when I pay attention, when I try hard to make sense of what's being remembered, it often illuminates ways in which I can prove my behavior, ways in which I can be a better husband, friend, person, and also ways in which I can acquire the experiences that I desire. So it's really about understanding our own desire, and understanding the consequences of our behaviors. I give you an example. When I was halfway through PhD, at some point I needed to, I was working in the field center of Rockefeller University.
Sidarta Ribeiro (28:54):
And I used to go there once a week. And the lab had two cars that could be used for that and I just booked one of them and I was ready to go at 7AM, the car wasn't there. I tell the story in my book. And then I understood that one colleague of mine had gone to the field center and had stayed overnight, and therefore the car wasn't there. He didn't tell me. I was very angry. I lost my experiment. And I plan to meet him as soon as he arrived and scold him, but then he didn't show up. And then I went to sleep and then I had his very vivid dream in which I would come to the lab in a very realistic and then scold him, and he would beat me up badly. And he's a huge guy. He's a big, big, strong guy. And then the next day, I just woke up with this feeling that okay, this is not an option. This is not how I should go about it. So I just went and said, "Hey, man, it was bad for me. You ruined my experiment." He said, "I'm very sorry." I said, "Okay, let's keep going. Move on."
Alexander McCaig (29:58):
Isn't that funny though? You afforded yourself patience. You took all the catalysts in and you waited, for instance, 24 hours to sleep on it. And a lot of people say, "Oh, why don't you sleep on it?" And they say that just as sort of like a social statement, people use it all the time. But there's so much baked into the comment of why don't you just sleep on it. Like, for your instance, this was something you had a lot of emotional direction into. And you were all fired up, but you gave yourself the time to digest it at the subconscious level after consciously receiving it. And then from that you brought it then back into the physical realm for yourself to have an understanding with this other PhD candidate at the same time.
Alexander McCaig (30:45):
So instead of creating a division amongst yourself, you used the data of the waking state, digested it through your neurobiological algorithms, and then the next day you came out and you said, "You want to know something, I just want to tell you how I feel. I've come to an understanding, and there's no disrespect or hate or anything of that nature." And guess what Sidarta, you still got your PhD, didn't you? At the end of the day, it still turned out beneficial.
Sidarta Ribeiro (31:11):
It was just the best way forward. I think that we have to understand that during REM sleep, parts of our brain that are related to our own self, that where the memories of our lives are represented with the places of our brain that we used to imagine the future, to remember our past, to tell a story. They're also the parts of the brain that represents all the other folks in our minds, all the creatures of the mind, all our friends, our family members, everybody, everybody's there, even fictional characters are there. So this part of the brain that has this technical name of default mode network or DMN is strongly activated during REM sleep. And this is a moment in which the character of ourselves meets the characters of others, the representations, the mental representations. They get together, and things happen, and they happen according to the probabilities of the past.
Sidarta Ribeiro (32:08):
So sure, my unconscious mind knew that my colleague would not react well, if I showed anger. But also, it was telling me that the consequences of anger will become so bad that it would be a good idea to just reconsider. So this is a way in which you can feel the pains of others. It's a way in which you can project others onto yourself and project your actions onto others, and then simulate socially what's going to happen. If we didn't have this kind of neurobiological mechanism, we would probably be still fighting inside a cave for who has the best stone [inaudible 00:32:54].
Alexander McCaig (32:53):
Okay, I agree, that's obvious. What is fundamentally incredible is that the default mode network, the DMN of being in the state within that REM cycle, it is so logical, it is perfectly logical. And it shows us that having a positive emotional state, that is understanding of others and self is the logical, safest and most evolutionary path we can take. But we know that. It would tell you that murdering someone is probably logically not the best thing to do. It's not a benefit for you and it's clearly not a benefit for the other party, right? This DMN takes in so much catalyst and logically filters through it. And it tells you, using the emotion in this way is most impactful to the self and others for a positive [inaudible 00:34:01] gain. Which tells me that this logical underlying factor is so important for our biological evolution.
Alexander McCaig (34:08):
I can't tell myself to stop breathing. No matter what I do, I can try and hold my breath, but I'm going to have to grasp for air at some time, because subconscious says, "No, you need to live." I can't tell the heart to stop beating. It's just what it does. But the other aspects of ourselves confuse it, negative emotion, things of that nature, lack of understanding. Those truly are not logical flows for what's most evolutionarily beneficial for us. So when I look at that, when you use the dream, it is this phenomenal supercomputer absolutely phenomenal. And you didn't pay anything for it. It just came with you. If this beautiful, and thing is we've never turned it on. A collective of us have not used it as something to be like, "My goodness, let's find some sort of understanding." We put so much of our understanding in the hands of others, and machines, but it lacks the true data set that is so fundamentally important for who we are.
Alexander McCaig (35:11):
If we can get small selves and then families to blossom with the sharing, well, then understanding becomes a compound effect. The dream state, the compounding effect of our dreams will be so beneficial for us as a collective. It'll allow us to be emotionally healed. It allow us to make decisions that are best for all and allow us to take more logical stances and have a growth in our ethics and behaviors that doesn't actually create harm on human plant or animal life. That's where it heads. It's the natural logical evolution of it, but we ignore it so much. So I'd want to ask you them, Sidarta, how do you have conversations with individuals, and in a simple manner bring them to focus on something that's so important, to say that this is something that you should cherish? How do you awaken them to this tool in this data set?
Sidarta Ribeiro (36:06):
This is a good question, Alex, because this is a long, forgotten tradition, right? Everybody in the past used to pay attention to dreams and interpret dreams. But then, in the past 500 years or so, in the West in particular, this was forgotten. How do we go back to it? I think the first level is to defend sleep against light, screens, activities, sound, anger, too much exercise at night, too much food at nights, alcohol at nights, cannabis at night, or anything else at night, just leave the night to the night. This is important, because many, many, many different diseases come from bad sleep. And if you sleep badly, one night, the next day you have cognitive impairments, next day you have mood problems. If you keep doing it, at some point you're going to have issues with cardiovascular issues. You may have developed diabetes, you may develop depression, and in the long run, you most likely develop Alzheimer's disease.
Sidarta Ribeiro (37:12):
So it's just a very long list of ills that we should not go for. And we can protect ourselves from if we properly go to sleep every night, not too late. People when they go to sleep late, they're really rowing... I know you're rowing athletes, people are going against the tide, people are rowing against the flow. Why? Because your melatonin, which is produced very nicely by your own pineal gland, if you allow yourself to shut down all the lights and go to sleep, it will not go up if you continue to stimulate your brain with stuff. And then when you try to go to sleep at 4AM, your melatonin is about to go down and your cortisol is about to go up and your body's going to feel like doing something in the morning, but then you're super tired, your brain has not cleared all the toxic metabolites that were accumulated during waking life. So it's just wrong, we shouldn't be doing that.
Sidarta Ribeiro (38:15):
And companies should understand this and everybody really, the governments, everybody should understand that if we want a healthy society, we need people to do the basics right, sleep, nutrition, exercise. These things need to be in place, otherwise, we will be just medicalizing conditions and complicating the situation rather than solving the situation. Now, there are many cognitive reasons why we should be getting proper sleep. If you get how many hours of sleep? It depends each person needs a different amount. But the important thing is to listen to the body. The important thing is to get what you feel you need rather than trying to adapt some external schedule. Once you get that then you get many, many benefits from the first half of the night as well as the second half of the night which are very different in terms of the brainwaves that occur that can be observed.
Sidarta Ribeiro (39:08):
So you get to do the memory triage which is very important. You can you need to separate every night, which memories you will keep forever, very few, which memories you will forget, most of them and which memories you will recombine or restructure to generate new ideas to be creative. So this is all the sleeps business. Then there's the emotional regulation, especially the REM sleep parts the second half of the night. If you don't get that properly, then you will get cranky the next day for sure. This has been shown in many different labs, it's just a known fact. The second half of the night needs to be complete and not cut short because you need to wake up early or because you had too much alcohol and your REM sleep is gone. Because that's what happens if you drink alcohol right before going to sleep, you go to sleep quickly. The time it takes for you to fall asleep on set is actually shortened, but you wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 or 4AM dehydrated most probably and without the ability to go back to REM sleep.
Sidarta Ribeiro (40:14):
So all of that, those are benefits that do not only apply to us humans, but apply to mammals in general, and in fact, to other species too, to birds, to reptiles, and so on. And recently, in my lab, we published a paper showing that the octopus also has a state that seems like REM sleep. So this is a very general old thing. Now what is not so old, is the ability to dream and share dreams, as we mentioned before, it's dreaming probably evolved in our mammalian lineage early on. But then the ability to share those dreams is something as recent as human language, so we don't know what we're talking about here, 300,000 years maybe. Probably before in different species of hominids, but still very, very, very short period of time, if we think of evolution.
Sidarta Ribeiro (41:03):
Now, this is really another level of complexity and it's very complex and sophisticated, which is to reenact those memories of waking life, recombine them, but then somehow generates counterfactuals, generate scenarios of possible futures, as you say, a very complex task that computers in the world are trying to do, the forecasting is all about that. But it's very hard, it's very difficult because you need to integrate too many inputs, too many pieces of data and you need to weigh them properly and we know this is really complicated. Now, the brain does that and it produces images. And those images can be super, super clear, but then in the human lineage, because we are so complex, and we have so many words for so many things, then the complexity hits there as well. And you can have those amazing dreams that at first have no meaning whatsoever. And then as you work on them, they really make very clear for you. I'll give [inaudible 00:42:02] an example, which is in the book.
Sidarta Ribeiro (42:06):
When Julius Caesar was preparing to go to sleep on March 14 of the year of his death, he knew that he had many enemies in the Senate, and his wife knew as well. And then they get these two dreams that are about the same phenomenon, about the same object, but very different dreams. He dreams that he went away, he flying out of his home and then flew through the clouds and was met with a greeting from Jupiter. It's a very nice, beautiful dream very, very powerful and awesome in fact. His wife, Calpurnia dreamed that the house was falling, the roof was falling, and that he was going to the Senate and was going to be stabbed by senators and would die in blood in front of her, which is exactly what happened the next day. And she tried to warn him and he considered not going but then he went there and died.
Sidarta Ribeiro (43:06):
Now, the two dreams are oracles, the truth the two dreams are promontory. One, his dream very allegorical, like he was flying through the skies to meet Jupiter. So to meet a god, you need to become a god. And this is what happened when people die, people made gods, this happened to him. The Divus Julius was created was created. This god was invented after his death. But of course, I mean, he had somehow repressed the concrete notion of his killing and instead of having a nightmare, he had a very beautiful dream that actually made him feel good. It made him feel great like the gods. But his wife was more rooted to the situation. And she had a dream, there was a perfect simulation of the future that actually eventually happens.
Sidarta Ribeiro (43:56):
Now, if they had fled Rome, if they had gone somewhere else, maybe he would have escaped, maybe he would have survived. And the history would be entirely different. Now, this is the beauty of dreams, which is that they don't tell you what's going to happen, they tell you what may happen if you don't change the course of action.
Alexander McCaig (44:16):
Well, I think that's because and this is my own thought on it. The dream state takes in so many catalysts and it can logically see the most probabilistic outcomes. We go about our day just basic cause and effect that are occurring all the time. But when you compound cause and effect for a great body of time, something that if I were to think about it right now seems really improbable. But in retrospect, you're like, "Oh, well, that makes sense." But the dream state can already tie all those conclusions in perfect logical flow to what will happen in the future. So that's an interesting part about how we look at those premonitions. It's just we're probability lands through the constant universal threat of cause and effect. And consider this for a second, when you wrote this book, you took so many different aspects of history, neurobiology, psychoanalysis, current computational theory, and you brought them all together.
Alexander McCaig (45:21):
There was a general theme. There is a symbolic nature to this. And the most probabilistic outcome is this specific narrative which has led you and I to having this conversation and then sharing that information further. And when I think about it, I would have never considered in the earliest days, when I started recording my dreams, that it will lead me to the moment of speaking to one of the world's foremost experts on dreams, I would have never thought about that. But the compounding effects of these things, bring it all the way around. And in retrospect, now it kind of makes some sense. I think that's what's really interesting here. And whether you want to view it as a religious premonition, spiritual, whatever it might be, we drive this through our choices, and the digestion of the mental very physical day is happening at night.
Alexander McCaig (46:13):
And we require that digestion, just like it takes time to digest food. The cause and effect, the input output has to maintain that balance. But in our modern society, we're not affording ourselves that sort of balance. And when reading your book, and looking through the research, you're reminding us of that balance, you're reminding us of that state of learning that level of importance. And that's why I thought, I need to talk to Siddhartha because this is such an understudied and socially undervalued subject, that has been so important, that needs to be brought back. People need to focus on this, science needs to study it. If you want to create better supercomputers, understand the dream state. If you want to see what a utopia looks like, understand the dream state. If you want to really understand social determinants of health, for keeping people healthy, you need to understand the dream state. But it starts with the self, and I love that piece of data. So I could go on about this all day, frankly. How is it [inaudible 00:47:19].
Sidarta Ribeiro (47:19):
Can I say something [inaudible 00:47:21] because you made me think of a specific aspect, which is important to mention. We never experienced such a fast accumulation of new knowledge. However, children still need to learn the basics, they still need to go from the beginning and learn to read and write and learn arithmetic, and then algebra, and so on. So the amount of stuff to be learned is increasing. If we don't enhance, if we don't make the learning be faster, we will just see this connection increase between the frontier of knowledge and the general population. So one important aspect of the research in the past 20 years in my lab but in many other labs, many other labs in the world is that we need to embrace sleep and dreaming in the school environments, not just for toddlers, for everybody.
Sidarta Ribeiro (48:18):
I've been showing in my laboratory, we recently published a paper in current biology showing that we can get children to read two times faster than they would if we get them to do three weeks of specific training with naps, with post training naps. And if the naps are not there, they learn but after three weeks, but they go back after four months. So they basically get nowhere. Now, we need to understand that sleep is important to consolidate memories. And if children go to sleep in the morning, and if they go to school in the morning, if children go to school in the morning, and if they go to sleep only at night, most likely, they will forget most of that stuff. It happens all the time.
Sidarta Ribeiro (49:06):
It happens with the people that ace the exams in the best Ivy League schools in the country, they will not remember most of this stuff a year or two years later, because of the way that the learning is happening, which is a one or two exams only, and they tend to stay up late the last night trying to get all the memories together to deliver the memories instead of keeping the memories, they're delivering memories. And the inner work with those memories and the ability to learn and sleep, learn and sleep more ecological cycles of learning this is really missing. We'll need that if we want the general population to learn to go together with the expansion of knowledge that is happening right now.
Alexander McCaig (49:55):
[inaudible 00:49:55] the employees I work with, family members, friends, they always shit on me because I take a look a lot of naps. I do. I'm a very heady individual, right? I'm constantly thinking, and I know that thinking takes up about 33% of my caloric intake for the day too. There's so much information for me to ingest. If I don't take a nap, I might shut down. I actually have a hard time processing the rest of my day. So I have this almost like this ebb and flow constantly up and down of napping and being awake so I can really digest so much material. Like for instance when I'm speaking with you, I'm really learning a lot about you. It's a lot of information. And I have to stitch certain aspects of the conversation together to then come to the sort of narrative and speech and how I round out that thought and explain it.
Alexander McCaig (50:45):
It requires a lot of mental work for me. But if I really want to remember what has happened, I do have to nap. The dream is like the larger part of it, but my napping is like me snacking throughout the day. I snack constantly, and I love to nap. But I found that those things are most beneficial to keeping me in a nice equalized state so I can continue that learning. I have a great memory retention, because of that napping factor. It's like giving me those little micro doses to boost the harddrive or whatever it might be before I really shut the computer off for the night, cool everything down.
Sidarta Ribeiro (51:21):
Yeah. It's all in the world. It's all very healthy, very same, no adverse effects, it's yourself.
Alexander McCaig (51:31):
So what is it that you would want to leave for all the listeners, if would [inaudible 00:51:38] be scientific or personal, it doesn't matter what it is. What would be like a final message for them regarding this dream state, regarding your book, whatever it might be?
Sidarta Ribeiro (51:47):
Well, I think my message is that we should align ourselves with our past so that we can dream a future. In our past, we were very good at sleep and dreaming, and we paid a lot of attention to both of them, and we shared everything about these activities with our family members, with our friends. This is how our ancestors developed all the civilizations and develop all the culture that we have. Right now we are experiencing a crisis, and it's a crisis of knowing a lot, but not having the wisdom to live with it. The world is in a big crisis, we cannot deny it. We have to see that the way forward is not more competition, is more cooperation. The way forward is not going to be more competition, because the world is a closed system. The world is a closed system, we need to face it. We'll have to live here and [inaudible 00:52:39] many different peoples, we need to respect each other, we need to learn about each other.
Sidarta Ribeiro (52:43):
And this is going to be much easier if we can dream and share dreams. If we continue to focus on the waking life, on the external life and not on the inner world, on the inner life, we will continue to have trouble. And this trouble will hit everywhere. It's hitting everywhere already. It's hitting the richest countries in the world. Germany was completely overwhelmed with floods that were predictable, but people couldn't predict them. And this has to do with how we feel about this. Science is already showing us this, but people need to feel those things, not just understand them. And to feel them, we need to go back to dreams.
Alexander McCaig (53:20):
Then it gives us our wisdom, right?
Sidarta Ribeiro (53:22):
I think so.
Alexander McCaig (53:24):
Listen, Sidarta, this has been a gem, like really a lot of fun. And I'll go back and I'm going to have to re-listen to all this because there are some microthematic things that you wrote about and spoke about that I think I would love to unpack further with you.
Sidarta Ribeiro (53:42):
It would be pleasure. Thank you.
Alexander McCaig (53:43):
Great. Well, listen, thank you so much for coming out today, I really appreciate it.
Speaker 3 (53:54):
Thank you for listening to TARTLEcast with your hosts Alexander McCaig, and Jason Rigby where humanity steps into the future, and source data defines the path. What's your data [inaudible 00:54:13]?