Better Rationality Through Lucid Dreaming

post by katydee · 2013-10-18T20:48:37.869Z · score: 10 (17 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 49 comments

Note: this post is no longer endorsed by the author, for reasons partially described here.

In the spirit of radioing back to describe a path:

The truly absurd thing about dreams lies not with their content, but with the fact that we believe them. Perfectly outrageous and impossible things can occur in dreams without the slightest hesitance to accept them on the part of the dreamer. I have often dreamed myself into bizarre situations that come complete with constructed memories explaining how they secretly make sense!

However, sometimes we break free from these illusions and become aware of the fact that we are dreaming. This is known as lucid dreaming and can be an extremely pleasant experience. Unfortunately, relatively few people experience lucid dreams "naturally;" fortunately, lucid dreaming is also a skill, and like any other skill it can be trained.

While this is all very interesting, you may be wondering what it has to do with rationality. Simply put, I have found lucid dreaming perhaps the best training currently available when it comes to increasing general rationality skills. It is one thing to notice when you are confused by ordinary misunderstandings or tricks; it is another to notice while your own brain is actively constructing memories and environments to fool you!

I've been involved in lucid dreaming for about eight years now and teaching lucid dreaming for two, so I'm pretty familiar with it on a non-surface level. I've also been explicitly looking into the prospect of using lucid dreaming for rationality training purposes since 2010, and I'm fairly confident that it will prove useful for at least some people here.

If you can get yourself to the point where you can consistently induce lucid dreaming by noticing the inconsistencies and absurdities of your dream state,[1] I predict that you will become a much stronger rationalist in the process. If my prediction is correct, lucid dreaming allows you to hone rationality skills while also having fun, and best of all permits you to do this in your sleep!

If this sounds appealing to you, perhaps the most concise and efficient resource for learning lucid dreaming is the book Lucid Dreaming, by Dr. Stephen LaBerge. However, this is a book and costs money. If you're not into that, a somewhat less efficient but much more comprehensive view of lucid dreaming can be found on the website dreamviews.com. I further recommend that anyone interested in this check out the Facebook group Rational Dreamers. Recently founded by LW user BrienneStrohl, this group provides an opportunity to discuss lucid dreaming and related matters in an environment free from some of the mysticism and confusion that otherwise surrounds this issue.

All in all, it seems that lucid dreaming may offer a method of training your rationality in a way that is fun,[2] interesting, and takes essentially none of your waking hours. Thus, if you are interested in increasing your general rationality, I strongly recommend investigating lucid dreaming. To be frank, my main concern about lucid dreaming as a rationality practice is simply that it seems too good to be true.

 

[1] Note that this is only one of many ways of inducing lucid dreaming. However, most other techniques that I have tried are not necessarily useful forms of rationality practice, effective as they might be.

[2] And, to be honest, "fun" is an understatement.

49 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by dougclow · 2013-10-22T12:24:39.938Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I know several people who have done and enjoyed lucid dreaming.

I did it for a while as a student, but stopped. I started with classic techniques for noticing (a word written on the back of my hand worked well for me) and after a month or so got good enough at it that I could tell dreams from reality just by being able to perceive the dream-like quality of my perceptions. The dreams were good fun. It even changed my experience of waking life too, making it more dream-like: more vivid and more fuzzy at the same time.

But eventually I noticed that I was finding it a lot harder to do challenging thinking tasks, like a difficult programming job, or a problem sheet, that I'd previously had no trouble with. Waking life had got less interesting - I'd basically be clockwatching until I could go back to bed and have lucid dreams again. The dream-like quality to waking life was also getting problematic - I'd find myself almost completely zoned out in situations where I really didn't want to be and consequently got in trouble.

When I noticed all this, I was a bit freaked out, so I stopped completely. I trained myself out of the habit of noticing near-constantly whether I was dreaming or not, and developed a new habit of forgetting dreams once I was awake. (Mainly by not thinking about them once I'm awake - the don't think of a white tiger trick is to deliberately think about something else.) Things returned to the previous normal quite quickly, and I haven't done it since.

Looking back, I'm fairly sure I'd become quite seriously sleep-deprived. My guess is my lucid dreaming was making my sleep less restful. Now I have a lot more experience of sleep deprivation, I know that one of the insidious features of chronic sleep deprivation (for me at least) is that it zaps my metacognitive abilities as fast as it zaps my other cognitive functions. Which leads to a Dunning-Kruger death spiral: not only do I get less smart, I get less good at telling how smart I am.

I expect that many people who do lucid dreams won't have that problem: I mention it as something that's worth keeping an eye on. But perhaps wise not to do the experimenting in the run up to e.g. big exams, work deadlines, interviews, long drives, etc.

One of my absolute favourite lucid dreams was flying. I've since done a bit of flying light aircraft as a (very expensive) hobby. The thing about lucid dreams is that you're aware that they are only dreams. In my experience, actually living your favourite dream is harder work, but way better.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-10-19T05:15:51.799Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

To be frank, my main concern about lucid dreaming as a rationality practice is simply that it seems too good to be true.

This post feels like something written during the "honeymoon" phase of the latest trendy technique. I would take it much more seriously after you had stuck with it for several months, had made some sort of measurable improvement in your rationality (maybe count how many times you notice you are confused and it turns out there was something confusing), and had some understanding of its limitations, or alternatively, understood why the intuitive reaction to it being too good to be true was fallacious.

It doesn't seem at all obvious to me that training yourself to become less confused in dreams will translate into training this skill in real life situations. For example, the relevant part of your brain might be normally shut down during dreams for maintenance or rest of some sort, and doing this training might reactivate that part - causing it to function less optimally in real life. I believe Richard Feynman hypothesized something similar to this regarding lucid dreaming.

This isn't to say that I think this sort of training is necessarily a bad idea, or that people shouldn't try it. I have had several lucid dreams and have found them to be enjoyable. But I also don't want its benefits to be overstated.

comment by katydee · 2013-10-19T10:00:58.683Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

This post feels like something written during the "honeymoon" phase of the latest trendy technique. I would take it much more seriously after you had stuck with it for several months, had made some sort of measurable improvement in your rationality (maybe count how many times you notice you are confused and it turns out there was something confusing), and had some understanding of its limitations, or alternatively, understood why the intuitive reaction to it being too good to be true was fallacious.

I've been involved in lucid dreaming for about eight years now and teaching lucid dreaming for two, so I'm pretty familiar with it on a non-surface level. I've also been explicitly looking into the prospect of using lucid dreaming for rationality training purposes since 2010. I'm fairly confident that it will prove useful for at least some people.

It doesn't seem at all obvious to me that training yourself to become less confused in dreams will translate into training this skill in real life situations. For example, the relevant part of your brain might be normally shut down during dreams for maintenance or rest of some sort, and doing this training might reactivate that part - causing it to function less optimally in real life. I believe Richard Feynman hypothesized something similar to this regarding lucid dreaming.

It didn't seem obvious to me either-- I originally began getting interested in lucid dreaming solely for fun. Indeed, I was somewhat surprised to find that it seemed to have other benefits. That said, I do think those benefits are real.

Author's note 10/19: I've edited the first bit of this post into the OP following remarks from other users but am leaving it here as well to maintain the flow of the discussion.

comment by Benito · 2013-10-19T19:39:36.038Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The above information was of high relative value to me, and would've been useful if found near the top of the OP.

comment by katydee · 2013-10-19T22:10:49.075Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the comment-- it's very useful to know what sort of content does or doesn't help. I've added that information to the OP.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-10-19T15:34:41.002Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've also been explicitly looking into the prospect of using lucid dreaming for rationality training purposes since 2010.

Alright, this makes me feel better. But I'm still not seeing anything but very weak evidence for the assertion that it improves your rationality.

comment by katydee · 2013-10-19T21:37:01.723Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I fully admit that I do not have strong outside-view evidence that this method will objectively improve your rationality-- if I did, I would post it. But many (most?) rationality techniques discussed here lack such evidence as well.

Anecdotally, I can say that it seems to have been quite effective for me and there are many inside-view elements pointing towards this as a strong method.

That may not be fully convincing, and I agree it's a problem. Indeed, one of the main reasons that I posted this is that I hope others will attempt the same or similar and we can get a broader picture of this space.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-10-20T04:57:07.695Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Anecdotally, I can say that it seems to have been quite effective for me and there are many inside-view elements pointing towards this as a strong method.

Can you give examples?

comment by katydee · 2013-10-21T20:45:28.688Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, what sorts of examples are you looking for?

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-10-22T00:14:14.361Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Examples of the sorts of examples I'm looking for:

Brienne's post

—Writing fiction has improved my rationality because, in writing about characters who don't know all the information I know, I've come to viscerally understand the distinction between map and territory.

—Surrounding myself with rationalists has improved my rationality because social incentives push me to actually do the things we all agree are good ideas.

How does lucid dreaming improve rationality? You've asserted that it does, but I don't know what relevant skills it trains, or how. (You mention the phrase "noticing confusion," but that's all I could find.)

comment by katydee · 2013-10-22T00:19:18.228Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Lucid dreaming has improved my rationality because one of the key skills of rationality is noticing that you are confused, and one of the key skills that can be used to induce lucid dreaming is noticing that you are confused.

Further, lucid dreaming gives me the opportunity to practice coming to the correct conclusion in spite of my brain's efforts to the contrary.

Further, lucid dreaming is an opportunity for deliberate practice with high aliveness.

Is any of the above not clear from the original post? If so, I should probably rewrite it-- the reason that I asked what you meant is because I thought the above was apparent.

comment by Nornagest · 2013-10-22T00:36:25.401Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Further, lucid dreaming is an opportunity for deliberate practice with high aliveness.

Could you expand on "aliveness", please? I haven't heard the term before, and Google's mostly giving me obviously unrelated stuff mixed in with a bit of fluff that I don't trust.

comment by katydee · 2013-10-22T00:43:35.567Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ack. Sorry, I thought that was fundamental to LW but I got my communities mixed up. It definitely merits a post of its own, which I'll put up within the week.

comment by katydee · 2013-10-31T01:18:09.402Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Post complete.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-10-22T12:29:40.015Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is it related to EY's impression that CEOs of tech companies seem “more alive” than other people?

comment by katydee · 2013-10-22T20:00:47.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not at all.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-10-22T01:25:25.954Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The first example is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for—thanks! That clarifies what you meant in the original post. I'm not sure what the other two examples mean, probably because I know basically nothing about lucid dreaming. What are "your brain's efforts to the contrary"? How does lucid dreaming invoke deliberate practice? What is "high aliveness"? I expect this probably connects to something useful, but the inferential distance is too great for me to get anything from it.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-10-22T00:13:37.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Examples of the sorts of examples I'm looking for:

Brienne's post —Writing fiction has improved my rationality because, in writing about characters who don't know all the information I know, I've come to viscerally understand the distinction between map and territory. —Surrounding myself with rationalists has improved my rationality because social incentives push me to actually do the things we all agree are good ideas.

How does lucid dreaming improve rationality? You've asserted that it does, but I don't know what relevant skills it trains, or how. (You mention the phrase "noticing confusion," but that's all I could find.)

comment by Adele_L · 2013-10-22T02:24:03.918Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I fully admit that I do not have strong outside-view evidence that this method will objectively improve your rationality-- if I did, I would post it. But many (most?) rationality techniques discussed here lack such evidence as well.

This seems like something that should be fixed. A few ideas:

  • Scientific studies - seems to slow, requires dealing with academia... I think we can do better.
  • Well designed self-experimentation - Gwern's studies on nootropics are the best examples I know of, but there are others like [Seth Robert's] self experiments.
  • Studies done by a more formal organization - For example, I think CFAR might be doing studies like this.

Regarding my second point, it seems that this sort of thing could benefit a lot from a division of labor - where a small group of people design the experiments, and many more people just follow the instructions. It might be worth trying to organize a group of people willing to participate in these sorts of experiments, so that it is easier to test rationality techniques.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-09T08:18:59.118Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can you hyperlink to this Richard Feynman hypothesis?

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-19T07:30:55.023Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I really want to like this idea: it's novel and unexpected, fun, possibly utilizing time you otherwise can't. Unfortunately you provide very few reasons to believe it.

If you can get yourself to the point where you can consistently induce lucid dreaming by noticing the inconsistencies and absurdities of your dream state

What kind of time investment are we talking about here?

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-22T05:22:42.985Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Anecdote: I had my first "lucid dream" spontaneously after reading that it was a thing that is possible. No time investment or effort. ("Lucid" as defined by: I knew I was dreaming, I was able to "break character" , I had partial control over the visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations I experienced, and had ability to wake up at anytime)

I really can't say it's useful or beneficial in any way, other than being fun and interesting. The more lucid I get, the harder it is to stay asleep, so I can't really utilize the time for anything other than amusement. (and if this wakefulness effect can be prevented, katydee, I'd like to know)

comment by katydee · 2013-10-22T11:05:37.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I really can't say it's useful or beneficial in any way, other than being fun and interesting. The more lucid I get, the harder it is to stay asleep, so I can't really utilize the time for anything other than amusement. (and if this wakefulness effect can be prevented, katydee, I'd like to know)

There are techniques for doing this-- the most basic one is to spin around in circles (not joking). This works well enough for me that I haven't looked deeply into the matter.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-22T17:42:09.193Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Eh? Like, spin around in your dream?

That sounds ridiculous, but I'll try it!

...actually come to think of it, sometimes when I can't fall asleep, I coax myself to sleep by visualizing rotating objects. Maybe imagining your entire hallucination rotating somehow shifts your attention away from reality and back into whatever you're visually hallucinating?

comment by hyporational · 2013-10-22T09:43:05.597Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Did this instant learning experience include skills to consistently get lucid? Probably not.

I would probably be a hopeless case, because I usually have very little agency in my dreams in the first place.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-22T10:25:18.207Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Did this instant learning experience include skills to consistently get lucid? Probably not.

I think so. I did it several times afterwards. It was a spontaneous thing which I did mid-dream though - I didn't go to bed with the intention of doing it. I don't do it consistently because it really isn't nearly as interesting as it sounds after the first several times, and you miss out on the usual contents of your dream.

It's been a while, perhaps I'll try again the next time I find myself in a dream, just to see if I can still do it.

I usually have very little agency in my dreams

I don't think that should natter, I have 3rd person dreams frequently too. I think the actual contents of the dream is irrelevant...as long as you're in a state that you can have coherent thoughts, such as "oh, I'm dreaming now".

From what I can tell, it's entirely down to 1) noticing that you are dreaming and 2) resisting the impulse to wake up upon this realization. At this point, you'll probably perceive having semi-control over what you're hallucinating about, but if not at least you'll have the interesting experience of knowing you are dreaming while dreaming.

(and I think katydee is saying that "notice dreaming" generalizes to "notice confusion, and don't just play along when things are weird in real life")

comment by Tenoke · 2013-10-21T14:33:49.613Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you can get yourself to the point where you can consistently induce lucid dreaming by noticing the inconsistencies and absurdities of your dream state,[1] I predict that you will become a much stronger rationalist in the process

I am going with the null hypothesis here and saying that I do not expect any difference in rationalist powers except perhaps through placebo. I've also been a lucid dreamer for 8+ years now and thought some people how to get into it and I've noticed zero improvement on any rationality-related metrics in those people. Of course none of them could do it consistently but would become lucid only once in a while.

Some do get some benefits when I observe in front of them that the fact that your brain makes you believe crazy things while dreaming is a pretty good proof of the fact that you can normally be rational and still succumb to a mental disease / false beliefs, but that's about it.

comment by katydee · 2013-10-21T20:40:53.341Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What methods did you use?

comment by Tenoke · 2013-10-21T21:53:00.594Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I generally recommend to people to start keeping a dream journal (and to be consistent with it - writing every day and immediately upon waking up), to do reality checks automatically and additionally upon feeling that something could be amiss (my favorite is holding your nose and trying to breathe) and to really watch out for False Awakenings. I also often go through things that happen often in dreams (teeth falling out, being back in school, reading being weird, running being weird, etc.) and briefly mention other ways to have a lucid dream (WILDs for example). This is a short version of my usual 'intro to lucid dreaming' but the slightly unpacked version is enough in my opinion to start someone off (and most of what they need to know).

What I myself do is reality checks and a dream journal (although I don't currently and my dream recall has degraded) but have tried most techniques I've seen on the relevant forums (mainly dreamviews.com) that have been posted before 2009-2010 back then.

I assume your methods are much more centered on rationality?

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-10-19T21:26:56.724Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to have this aversion to what I find myself calling "full lucidity"; that is, I don't like breaking an ok dream situation to become god-emperor, and I don't usually have anything specific in mind that I want to do before falling asleep (sometimes I get something vague, and those work out so rarely that I could paste my notes on those happening in an LW comment).

That aside, I tried to sciencify my dream-plotting starting April 2012 (I did something vaguely similar in 2005 and wrote a terrible paper on it). Some things of note:

  • Understanding the context of "How did I get here, and does it make sense?" is incredibly difficult. When I managed to force myself to start asking this, I just found myself "remembering" more absurd backstories; for example, wondering why someone from college was at my highschool led me to think "Of course, it all started with an adventure on a pirate ship..."
  • Trying to force anything to happen in dreams with advanced planning, short of mastering full lucidity, almost never works. I got something somewhat like this to happen once (by trying to imagine how it would work if it was a dream until I wound up in a shallow sleep), and another from the end of August 2013 on which I took very few notes and don't quite remember how it happened other than it was a slow process with lots of deliberate universe-building in the falling-asleep process.
  • For a while, I got very good at the "check numbers for consistency" technique. Once, I tried to repeat this experiment several times and remember the details for when I woke up, while attempting to will the numbers to appear a certain way. I only remembered a few of the target-result pairs by the time I started recording them in real life, but the results were pretty clear (It was a serious struggle to get the exact numbers I wanted, but I could consistently get very close, within 1-3 of the target).
  • Visual details. My vision nosedived in the second half of 2002, and dream vision took much longer to decline, until the present, where it's rarely any better than real life. I made a conscious attempt to study this and try to improve visual sensation in dreams, and my conclusion is that I can force very crappy visuals to happen when lucid, but it takes a lot of effort and isn't all that worth it. However, if I'm in a situation where I need visual information, or the information is most obviously obtained visually (especially if there is time pressure), then visuals are much more vivid. Examples include reading numbers on a TV screen, needing to memorize the positioning of different-colored fireworks (that one involved a time-turner and had the clearest colors in quite some time), reading a map and checking my arm for marks that wouldn't stick out to touch.
  • Body map! I only remember altering this intentionally for sure once, and that was a situation where I was trying to go full lucid because the original dream was boring and I was feeling sciency (I turned myself into a giant spider, was deliberately vague about individual appendages, and completely failed to pay enough attention to my mouth parts to successfully eat a captured fly). Dreams have screwed with my body without lucidity quite a lot, though; I've been physically younger, have mysteriously had certain body parts multiply, etc; these tend to return to present-realistic if I ever go lucid, though (I once attained lucidity in the middle of a dream whose first half had me in second grade, and I've tried and failed at changing genders). There are two examples I can think of that might subvert this trend, but how lucid I was in either is not so clear; there was one that I deliberately prolonged by focusing on music when I realized I was about to wake up and the plot was unfinished, and that was a deaged situation. A more recent one felt less lucid, though did involve me calling on Yahweh (by name) a couple times, once to get me to a bridge I couldn't find, and once to save me and someone else from falling off a ladder (we were both approximately 6 years old). (To make the rationality, or lack there of, weirder in this case, I wound up calling to Yahweh only after my father abandoned me, once by going across the bridge without me, the second time by straight-up vanishing, which I assumed was because he woke up. I mentioned enough of this after waking to confirm that he didn't have the same dream, so this dream-me was clearly mistaken regarding quite a few things. Also, the deaging in that one came after a lengthy alternate present sequence.).

I kinda feel like I ramble about this too much whenever the topic comes up. Maybe I could just start a "dream experiments" blog so I can keep my LW comments shorter in the future?

comment by Ishaan · 2013-10-22T05:14:12.469Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. I also find regular dreaming more interesting than lucid dreaming. Regular dream worlds tend to be more vivid and detail rich. Even without exercising the "god powers", simply breaking character tends to ruin it for me. With increasing lucidity, the dream gradually stops throwing stuff at me that I don't intentionally create, and the mental effort of creating interesting things on purpose tends to 1) disintegrate portions of the hallucination that I'm not attending to and 2) wake me up.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-10-22T01:05:29.966Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you katydee, I hadn't thought about lucid dreaming in that way before but now that you mention it what you suggest makes sense. It also matches my experiences with things that I perceive to be similar to lucid dreaming.

Added to my todo list!

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2013-10-19T08:05:35.913Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've never managed to get myself to go reliably lucid with a regular sleep cycle. Dream journaling for weeks at a time doesn't work, and then I develop an aversion to writing down my dreams and stop it. Reality check habits don't work, and I develop an aversion to doing them while awake in a couple of days for whatever reason. Recurring dream signs don't seem to show up regularly enough that I could develop a habit of noticing them, though I guess this could be made to work if I had months' worth of dream diaries.

Wake back to bed does work for me, but it mostly gets me wake-induced lucid dreams that last a few minutes and don't get very fun before I zone out into regular sleep. Then it tends to stop working and start messing up my sleep cycle when I can't get back to sleep after waking up early, so I haven't practiced it regularly. The basic trick seems to be that with regular sleep, you go into hours of deep sleep and full unconsciousness, and then when you start dreaming you're so zoned out from that that you don't get your rational faculties online. When you do a properly timed wake back to bed, you deliberately get your mind going after the deep sleep phase, and then go quickly from being fully alert and prepared to lucid dream into an actual dream state, and retain a lot more of the mental alertness.

I also recently noticed that if I go to bed earlier than usual and spend the first 30 minutes lying on my back and meditating (I lie on my side to fall asleep), I seem to consistently have a lot more vivid dreams in the early morning. I'll see if keeping up with this will help with developing some sleep cycle preserving lucid dreaming skills as well.

comment by adamzerner · 2013-10-23T22:31:21.043Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've never lucid dreamt, but it seems utterly amazing. If you could do almost anything you could imagine, wouldn't you prefer that to real life? Does anyone find themselves, or know of anyone who can lucid dream and wants to spend their time lucid dreaming instead of being awake?

comment by katydee · 2013-10-27T07:26:29.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone find themselves, or know of anyone who can lucid dream and wants to spend their time lucid dreaming instead of being awake?

I do actually know someone who claims to want this, but revealed preferences indicate that they actually don't.

My stance is that while lucid dreaming may be amazing and in some respects preferable to real life, really truly optimizing for maximum lucid dream time is pretty darn close to wireheading. That said, if you're into wireheading, lucid dreaming might be a pretty effective way to do so?

I have limited interest in that area so am less than completely fluent in the relevant arguments.

comment by Jiro · 2013-10-28T01:13:58.295Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would normally interpret "I prefer (unusual thing) to (common, necessary, thing)" to mean that his preferences for the latter change over time (usually by increasing when he's not had it) and that he prefers the former to the latter at one particular moment when he would otherwise prefer the latter..

For instance, someone who says he prefers video games to sleep doesn't mean that he would rather suffer all the consequences of having no sleep for a month, as long as he plays video games. Rather, he means that at some moment when he would otherwise prefer sleep to other things, he would prefer video games to sleep. As time passes and his need for sleep increases, he may still eventually prefer sleep.

comment by EphemeralNight · 2013-10-20T00:44:52.880Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've had some success of my own with lucid dreaming. Relatively speaking.

The problem I have is that I dream so rarely that it is almost impossible to develop habits. I still manage to go lucid about half the time I do dream, and manage to go lucid without inadvertently waking myself up about half again of those times.

I don't know if lucid dreaming has improved my rationality, but I do think that my rationality helps with the "oh, this is silly and must be a dream" reflex. There is correlation, but it is not obvious in which direction there is causation, if there is at all.

The hardest part in my experience is actually staying asleep once I go lucid. I have to very deliberately pay attention to the physicality of myself and my immediate surroundings in the dream, while ignoring any signals from my real body, or the dream will evaporate in seconds.

For me, the key to manipulating a dream was figuring out that dreams, even lucid dreams, don't seem to run on willpower. I can will something to happen with all my might, and nothing will happen. Rather than wielding willpower, I have to wield expectation. If I expect to see something, I will. There is an exception to this that I don't have an explanation for, though: I'm telekinetic in my dreams. All my dreams, no matter what they're about, whether they're lucid or not. You'd think this would make it easy to check if I'm dreaming, but I'm just so used to it that half the time it doesn't register as strange.

Does anyone know possible causes for rarely-dreaming-at-all?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-10-21T21:29:48.376Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone know possible causes for rarely-dreaming-at-all?

I very rarely remember my dreams.

In order for me to remember a dream I have to be unexpectedly woken up (at the right point in my sleep, obviously) and then I have to fix that dream -- by writing or talking or just repeating the key points in my conscious mind -- or it will fade away in a matter of seconds.

For all practical purposes I don't dream.

On the other hand I can do lucid dreaming, but the conditions have to be there: a morning when I can doze and no one will interrupt me. Happens rarely :-(

comment by katydee · 2013-10-21T20:42:46.255Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone know possible causes for rarely-dreaming-at-all?

The standard advice in these cases is that you may be dreaming more than you think but unable to remember the fact. You might want to try writing down all of your dreams as close to awakening as possible, as this will build dream recall.

comment by Varman · 2013-10-19T10:12:12.504Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You notice absurdity in dreams with your "mind", which is already corrupted. E.g: you are conjunction-fallacy-man, see something in your dream, which works according to the math, find it absurd, wake up. Sure, active LD practice can increase your awareness, but I cannot see non-neglible result if you are already rising your sanity waterline with some CFAR-ish technics. If previous statement is false, then lucid dreamers are already more rational than general population. I haven't seen evidences for this hypotesis

comment by katydee · 2013-10-19T10:59:50.206Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, active LD practice can increase your awareness, but I cannot see non-neglible result if you are already rising your sanity waterline with some CFAR-ish technics. If previous statement is false, then lucid dreamers are already more rational than general population. I haven't seen evidences for this hypotesis

It's important to note that only a small subset of lucid dreaming techniques are useful for rationality practice, as I mentioned in my first footnote.

For instance, the first method that I used to achieve lucid dreaming as a teenager was to flash blinking lights directly in front of my eyes while going to sleep. This allowed me to see a blinking pattern through my eyelids while sleeping, realize I was asleep, and hence achieve lucidity. While certainly effective at achieving lucid dreaming, this technique has no relevance to rationality at all.

Thus, I wouldn't expect lucid dreamers in general to be more rational than the general population. A person who sees lucid dreaming as their goal will select for certain things; a person who sees rationality as their goal and lucid dreaming as their tool will select for others.

comment by kalium · 2013-10-19T22:24:52.011Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One way to make sure you will notice absurdity in your dreams is to make a habit of small reality checks while awake. For a while I made a habit of checking clocks twice a few seconds apart and noticing whether the times were consistent, and I doubt this kind of check had any effect other than allowing me to notice a couple of times that I was indeed dreaming. But it might be possible to come up with different checks that would raise my overall sanity waterline. Any suggestions?

comment by katydee · 2013-10-19T23:57:42.839Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think whether reality checks make you more rational largely depends on what sorts of checks you are using. There are many checks that exploit "surface-level" features of dreams-- most commonly inconsistencies in clock faces and written text upon second looks-- in order to determine whether one is dreaming. These checks are useful for determining whether you're asleep but generally limited otherwise.

However, there is one somewhat deeper feature of dreams that IMO provides a more useful opportunity both for reality checks and for rationality practice. Dreams, by their very nature, lack a logical underpinning for events. We tend to find ourselves in the middle of a series of events without much explanation for how or why we arrived there.

Thus, one reality check that I find useful both in dreams and waking life is the thought "where am I, and how did I get here?" For instance, right now I am at my computer, typing a LessWrong post. I got here from waking up in my room and walking downstairs. I got to my room from driving my car after a party with friends last night.

Obviously, this type of reasoning can go on and on. The interesting part is that dreams lack this.

For instance, I recently dreamed that I was on an airplane. I thought to myself "How did I get on this airplane?" Realizing I had no memory of getting to the airport, I became lucid. You might wonder how this applies to rationality. The answer is that "Where am I and how did I get here" can easily apply not only to physical reality, but also to your mind and thoughts. Indeed, it is very similar to "What do you think you know, and how do you think you know it--" one of the classic questions of human rationality.

In my experience, internalizing the general form of this principle has been very useful both for dream checking and for improving rationality.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-20T00:30:07.536Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I will second value of asking "why am I thinking about this?" in real life. It hasn't changed my dreaming patterns, but when I was in the active habit of it I learned a lot about how thoughts were connected in my head and how my thinking was affected by the behavior of others and more generally by my environment.

The similar "why am I feeling this?" was also a very useful exercise for flattening out post-traumatic triggers. I find it likely that continuing the exercise past that point would teach me a lot about how my feelings are affected by my environment, but I haven't done it.

(Why?
Mostly because it frightens me.
Why do I feel fear when I think about it?
Because I believe/alieve/intuit that valuable aspects of my personality will be put at risk if I become too aware of the specifics of how my emotions are connected to the things around me.
Why do I believe/etc. that?
I don't know; certainly I have no meaningful evidence to that effect, nor any good reason to expect it, beyond the general observation that emotions and affective relations to my environment are pretty fundamental to my personality, and that attending to my emotional responses tends to alter them.
Why do I believe the changes are more likely to be ones I negatively value than positively?
Because these judgments are coming from a part of my psyche that does not seem to have abstracted its value system in any significant way, it values whatever it happens to value and it values valuing whatever it happens to value, la-la-la-la-la-I-can't hear you.
Do I endorse that?
No, not really.
Then why do I act on the basis of those judgments?
Because the alternative frightens me.
I do recognize this just got circular, right?
I do indeed. Fear is like that sometimes. I also recognize that I've just transitioned from asking myself why I feel what I feel to judging myself for feeling that way, even if I word it as a question, which probably isn't a great thing.)

comment by PrometheanFaun · 2013-10-26T03:55:31.581Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Great answer, I know this is something I need to do more in life anyway. So I did a little bit of it just now. Sudden increase in levels of curiosity[so virtuous. Wow.]. I'm so curious I even want to know crap like why my housemate sometimes leaves a spoon stuck in the coffee grounds of the compost container. Obviously they used the spoon to move the grounds in there, but why did they leave it stuck there rather than moving it to the cutlery dip in the wash basin? Now that is an extraordinarily minor detail- take that as an indication of just how motivating it is to suspect that you don't look closely enough at the details of your life to know whether you're in a shoddy simulation.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-19T23:34:52.897Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A frequently quoted one is to try to read or write text and pay attention to the individual words (rather than just the "general gist"). I don't lucid dream, but I've certainly had the experience of being frustrated during dreams by having text shift around as I try to read or write it. (I have no idea if I would have had this experience before being primed for it by being told to expect it.)

comment by PrometheanFaun · 2013-10-26T03:35:59.721Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't answer the question? I'm pretty sure a honed attentiveness to the consistency of text wouldn't raise my overall sanity waterline.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-10-26T03:49:49.721Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's an excellent point. I must admit, the whole premise that noticing reality-check-violations in my dream-scenarios has some relation to "my overall sanity waterline" (whatever that is) completely fails to resonate with me, so in retrospect it seems I just collapsed the criterion to noticing reality-check-violations in dream scenarios more generally... thereby, as you observe, failing to answer the question. Oops! Thanks for pointing that out.

comment by PrometheanFaun · 2013-10-26T03:56:40.742Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

¿That every nonsensical dream I've allowed myself to blithely stagger through is historical evidence that I could be much better at noticing inconsistencies in my model of reality?