Halloween thread - rationalist's horrors.

post by wwa · 2013-11-01T22:07:56.442Z · score: 21 (25 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 124 comments

This is a kind of "X files" thread.

Post experiences which spooked you, which made you doubt reality, mathematical or physical laws, your sanity, memory or perception. The more improbable the better, but no second-hand legends please, share only what you personally experienced. If you had the event later explained rationally please use rot13 to avoid spoilers.

124 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ishtar · 2013-11-02T17:21:34.778Z · score: 47 (48 votes) · LW · GW

A few years back, I had an incredibly vivid dream that seemed to be real. One of the characters in the dream informed me that my whole life had been a dream, and I didn't believe her. We got in an argument, where I pointed out how vivid and detailed my surroundings were, how vivid and detailed my memories of growing up in California were, and how unlikely it was that a character in my own dream would disagree with me. The character challenged me to try to open my eyes, and I did, confident that they were already open. I opened my eyes, and it was 3:00 in the morning in my little apartment in Texas. I have never even been to California. My entire life had been a dream, and a small fragment of my subconscious had known it was a dream when I had not. I was a solipsist for the rest of the week.

comment by RowanE · 2013-11-05T12:15:05.915Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why did you cease being a solipsist after having such an experience?

comment by ishtar · 2013-11-05T13:33:16.669Z · score: 8 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It was pretty easy, once I thought about it a little. First of all, within the context of the dream I had, there had been a way to test whether I was in the dream- I just tried really hard to open my eyes. Granted, it wasn't a very good test. It's not always easy to wake yourself from a dream, and there's not much one can try if this fails, but it had worked.

Ultimately, I just told myself how useless solipsism is in a real-world context. We might all be trapped in the matrix, but if there's a way to test whether we're in the matrix and get out, then there's a way to define and test reality, and if there isn't a way to test if we're in the matrix and get out, then there's no reason to call what we're in anything but reality and accept the parameters of our shared experiences. In the latter context, saying that we might all be in the matrix doesn't predict anything or help us accomplish anything.

The most useful part of my experience was also what I found the most disturbing- that a piece of my subconscious knew something that my stream-of-consciousness self did not. It's a little humbling to be shown how much is going on in my brain that I'm not in on or aware of. I'm a lot less likely to trust my own perceptions, now.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-11-02T20:53:31.698Z · score: 28 (29 votes) · LW · GW

(Repost of an old message I sent to SL4 in 2003.)

Usually, like everyone, I forget my dreams. When I'm suddenly woken up, for example, by an alarm clock or by my cellphone ringing, it seems - I'm not quite sure if this is what is happening, but it's the explanation that seems most likely - it seems as if the last fifteen seconds of mental imagery are still "in my loop" when I wake up, so I remember them too, just as if they were lucid.

So the memory I actually have is of waking up, and then five seconds or fifteen seconds later, the phone rings. With an experience like that, it's easy to see why anyone less than a dedicated rationalist would assume psychic powers; "Oh, look, I become lucid fifteen seconds before the phone rings, I must be psychic".

Sometimes I'll even apparently remember that I have a dream in which an alarm goes off in my dream, which wakes me up, and then five seconds later the alarm goes off.

One needs to have done quite a lot of reading in cognitive science before one looks at that and says, "Timing fault in memory formation - yes, the brain really is that fragile", and not "I had a precognitive dream."

This led me to ponder the problem of dream memories and personal continuity. I now remember having experiences that I would not remember if I had not been woken up by an alarm clock; I remember those apparently lucid dream experiences, and those "inserted" memories, as if they were part of my ordinary life continuity. What happens to the person who experiences the dreams I have and don't remember? Did I really experience the dream of the alarm going off, or was the memory manufactured and inserted without ever being experienced? Are all dreams manufactured and inserted without ever being experienced?

This is where we stand at the moment I had my anthropic dream.

My cellphone rang and woke me up. I apparently remembered becoming lucid in my dream a few seconds before the cellphone woke me. And my "inserted" dream experience leading up to the cellphone ringing was the thought:

"If I don't wake up now, this experience will not have existed in retrospect. Therefore, since I'm now having this experience, something will wake me up."

Now, what this feels like is this:

You're dreaming, and your dream turns lucid, and you think to yourself: "If I don't wake up now, this experience won't have existed in retrospect. Therefore, since I'm having this experience, something will wake me up."

And then, a moment later, the cellphone rings and wakes you up.

The illusion of a spooky anthropic effect was very strong.

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-11-03T01:01:46.564Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I once dreamed I was performing the quantum suicide experiment. It was discomfiting. But everything turned out fine. I woke up safe in bed...

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-11-03T08:30:44.972Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Just what QTI would have predicted!

Make your measure small enough and you'll probably continue by waking up in bed.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-03T10:50:59.321Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A few times I've had a dream that I woke outside the Matrix. The dreams lasted only for a few seconds, but it was a strong experience, more so because I haven't had a sleep paralysis before.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-11-20T21:47:14.722Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes I'll even apparently remember that I have a dream in which an alarm goes off in my dream, which wakes me up, and then five seconds later the alarm goes off.

When I set my alarm, I routinely (almost infallibly unless I set it for before 5:00 am) wake up before the alarm and turn it off before it has a chance to ring. I simply hate being woken by an alarm so much that I keep track of the time, even while asleep, in order to prevent such a traumatic experience from occurring.

It might be that you really were dreaming about your alarm going off before it actually went off, due to anticipation.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-11-02T22:44:38.195Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've had the same type of experience as the first part (usually for me, there is something like a countdown to a big event, and then my alarm goes off right on schedule), and had came to about the same conclusion. I hadn't read about cognitive science and memory at this point, instead my thought process was along these lines: Well, it's extremely unlikely that I can actually predict the future, so something else must be going on. The only thing that even makes sense is that this apparent "memory" was somehow filled in after the fact.

Also, am I correct in assuming that the second half of this comment is about a spooky moment of confusion, and does not reflect your current beliefs?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-11-03T00:15:53.344Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I was ever confused. I enjoyed the illusion.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2013-11-27T15:30:35.305Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect my brain likes to play nasty tricks on me. During the 3 years I worked at call centers, I became very conscious of the time of the day because our shifts were strictly monitored. I had to be logged on to the phone by an exact time. I remember there was a month when I had little sleep and suddenly I no longer heard the alarm clock. It felt like my brain was telling me, "Either you give me enough hours to sleep, or I won't let you wake up in time."

Now I'm at a different job, much less strict in matters of shift hours, but still I carry the sense that arriving late is shameful. Now my brain's favorite prank is to spontaneously make me wake up in the early morning. At that moment I've no idea whether I really heard the alarm clock or I overslept, so I look for the clock nervously, and it turns out it's 4:58 AM. My alarm clock is set for 5:00 AM. I get angry at my brain for making me worry unnecessarily. It has done this to me at least a dozen times in the past couple months.

comment by Zaine · 2013-11-06T01:49:57.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Did your eyelids have a view of a lit clock?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-11-06T20:52:21.712Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No.

comment by MrMind · 2013-11-04T13:58:45.769Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's amazing, I've had the same anthropic dream a couple of times.
But it's spooky only in retrospect, when it happens it's more like: "Mph, I'm going to wake up because I've already woken up."
It lasts very briefly, but it's definitely something real.

comment by moridinamael · 2013-11-02T16:19:05.700Z · score: 22 (23 votes) · LW · GW

When I was about seven years old I was playing an imagination game which gradually became unusually vivid and complex. In the fantasy I was delivering some kind of technical presentation depicting what looked like electron microscope images of small tube structures and I kept using the word 'microhydraulics' in my speech.

After a long time I snapped out of the fantasy and just sort of stood transfixed, introspecting on what I had just experienced. I realized it was far more immersive than my typical fantasies, even at the time, and I had the distinct sense that a lot of time had passed since I was actually aware of my surroundings. Further, I did not typically fantasize about giving technical presentations, I didn't know what the word 'microhydraulics' meant and I probably had never seen an image from an electron microscope..

Decades later I have earned my PhD in a topic concerning modeling of fluid flow through micro- and nanoscopic media. I have given many technical presentations on the topic. Many of these technical presentations have included SEM images of such microscale flow features. Occasionally I will use the word "microhydraulics" in these talks, even though it is not really proper technical jargon ... because no matter how old I get I can't shake the intuition that I was seeing my future in that childhood game.

Of course, it is a heck of a lot more likely that this weird childhood experience subtly affected my interests over the course of my life and led me to eventually study the field that I studied. However, if you were to actually look at my life story, it would look a lot more like a series of random coincidences which effectively chose my research area for me, so at this point I like to just playfully pretend that what I experienced was a glitch in the matrix.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-11-02T20:45:39.956Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Did you record the 'microhydraulics' part in writing, or somewhere else on fixed media, before you became a PhD?

comment by moridinamael · 2013-11-03T00:54:01.809Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know; probably not. You think I edited the memory through repeated recall, and I admit this is pretty likely, although of course from my subjective view the memory does seem to have changed.

I do feel fairly certain that "microhydraulics" was the word. I had probably heard the words "micro" and "hydraulics" and my parents watched a lot of Star Trek so jamming together sciencey words to generate meaningless compound words was something I did frequently anyway.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-11-03T08:58:10.054Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is the word 'microhydraulics' actually used by experts? Your dream seems like a self-fulfilling prophesy.

comment by ESRogs · 2013-11-03T17:46:40.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't they already admit this in the post?

Occasionally I will use the word "microhydraulics" in these talks, even though it is not really proper technical jargon ... because no matter how old I get I can't shake the intuition that I was seeing my future in that childhood game.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-11-03T18:13:48.735Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Edit: I misread the post. Ignore my comment.

comment by Roxolan · 2013-11-02T22:33:31.602Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

it is a heck of a lot more likely that this weird childhood experience subtly affected my interests over the course of my life and led me to eventually study the field that I studied.

Or that you overheard (or otherwise encountered) something about microhydraulics, which caused both your fantasy and your PhD choice.

comment by tgb · 2013-11-02T01:41:05.170Z · score: 20 (21 votes) · LW · GW

It's well known that we're all a lot stupider and a lot more ready to believe things when we first wake up. So here's my story.

I woke up a bit before my 7:00am alarm in the spring when the sun was rising not long before I got I up. It was just barely starting to lighten outside a little and I didn't feel like sleeping anymore, so I sat up and looked out the window as I had the nicest view from that apartment that I will likely ever have. I could see across the valley and just over the next set of hills there was the rising sun, a brilliant flat orange but not so strong that I couldn't simply look, at enjoying its color. The sky around still had most of the darkness of night, none of the reddening of sunrise which made the sun look all that brighter in contrast to such a subdued background. A single dark cloud cut a narrow horizontal line across the sun just over the midpoint.

I thought it was the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen and decided to take a picture of it even though I knew that my poor phone camera would do an abysmal rendition of it. It took me a bit to get the phone into camera mode as I really hardly used it. But then I looked back out at the sunrise to snap a picture and there I see that this beautiful sunrise had receded! It was shrinking back before my eyes, as if it had decided to turn around and go back under the world. I just watched helplessly torn at the idea that here this immaculate sunrise was wrong was going away and just wasn't right. It seemed so sad and all I could do was snap a few pictures of it as the top dropped off the horizon. The sky was dark still and I took a few last forlorn pictures of the sun that was no more.

It was about that time that I realized that my window faced due West and I had often seen the sunset through it and so could never see the sunrise. My wits were about me just enough to check that it was infact just before 7:00 AM not PM. But after that I was baffled. What had I just witnessed? If this wasn't the sun, what was that beautiful orange globe? And here the most stirringly grand thing I had seen in a long time was not what I had thought... I checked the news, and there were no large fires or explosions being reported and either way at such a distance something that large would have to have been downright cataclysmic. I was together enough to not seriously consider aliens, but I was rapidly coming up with all the other increasingly-implausible explnations.

Vg cebonoyl jba'g fhecevfr lbh gb xabj gung vg jnf va-snpg gur zbba frggvat. V gubhtug gb purpx guvf va nabgure gra zvahgrf be fb naq Jbysenz Nycun fubjrq zr gung V unq npghnyyl jvgarff n fbzrjung erznexnoyr pbvapvqrapr. Gur zbba gung zbeavat orna nyzbfg rknpgyl qhr Jrfg naq fb jnf whfg cnfg orvat n shyy zbba (avargl avar cbvag rvtug sbhe creprag vyyhzvangrq). Vg'f frggvat pbeerfcbaqrq gb nebhaq svsgrra zvahgrf orsber gur fha evfr. Vg'f beovg jnf pybfr gb crevtrr fb vg jnf arneyl nf ynetr nf cbffvoyr.

V unir arire frra gur zbba tybj benatr nf vg qvq gung zbeavat. V pna fgvyy srry rpubrf bs gur ybff naq pbashfvba V sryg nf gur jbeyq gbbx njnl gung jbaqreshy fhaevfr. Ohg V raqrq hc trggvat zber bhg bs guvf guna V jbhyq unir unq vg orra 'whfg' nabgure tbetrbhf fhaevfr.

Jryy, gung jnfa'g fb fcbbxl.

comment by tgb · 2013-11-04T15:57:37.239Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. As the poster of this, I actually made an explicit estimate to myself of how many points this would get. I thought I'd get just a few over the next day or two stopping at maybe 5 at most. Is this thread just upvote-happy and well-visited, or is there something in this that I should be doing more of?

Yes, I'm fishing for compliments. ;) Preferably useful ones, though...

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-02T20:02:17.422Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On rereading your post (and decoding the last part), I realize my explanation doesn't fit.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2013-11-02T19:01:08.870Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Since high school I've been involved in conworlding - collaborative development of fictional worlds and societies, then setting stories or games in them.

Around 2005, I and some friends set a story in a culture with a goddess named Per married to a god named Elith. The religion gets called "Perelithve".

Skip to 2008. Neil Stephenson publishes Anathem, One throwaway reference mentions two of the avout, a woman named Per who marries a man named Elith. The marriage rite they invent gets called "Perelithian"

If names can have between 3 and 8 letters, and always alternate vowels and consonants, and ''th' counts as one sound, I calculate that the chances of someone who needs two names coming up with "Per" and "Elith" is on the order of one in a billion. The similarity in stories maybe adds another two or three bits of unlikelihood. If I've read 1000 novels, each of which has 100 minor characters, and my conworlds contain 1000 characters, then the odds aren't really that bad, maybe as high as 1%

Still freaks me out, though.

comment by novalis · 2013-11-03T07:35:21.140Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Unless you were both influenced by Perelandra, in which case the odds are much higher.

comment by lmm · 2013-11-03T01:16:52.318Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Is it possible Stephenson read your story?

comment by MTGandP · 2013-11-29T05:31:19.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't deny that you feel freaked out by this experience, but it isn't all that surprising. When calculating the probability of an unlikely event, you must also consider all the other events that could have happened and that you would have found equally weird.

Of the trillions of other equally-unlikely coincidences that didn't occur, here are a few examples:

  • You take a round-trip flight and the two flight numbers concatenated make your social security number.
  • As a child, you had a pet cat and dog named Milly and Rex that seemed to behave like a married couple. Later, you meet a married couple named Milly and Rex who like to cosplay as a cat and a dog.
  • About a hundred years ago, a polyamorous journalist with an interest in human rationality wrote a newspaper column. The name of the column was an anagram for the journalist's name. This man was also friends with your great-great grandmother.

For more on this subject, I'd recommend Innumeracy, and especially Chapter 2: Probability and Coincidence.

comment by wwa · 2013-11-01T22:09:31.140Z · score: 18 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I had a large file to copy from my laptop to a friend. We were on a break between lectures - no external drive, wifi way too slow - so we used cable. The copy was taking a while so eventually we started making jokes about data flowing down the cable faster because of, you know, gravity. It didn't take long before we placed the receiving machine on the floor and... the speed increased. Not radically, but definitely more than what you'd expect from random fluctuations. We replicated the experiment three or four times, in both directions. Every time when the receiving machine was physically below the source the transfer was better. To this day I can't explain it and to me this is a proof of how a relatively simple and well understood system can be unpredictable.

comment by gwern · 2013-11-02T01:05:24.237Z · score: 21 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Both these computers were using hard drives, as in, rotating magnetic disks?

If so, then gura V oryvrir lbh jrer zreryl bofreivat gur vasyhrapr bs ivoengvbaf ba uneq qevir fcrrq. Orpnhfr uneq qevirf ebgngr fb snfg naq gur ernq-urnqf ner culfvpnyyl fb pybfr gb gur zntargvp zrqvn, ivoengvbaf pna pnhfr vffhrf be va rkgerzr pvephzfgnaprf yvxr 'qebccvat', qnzntr gur zrqvn. Fb uneq qevirf guebggyr onpx fcrrq. Gur qvssreraprf nera'g arprffnevyl uhtr ng beqvanel ivoengvba yriryf, ohg fgvyy erny: uggc://tvmzbqb.pbz/5535177/ivoengvba-vf-xvyyvat-uneq-qevir-fcrrqf

Jul qvq lbh bofreir n qvssrerapr orgjrra bar orvat hc naq gur bgure pbzchgre orvat qbar? Creuncf orpnhfr bar jnf nssrpgrq zber ol ivoengvba guna gur bgure; fb jura gur jrnx bar jnf cynprq ba gur fgheqvre sybbe, vg orarsvgrq, ohg gur fgebat bar jbhyqa'g.

comment by wwa · 2013-11-02T01:16:00.896Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This has never occurred to me! Yes, this would be quite likely. On the same note: Shouting at hard drives

comment by passive_fist · 2013-11-01T22:44:10.595Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can you repeat the experiment?

comment by wwa · 2013-11-01T23:56:15.850Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

No, I was never able to repeat that experiment. However:

Zl fgebatrfg ulcbgurfvf vf gung gur pnoyr unq n gval culfvpny qrsrpg, juvpu pnhfrq ovg reebef zber bsgra jura orag "whfg gur evtug jnl". Vg pbhyq or grfgrq ol ybbxvat ng gur engr bs GPC/VC ergenafzvffvbaf pnhfrq ol vainyvq cnpxrg purpxfhzf, juvpu jr qvqa'g gubhtug bs ng gur gvzr. Guvf vf fgvyy ener rabhtu gung V qba'g rkcrpg gb frr vg ntnva, rira vs V unq gur rknpg fnzr pnoyr gb rkcrevzrag jvgu. Guhf gur gehr pnhfr erznvaf haxabja.

Edit: phase of the moon bug

comment by DanielLC · 2013-11-02T00:04:03.476Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That was my guess as well, except with "plug" instead of "cable".

comment by WalterL · 2013-11-11T21:35:27.125Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

A long time ago, when I was very young (I don't know how young, early elementary school I believe), I did something wrong. It wasn't something that anyone knew about, or something that was irreparable. In point of fact, I broke one of my own toys while playing outside.

I became terrified that an adult would demand to know what had happened to this toy. (This would never actually happen, this hunk of plastic was, to the eyes of an adult, utterly indistinguishable from the rest of my Battle Beasts.)

I quickly resolved that I needed a scapegoat. This couldn't be my fault, so I'd have to lie about who was at fault. Then I wouldn't get BLAME. I decided that a monster had broken it.

Simple, efficient. The Midnight Monster (as I dubbed it) wasn't real and couldn't be sad that it was blamed. No one could prove that I hadn't seen it (I set it up as a Dragon In The Garage sort of scenario. I'd seen it on the roof of the garage when no one else was around.)

I implemented this brilliant strategy and was dismayed to note that all of the adults didn't believe me about the Midnight Monster. They didn't care about the toy, but they insisted that I hadn't seen any monster on the ceiling of the garage. But I KNEW that none of them had been there. I'd looked around. So they had no proof. I was saying that I had proof, so I should have been winning these debates. From whence came their strange certainty?

I stuck to my guns, and over time I expanded the Midnight Monster defense to several other matters. Strangely I only claimed that he was there when no one else could see. Equally strangely, despite the evidence of my repeated sitings of him (and related sitings when I saw his footprints, etc, but adults didn't believe that these hastily crafted signs actually revealed his presence) I didn't gain any credibility on the matter.

Eventually I moved on to other excuses, which worked much better. The Midnight Monster is a harmless childish anecdote to me. Except...

At some point during one of my excuses someone asked me to describe the monster. I did so, with the relish of the very young. I remember creating the portrait in my mind. I remember doing so, consciously falsifying the memory of a nonexistent monster.

The scary part is this. I also remember the monster. I remember seeing it, just as I'd described seeing it. I have a vivid memory of seeing it looming up over the garage of my childhood home.

If I didn't remember creating the memory, rehearsing it (as I did after the initial inquiry) and drilling it into my mind I might believe it to this day. I remember it like I remember my buddy's faces. It is indistinguishable from the rest of my memories.

That's scarier than a monster to me.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-11-02T05:59:58.385Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I have a recurring memory glitch that tells me I used to be able to levitate or fly. According to this memory, I used to be able to float a few feet off the ground simply by jumping up and holding there, choosing not to come down. There's a specific sensation memory associated with this, a tugging or lifting feeling in my abdomen.

The inference that follows, since I can't do it now, is that I forgot how to do it, or lost the ability somehow. This is moderately disappointing until I tell myself that it's just a memory glitch and humans can't levitate.

I have a few hypotheses about this:

  • It's a memory of a dream, possibly a recurring dream. Dreams of flying are pretty common.
  • It's a distorted memory of being picked up and carried as a small child.
  • It's a distorted memory of a childhood habit of jumping off of things. (Which I did frequently, sometimes getting in trouble in grade school for jumping off of things that were too high for an adult to safely jump off of, but never injured me any.)
comment by ishtar · 2013-11-02T16:32:13.781Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect my dad prevented this glitch from forming in my young mind. When I was a child, one of his favorite ways to tease me was to stand over me, and demand that I float in the air. He'd raise his hands over my head and pull them up, all the while saying "float! float in the air!" Of course I'd laugh, and I knew it was impossible, but I'd still try I'd strain, and rise up on my toes, and jump up and down, but I couldn't do it. Then he'd shake his head, and admonish that I'd better learn soon, because it would be too difficult to learn when I was "old and fat" like him.

The part of my brain that knew it was impossible would laugh, but a part of my brain would still try with all it's might to float, and quickly learned that it's impossible. Flying dreams are pretty difficult for me, now. I still find myself straining the way I did when my Dad commanded me to float.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-11-02T20:44:16.149Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds an awful lot like my flying dreams.

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-02T19:53:08.170Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a similar dream frequently, in which I levitate simply by pointing my toes upward, causing me to rise a few feet off the ground. Alternatively, I sometimes fly horizontally like Superman. This has led to the repeated experience of waking up and realizing I can't fly after all, and subsequently dreaming it and realizing "I can fly after all." But there are also times when, after starting to fly in a dream, I recall that this is something I can only do in dreams, and thereby infer that I'm dreaming. Sometimes this induces a creepy paradox feeling that compels me to wake myself up; at other times I'm comfortable continuing in the dream even while knowing it isn't real.

There are also times when I'm in a state close to sleep -- either having just awakened, or having become drowsy later in the day -- when my brain is in a state that makes me feel I should be able to fly. At these times I can't resist trying to "will it," even though I know intellectually that it's impossible.

comment by bogdanb · 2013-11-02T19:08:58.887Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a rare but recurring dream that resembles very much what you describe.

comment by hyporational · 2013-11-03T03:38:22.782Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The only way I fly in my dreams is by swimming through air.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-05T00:35:58.012Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I occasionally have dreams in which I can fly. For me, it feels like it's just a matter of balancing correctly: I'm still affected by gravity the same as always; it's just that if I really concentrate, I can maintain a pose in which no part of me is touching the ground.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-11-03T19:00:54.112Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've only rarely had flying dreams, but the sensation is similar to swimming for me, too. Not using any proper swimming strokes, but it feels like the air is thick enough to move through that way.

comment by bbleeker · 2013-11-03T11:41:18.542Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Me too! Though one time when I was little, I dreamed I was flying on a blue velvet cushion - straight into the mouth of my little plush fox, who had grown a lot bigger. What made it even scarier was that I knew I was dreaming, but I couldn't wake up.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2013-11-02T13:51:14.958Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have the same memory. How do yo update ? :-p

I definitely had flying dreams, and the memory dates to when I was 2 or 3

comment by latanius · 2013-11-04T02:14:21.015Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Martial arts training camp. Average sleep time was around 4 hours per day, also, guard shifts round the day, so sometimes it ended up being 2. So towards the end of the week I was quite... sleepy. And this seems to have an interesting effect on visual pattern recognition.

One day, me and another guy were standing guard, around 4 in the morning, the sun was just about to come up. Making circles around the countryside weekend house we were staying in, I noticed that some people appeared with a truck and started to pick grapes from the nearby field. I promptly went and reported it to the other guy, so I was pretty sure of this observation, until I went back, and...

the truck and the people somehow turned into grapes and new people appeared to pick them.

Later that week I actually made up a rule saying "the guy standing in front of the house is, regardless of how much he seems to move around, a tree". Since I actually went there once and checked previously. Science over unreliable visual cortices...

comment by dougclow · 2013-11-04T12:30:23.906Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

One evening, when I was in my mid-teens, my parents had gone out and were due back very late. For story-unrelated reasons there was a lot of tension, nervousness and worry in the household at that time. My younger brothers went to bed, and I stayed up a bit watching the film Cat's Eye, a mild horror film written by Stephen King.

In the final part of the film, a girl is threatened by a vicious troll, a short, ugly, nasty creature with a dagger. It repeatedly creeps in to her bedroom in the night, first slaughtering her pet parrot, and then trying to kill her by sucking her breath out. She's defended by a stray cat, but unfortunately when her parents come in, there's no sign of the troll, only the cat, so the parents don't believe her and blame the luckless animal for the mayhem.

While I was watching this, one of my brothers came in from his bedroom, clearly upset. He'd heard something creeping in to his bedroom, first opening the door, then walking across the floor. He was scared. I instantly thought of the vicious troll from the film, but with my rational brain knew it couldn't possibly be that. I also knew he hadn't seen the film. So I tried to reassure him, and talked about how the house makes noises in the floorboards when the central heating turns off - which had just happened. He wasn't remotely convinced: he knew fine what the usual house-settling noises were, and this was something different. It was something with feet, and small, no more than a foot tall.

I was a bit creeped out, but as the older brother put on a brave, reassuring face and came with him in to his bedroom and searched it thoroughly. We found nothing. With a bit of persuasion he went back to bed. I went back to the film.

About fifteen minutes later he came back, absolutely terrified. The thing, whatever it was, had come back, opened his door, and walked around on its little feet. It totally wasn't the house settling, it was footsteps. I wondered whether he'd overheard or seen the film, and was imagining the troll, but I was pretty sure he hadn't. He was convincing: he wasn't the sort to get that upset at something wholly imaginary, and was able to give clear detail about what he had heard when questioned. So by now I was really quite creeped out. With my rational brain I knew that the vicious troll couldn't be real and in our house, but there was clearly something going on. My emotions were running pretty high, and I really didn't want to take on the role of the wrongly-unbelieving parents from the film. Which of course made me pretty unconvincing at reassuring my poor brother. I went with him to check his bedroom, and again we found nothing.

He was too scared to sleep on his own, so I stayed with him. If anything does come in, it'll have to come past me first, and I'm pretty tough and I'll be ready, I told him with the best teenage bravado I could muster. Of course, nothing happened with me on watch, and eventually, he fell asleep.

It was my own bedtime by then, so I got myself ready for bed and locked the doors and turned off all the lights except the porch and hall lights for my parents' return. That in itself was slightly spooky, which didn't help.

I lay down in bed and turned off the bedside light. My mind was still racing, but eventually I found myself starting to get a little sleepy.

Suddenly, I was wide awake and awash in serious adrenaline reaction. My bedroom door had just opened an inch or two, and my body was in full-on fight-or-flight-or-freeze mode. I froze. Had I imagined it, in a going-to-sleep sort of way? No: as I watched in horror, the door opened another couple of inches. I'd been in the dark long enough that my eyes were fully dark-adapted, and from where I was lying in bed, I could see the doorway from about a foot high upwards, dimly but distinctly backlit from the hall light, and there was nothing there. Whatever had opened the door was less than a foot tall. So definitely not my parents coming home and checking on me, then. Now I was really scared. My hyper-alert state led to massive subjective time dilation: all this took only a few seconds, but it felt like minutes.

It got worse. I heard footsteps. Small but quite distinct footsteps. Nothing remotely like the house settling. The sort of footsteps something less than a foot high would make. Exactly like my brother had described. Exactly like the vicious troll. Whatever it was stopped for a moment. I could hardly breathe.

Then it started again, clearly walking towards me in my bed. I'm not sure I've ever been as scared as I was at that moment.

Rationally, I knew it couldn't be a vicious troll come to kill me, but emotionally I was certain of it. I thought furiously, taking advantage of the extra subjective time. Whatever it was, I wasn't going to just lie there and let it do whatever it wanted. I sized up my situation. I had no obvious weapons or things-that-could-be-weapons to hand or in easy reach, but on the plus side, I was clearly much bigger than it was, and reasonably fit and strong. Whatever it was clearly intended to surprise me in my bed, but I reckoned I could seize the tactical advantage by surprising it. So far I'd just lain there silently, as if asleep. I decided to seize the initiative and confront it in a rush. This was classic battlefield thinking: under desperate pressure, I didn't seek and evaluate alternatives, I just quickly checked over the first plan that came in to my mind, and although it didn't seem great, it seemed better than doing nothing, so I went for it. I visualised what I would do, got my muscles ready, then moved. I leapt out of bed, hurling off the blankets in the direction of the thing, and roared as loudly as I could as I charged towards it.

Bhe bja ubhfrubyq png unq pbzr va gb gur orqebbz ybbxvat sbe fbzrjurer jnez gb frggyr qbja sbe n anc. Ur jnf nofbyhgryl greevsvrq ol guvf qvfcynl, ghearq gnvy, naq syrq.

comment by MrMind · 2013-11-04T14:32:16.295Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Gura, va n frafr, lbh jrer gur gebyy :)

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-14T04:25:11.432Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One may surmise that, if the family not been in an unusual state of tension already, your younger brother would have figured it out for himself.

comment by Ishaan · 2013-11-04T04:48:21.427Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I was playing a card game with about 6 people in an AP calc class. One component of the game involved guessing: some of the cards were "good' and some were "evil". You had the option to either pick up a card or pass it on to the next player, and the objective was to pick up the "good" cards and pass on the "evil" ones.

Prior to guessing, I would look in my opponents eyes, and ask them: "Is it good or is it evil?". If it was good, I'd get this mischievous, friendly vibe from them. If it was evil, I'd get a sort of adversarial or guilty vibe.

I must have guessed between 60-120 times throughout the game. I got every single guess correct. It was creeping me out.

After the game was over, we tried having the professor draw some cards and pass it to me, and I was supposed to guess whether it was good or evil. My professors face was like a stone, and I was guessing at chance. (Note, however, that this wasn't a real game so there was no winning-losing at stake - that might have made it easier to avoid micro-expressions.)

This sort of thing had never happened to me before and has never happened to me since. I attributed it to luck and temporarily heightened sensitivity to face reading (It certainly felt like reading faces)...but the sheer accuracy of my intuitions and my inability to replicate it still spooked me. And, of course, part of me was screaming you managed to find psychic powers and you lost them you idiot!.

Assuming it wasn't sheer luck, I'd very much like to successfully replicate it one day and master the skill. I scored 33/36 my first time taking the RMET and mean is ~25 so my face-reading skills are probably above average, but it's not like I hit ceiling.

I think a large part of it is learning to listen to gut feeling, not second guessing, not letting your imagination interfere with your perception...but I really don't know. It's hard to introspect on phenomenon that I can't replicate.

comment by solipsist · 2013-11-04T14:00:15.593Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you could read micro expression with 90% accuracy, the chance of getting every card right 120 times is 0.000322924%.

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-14T04:41:43.988Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Once when I was maybe 13, I played a card-guessing game with my father. He would hold up a card and I would guess what it was, then he would show me what it was. For what seemed a very long streak -- like 15-20 cards in a row -- each of my guesses was not the card my father was holding, but the next card he held up, drawing from the top of a face-down deck. Although at the time I was inclined to believe in ESP, I knew this was anecdotal evidence, however bizarrely improbable a coincidence it might seem. In retrospect I wonder why we never repeated the game or tried to specify a hypothesis to test.

A few years ago my brother told me our father was an amateur hypnotist, and that he has memories of being hypnotized by him without his informed consent. I now wonder if he did something similar in this instance -- for instance, using a suggestion to prevent me from noticing that after each guess, he was searching through the deck for the right card to hold up next time.

comment by jimmy · 2013-11-04T05:57:18.086Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

2^-60 and 2^-120 are both zero, so if it happened as you say, you were clearly reading them. It's not that surprising, since we pick up on a lot of subtle stuff that we can't consciously pinpoint.

I was playing a similar card game once, however no one could see the cards in advance and I still guessed wrong 18 times in a row (~4 in a million)

comment by Ishaan · 2013-11-04T22:07:59.297Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I's certainly expect at least some face-reading on my part...but as solipsist pointed out, even at 90% accuracy getting every card right is pretty unlikely. It starts entering the realm of not-spooky but still improbable if you do 95%^60, but I don't regularly experience that level of certainty in daily life...so why did it happen then? (And I did feel unusual levels of certainty on that day - those "vibes" I described were pretty unmistakable)

Although, this is pretty much the only really "weird" experience I've ever had. I suppose at least a few miraculously unlikely yet salient things must occur during most people''s lifetimes.

Still, this experience has definitely upped my respect for the notion that one might gain certain cognitive abilities by putting one's mind in a certain mental state.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-04T20:57:59.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

the RMET

googles it and takes it

Are the questions supposed to get harder the further I progress? I scored 18/36, but among the first fifteen questions I got all of them right except 2 and 10, and among the last twenty-one I only got right 18, 24, 28 and 35. (Maybe my expression-reading skill is usually decent when rested but quickly gets fatigued, or something.)

comment by Ishaan · 2013-11-04T21:51:43.069Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure. I don't think that the 3 that I got wrong clustered at the end and I don't think I felt any increase in uncertainty as the test progressed.

Maybe you got bored and started going faster towards the end? Or maybe you started out going on instinct and then began to second-guess yourself, in a sort of "beginners luck" way? (if such a thing exists)

Edit: Skimmed this paper by the creators, found no mention of intentionally increasing difficulty.

(Also, my mean of 25 was from cursory skimming of this, which I found via google search and didn't check the sources. The mean found by these authors was lower, at 18 for males and 21 for females. So I'm not sure what's 'normal". Eyeballing, the distribution seems rather wide.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-06T09:44:11.726Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, even if any given person had 50% probability of getting each question right, there would be a s.d. of 3 from statistical fluctuations alone.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-06T09:41:07.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe you got bored and started going faster towards the end? Or maybe you started out going on instinct and then began to second-guess yourself, in a sort of "beginners luck" way?

Both sound plausible; maybe both happened, their effects on time spent per question cancelling out but their effects on accuracy adding up together.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-11-02T13:06:59.637Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I was looking for a wallet that had fallen onto a very cluttered floor. When casual inspection failed, I started clearing the clutter-- then found the wallet in the middle of a cleared space. The most plausible explanation is some sort of attention failure, but it wasn't a small wallet.

comment by gwern · 2013-11-02T01:10:46.966Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

One of the few times I have doubted my sanity and/or memory: http://www.gwern.net/Notes#true-dreams

comment by wwa · 2013-11-02T01:39:43.284Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yours is more spooky, but I had a similar experience.

In high school I had to get up early to be on time. In winter it meant waking up when there was still pitch black outside. Also, one teacher was exceptionally strict and would be angry at you for months if you were late or missed his class. So, when one day I woke up when there was fully bright outside I freaked out and jumped out of bed with a loud "F...F...F...". And then I woke up and it was pitch black outside. And then the alarm clock rang. I laid there for a while trying to figure out how the hell am I supposed to figure out whether I am awake or still dreaming. I didn't so I carried on ... maybe I'm still asleep, but at least I wasn't late.

comment by gwern · 2013-11-02T01:58:30.655Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Man, I hate false awakenings. I would not infrequently have them in middle school and high school: I would dream about waking up ridiculously early, going to school, doing all the tests, suffering through the classes I didn't like, spending literally hours on the bus going to and from, and then I would wake up shortly before the bus came at 6:30AM and think to myself oh come onnnn...

comment by ikrase · 2013-11-02T20:36:05.643Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain has a pretty good story on his blog, too.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-11-04T00:49:29.005Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How about this one?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-05T00:40:23.025Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

When I'm sleepy enough, I usually think that my brain has Internet access.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-11-06T21:22:47.114Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

A few months back, I was half asleep and thinking about a certain person. For a moment I wondered whether the NSA now knew who I was thinking about, since thinking about someone obviously requires going online and retrieving the concept of that person from a central server.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-10T16:52:15.050Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Reminds me of Epicurus's idea that we think about things by perceiving radiation emitted by them. I wonder, if that were how we think about things, then what would the NSA be able to glean by deploying sensors that detect this radiation?

comment by BlazeOrangeDeer · 2013-11-05T02:47:37.993Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When I stay up too late I am often bewildered by my alarm clock when it wakes me up, unable to figure out what the numbers mean for a while. Nonetheless there must be a part of me that knows what's going on because I always end up setting it again so I have enough time to get ready after sleeping some more.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-11-02T12:01:13.598Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Duke Nukem Forever was released.

comment by MrMind · 2013-11-05T09:14:57.965Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I suddenly remembered what was my surreal story, perfect for rationalist creepiness :)

It was I think 1999 or so, and one afternoon it began to rain strange, white filaments from the clear sky. It seemed like cobweb, only that they were a lot thicker and the threads were about two feet long. I was in a large parking lot of a supermarket, and the rain covered it completely. It went on for some minutes, and I was utterly amazed: the strangest thing though was that nobody paid attention to the strands rain. I was running around trying to collect sample of that substance, but as soon as you touched it, it shrinked to almost nothing. A fistful of that sticky thing, if kept in one hand, would reduce to almost a black grain of sand.
I finally managed to collect a sample by wrapping the substance around a thick pen. I kept it in the fridge for about a week, unchanged. But I didn't know anyone who could perform an analysis, so in the end I threw it away.
I still don't have any explanation for the phoenomenon, it has never happened before and I've never witnessed it after.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2013-11-06T08:37:40.112Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So, basically angel hair)?

comment by erratio · 2013-11-06T01:46:26.086Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At the risk of sounding completely vague, your description rings a bell for me. Certain types of plastics, I think? That do that kind of shrinking act as a result of coming into contact with the heat and/or moisture and/or oils on your hand. Hopefully that much information, vague as it is, might help jog someone else's memory.

I can't explain why everyone else ignored it, though.

comment by MrMind · 2013-11-06T08:11:57.273Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Certain types of plastics, I think? That do that kind of shrinking act as a result of coming into contact with the heat and/or moisture and/or oils on your hand.

I've had the same thought: it shrinked because of the heat or moisture of my hand, but I didn't know there was a plastic that does that. It's interesting though, I'll try to uncover some info.

comment by knb · 2013-11-02T01:49:15.301Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

When I was maybe 12 or 13, I woke up after having a nightmare and just sat in bed for a while, trying to remember what the dream was about. I was sitting up in bed, and for some reason I drew back the curtains to look outside. My back yard was filled with floating balls of light, which seemed to be larger than a softball. Occasionally the lights would flare up and glow even brighter. I just stared transfixed for a while, I couldn't believe I was awake.

The next day I was walking home in the early evening hours and saw fireflies floating near my house, and I realized that was what I had been seeing. I think my pupils were so sensitive from being in my pitch-black room that I could actually see the fireflies' bioluminescence in between light flashes.

comment by hyporational · 2013-11-02T07:16:54.362Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Scattering caused by mist could have made them look bigger, or perhaps you were myopic?

comment by shminux · 2013-11-01T23:59:07.282Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

BadBIOS: sounds awfully spooky. Worse than Cylons. I estimate the odds of an indestructible multi-platform virus that can jump air gaps being a real thing at less than 1%, but I wasn't overly Bayesian in my estimate. See also the relevant discussion on Reddit. What would be your estimate of such a spooky thing being real?

comment by wwa · 2013-11-02T00:37:36.506Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I think you misinterpreted the article. The virus can't infect a healthy machine "through the air" (microphone). It can bridge air gaps in the sense that two already infected machines can setup network over microphone, which is orders of magnitude more likely than the former. BIOS infections have been done before, so ...

comment by shminux · 2013-11-02T01:37:35.591Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, they discuss this point. Still, even acoustic healing sounds rather hard, though not impossible.

comment by ikrase · 2013-11-02T20:35:34.747Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Hearing about this makes me fear the unboxability of AI even more

comment by jimrandomh · 2013-11-02T17:04:44.574Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I estimate the odds of an indestructible multi-platform virus that can jump air gaps being a real thing at less than 1%

I estimate the odds that there's a virus, which has all the capabilities BadBIOS is claimed to have (acoustic networking, spread through USB stick firmware, regeneration from system firmware), at 99.9%. All of the pieces have published precedent, and there are multiple published non-secret meta-malware packages for putting pieces like that together.

Conditional on malware like that existing, I'd estimate the probability that Dragos Ruiu having malware like that at 80% (the main alternative is that he's got malware, but he's wrong about its communication channels or mechanism of spread). However, at this point conditional on him having it, I'd estimate the probability of him successfully procuring a complete sample (as opposed to a loader module) at only 50%.

comment by Pfft · 2013-11-02T22:23:09.361Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Gwern created a predictionbook entry for this question.

I think the main alternative is that he has paranoid delusions and no malware at all. It seems unlikely that he would incorrectly conclude that a piece of ordinary malware has all these advanced capabilities.

comment by hyporational · 2013-11-03T04:16:12.004Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He being wrong about what kind of malware he has doesn't mean he has ordinary malware.

comment by jkaufman · 2013-11-02T14:58:43.882Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

When I was about 14 there was supposed to be a meteor shower and my family went out to into the country to watch it. It was beautiful and wonderful, until one of the meteors made a noise. Exactly the sort of noise you would expect a shooting star to make, starting when it appeared and stopping when it fizzled. No one else thought this was strange, but I was intensely confused: how could we hear a meteor? It's so far away! And perfectly synchronized? Even airplanes are far enough away that their visual and auditory positions don't match.

Jura V tbg byqre V qrfpevorq guvf gb fbzrbar nf n jrveq guvat gung unccrarq gb zr, naq jr ybbxrq vg hc. Vg gheaf bhg gung fbzr bs gur zrgrbe'f enqvngvba vf ybj serdhrapl enqvb, juvpu pnhfrf bowrpgf gb ivoengr, znxvat gur fbhaq V urneq.

Ynetr zrgrbef unir nyfb orra ercbegrq gb znxr fbavp obbzf, ohg gurfr pbzr zvahgrf yngre orpnhfr bs nyy gur qvfgnapr.

comment by passive_fist · 2013-11-03T01:08:04.320Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any sources for that hypothesis?

comment by jkaufman · 2013-11-04T05:36:02.834Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid#Sounds_of_meteors has more details, but I haven't gotten into it more than that.

comment by Baughn · 2013-11-02T02:10:22.999Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have two modes of dreaming. One is first-person, and may not be obvious as being a dream at all, even in retrospect; the other is third-person. Sort of. There dream will have a character, who is usually not quite myself, and I'm simultaneously aware of the character's thought processes and my own; the character, however, is not. Usually. Sometimes the fourth wall breaks.

This is background information. Now, then...

I first read about the simulation argument when I was, oh, twelve years old or so. Shortly afterwards I had a new type of dream, where the third-person relationship was inversed; I knew I was asleep, though in a sense closer to falling asleep inside a dream than lucid dreaming. Then the fourth wall broke, and I became aware that I was actually just roleplaying, though in the manner of dreams I (naturally) can't remember any of the details afterwards. Regardless, at that point the dream would claim I had the option of going back to sleep, or waking all the way up.

Cute little nightmare? Well, my subconscious has gotten very good at trolling me over the years, and I have the same dream every few months - just on principle, as far as I can tell, as I could describe several other recurring scenarios that are both more disturbing and also quite incompatible.

I've never actually taken the second option, however.

comment by solipsist · 2013-11-02T02:48:03.980Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless, at that point the dream would claim I had the option of going back to sleep, or waking all the way up. ... I've never actually taken the second option, however.

Oh, I have. Since I was 6 or 7, most all of my dreams have been lucid. During college, I would regularly dream recursively. I would fall asleep once in the real world, dream for a bit, then fall asleep again in a dream, then again in the dream within the dream, etc. It's confusing, but I dreamt lucidly enough to be aware of the recursion and keep track of the dream depth. If I fell asleep three times but only woke up twice, I'd know that next time I would wake up to the real world.

...

Or at least that's what my dreaming mind believed. In case it is not immediately obvious, dreaming "recursively" is just dreaming. You can "fall asleep" 3 times and "wake up" 7 times and still be dreaming.

comment by MrMind · 2013-11-04T14:36:18.733Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You can "fall asleep" 3 times and "wake up" 7 times and still be dreaming.

This, said by a person nicknamed solipsist, is fairly creepy...

comment by solipsist · 2013-11-04T22:07:24.703Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What, like your subconscious is trying to express something subliminally?

comment by solipsist · 2013-11-04T22:06:33.278Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What, like your subconscious is trying to express something?

comment by solipsist · 2013-11-04T22:04:59.798Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What, like your subconscious is trying to express something subliminally?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-02T01:12:31.134Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

In 1998 I was working at an agency in Portland, Oregon that served homeless teenagers. Also in1998 I made my first trip to London, England. I hadn't told the clients where I was going, and my ability to navigate (plan ahead) in London was poor. One afternoon I was riding in the tubeway. I decided to get off at random to see where I was. The door opened, and standing in front of me waiting to get on was a homeless teenager from Portland Oregon that I'd seen days earlier. A strong double-double take. I got off, she got on, and that's what happened. A pleasant surprise.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-11-02T00:51:59.996Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'd bought some apples from a store on campus and was carrying them in a plastic bag while waiting in line to pay at a different store. I heard a thud, and looked down, and there was an apple on the ground. I picked it up, and then felt the bag for holes. I didn't find any. I also counted the number of apples in the bag, and the number of apples I remembered buying were still in there. I knew that it was very, very unlikely that the apple had just appeared there, but I did assign a very small probability that I'd just seen something that didn't fit with known physics. A couple minutes later, the same thing happened again - another thud, another apple appearing on the floor. It only happened twice, though. Orpnhfr nsgre gung, n olfgnaqre cbvagrq bhg gb zr gung gurer jnf n grne va gur fvqr bs gur ont gung jnf arkg gb zl obql, juvpu unq znqr vg uneq gb qrgrpg ol whfg srryvat gur bhgfvqr naq obggbz bs gur ont.

comment by philh · 2013-11-03T16:26:15.428Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fb lbh zvferzrzorerq gur ahzore bs nccyrf lbh'q obhtug? Be unq lbh chg gur nccyr onpx va ng gung cbvag?

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-11-03T17:23:43.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

V cebonoyl zvferzrzorerq gur ahzore V'q obhtug, be zvfpbhagrq.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2013-11-03T20:20:56.785Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have... a variety of problems I don't want to go into. This causes me to have all sorts of glitches fairly regularly to the point where I'm used to bizarre qualia in almost full generality. However there is one that has happened once or twice, a kind of perfect storm, that I particularly remember.

Basically, it starts with my brain getting stuck on some particular proposition, and any alternative becoming literally unthinkable. That far happens fairly commonly and it passes in a few hours. It's fairly common among humans to have this I think, it's just not usually so arbitrary and temporary.

The problem happens if the random thing is contradictory in a sufficiently fundamental way with some other underpinning of my worldmodel, I end up deriving a contradiction, and identify is as an "inconsistency". At that point it becomes a "don't think of a pink elephant; the association leaps directly to "the principle of explosion"->"all statements are true"->"the statement that'd be worst if it was true, is true"->"I can't breath"... and since this is derived so directly from things I've fully internalized, it's as impossible to doubt or imagine an alternative to as 2+2=4, and acts in a way similar to a posthypnotic suggestion.

Luckily, there seems to be safeguards on an even deeper level preventing actual serious harm. Really, I frequently have physical pain thats far worse. But there are few things that are quite as creepy and scary than being the fabric of reality dissolving into nonsense like that.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-11-03T11:06:21.403Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think the moment I got most spoked was when a doctor told me with full certainity that it's Monday when the last day I remembered was going to bed at Tuesday afternoon.

Jrqarfqnl zbeavat V unq na bcrengvba naq fcrag svir qnlf va negvsvpvny pbzn. V qvq arj gung gur bcrengvba jnf cynaarq sbe Jrqarfqnl naq gurer jnf n punapr sbe negvsvpvny pbzn ohg vg fgvyy jnf irel punyyratvat gb npprcg gung zl zrzbel unq n tnc naq pbhyqa'g or gehfgrq.

Vagrerfgvatyl rira gur gvzr qverpgyl orsber gur bcrengvba jnfa'g erpbeqrq va zl zrzbel fb V nffhzr fyrrc vf va fbzr sbez arprffnel sbe zrzbel pbafbyvqngvba.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-11-06T21:27:32.258Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

From a blog post I wrote back in 2006, after spending the whole weekend in an RPG convention:


So, the bit about too little sleep and too much caffeine? Well, I probably stayed up for something close to ~60 hours in a row, getting only something like a total of one hour of sleep during it. I also ingested about 600-900 milligrams of caffeine during the last 24 hours, when my bottle of caffeine pills suggests a maximum of 200-300 a day. I thought it wouldn't be a problem, since I've had 300-400 before with no problems, plus I drink a lot of tea anyway, so I figured that I'd built up a tolerance. Well, I was wrong, and what followed was definitely the weirdest and quite possibly the scariest mental state that I've ever experienced.

I first started realing something was seriously amiss when I went to listen to Hite's final speech. At that point I had dulled senses, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, tunnel vision - unpleasant, but nothing very out of the ordinary, considering how long I'd been up. Then I noticed a few people among the audience that looked familiar but who I quite couldn't place, so obviously I looked at them to try to figure out where I knew them from. Then the thought crossed my mind - if this was in real life, it'd be impolite to stare at them, but fortunately I can safely do it now since this is just a dream/movie. A few seconds later I realized what I was thinking and gave myself a mental headshake. So my brain was getting so tired it mistook reality for a dream. That felt funny, but not yet worse than that.

It was on my way home that things started getting unpleasant. The earlier thought had just been a momentary one, but now the sense of being only in a dream got so strong that I had to make a conscious effort to keep telling myself that no, this is actually real, I'm not dreaming. Hadn't I kept telling myself that, I might have forgotten some tiny little detail about real life, like the fact that you need to look before you cross, and that jumping on the street to be run over a by car is really, really, really not a good idea.

That was already pretty bad, but it got worse. My friend H lives in the same direction as me so we were going the same way, which is something I'm really grateful for - because a few minutes later, she was my only focal point to reality. A familiar face being nearby helped me keep myself at least slightly convinced that I really was awake and not perpetually stuck in some dreamlike, unreal world. I had a feeling that if I now got lost, I'd be lost forever, and that it was pointless to try to find my way home since the only way I could get home would be to wake up in my bed. I can't really properly even describe the way I felt - it was literally the first time in my life that I've been seriously scared for my sanity. Not only was I scared of getting lost, every thing that felt even the slightest bit out of ordinary, surprising or unexpected made me fear that I'd hit the "no limits phase". You know, the one you occasionally get when dreaming, when at first everything seems normal, then first a single bizarre thing happens, after which all the normal rules of reality cease applying and you descend into a full-blown nightmare. The fact that I was seriously afraid of that happening any minute should tell you something about my mental state.

Fortunately I then got home without being run over a car or anything, and pretty quickly fell asleep. Looking at it in retrospect, it was sorta pretty neat, but I don't think I'd want to experience it again.

comment by mango-elk · 2013-12-10T04:24:23.873Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As a child in Texas, I loved watching anime and reading manga. After being repeatedly bullied at school over these hobbies, I bitterly decided to quit so that I could make friends.

Fast-forward about 7 years and I'm in high school, living in Toronto, Canada. I'd seen a post online somewhere strongly recommending Ghost in the Shell, and after some inner turmoil, I finally gave in and acquired copies of the original movie and first season. I started watching on Thursday, and finished some time a few days later around 7 AM on Saturday morning. The series was so inspiring that I decided to return to watching anime, reading manga, collecting figures, etc ... I remember feeling very enthusiastic after this decision. I decided I would start collecting figures immediately, and that my first would be a Ghost in the Shell one.

Well, Saturday morning in the summer in Toronto is the most popular timeslot for garage sales. I left the house around 8 AM and started walking around my neighbourhood. I passed a few garage sales without stopping -- they didn't "feel" right. The first one I stopped at, I marched right up one of the aisles and stopped at a figure of Motoko and a Tachikomo from Ghost in the Shell in an unopened package. I bought it for 75 cents and went home feeling very frisson-y.

comment by arj · 2013-12-02T20:49:41.890Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This happened at uni ca. 2001. I had recently learnt Python, so I was sitting in the computer club lab messing about with a silly little script that I had written, that generated droll poetry by walking randomly through a tree of phrase structure rules. At that point I was pretty pleased with the results, so I did the up-arrow, enter, up-arrow, enter thing at the bash prompt and just looked at the results.

Until... I got the same output twice in a row.

Now this was very strange, I thought. I looked over the two algorithmic poems word by word and determined that they were indeed exactly the same. So, on two runs of the script, the brains of the little 90's era Power Macintosh had taken all the same paths through Python's random.choice() function several dozens of times. Had I forgot a random seed, thus potentially making the code effectively deterministic? No, the code did indeed have an explicit call to random.seed(). I tried running the script several more times. The results were always different.

I worked out a conservative estimate of the probabilities, and decided that I had just witnessed a staggering coincidence, or else a breakdown of physical laws.

comment by Bobertron · 2013-11-03T21:01:32.641Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Reading that ZFC has countable models spooked me. How can uncountable sets exist and an axiomatization of set-theory have a countable model? For a fraction of a second it made me doubt mathematics was real. For a few seconds after that I was thinking of giving up on understanding maths, or at least logic. Then I realized that there had to be a trick about it that made everything make sense again.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-05T01:02:50.506Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There is, yeah. If we look at a countable model of ZFC, and examine one of the sets that the model claims to be uncountable, we'll find that the set is actually countable. We'll also find, however, that the model doesn't contain any surjective function from the natural numbers to that set. So the set will be "uncountable in the model", in a sense.

A fact that I find spooky is that there is no computable set of first-order axioms that uniquely defines the natural numbers. You can only define them uniquely in second-order logic. But second-order logic doesn't seem to have a well-defined semantics. (If I'm not mistaken, the continuum hypothesis can be written in SOL without having to use ZFC or anything like that. But the continuum hypothesis doesn't have a well-defined answer.) These two facts, together, suggest that the natural numbers aren't actually well-defined at all. And this would mean that provability in a formal system isn't well-defined, either.

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-02T00:45:22.366Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The most anomalous experience I can recall was when I was 14 or maybe 15. My workplace was a makeshift walk-down below ground level, in which the restroom was constructed from plywood with a bare electric light bulb hanging over it IIRC. At the time of this incident, I was being frequently harassed by a co-worker about the same age as myself. While using the restroom on one occasion, it seemed for an instant that I was spraying blood into the toilet, yet in the next instant there was no sign of blood anywhere and the water in the bowl seemed perfectly clear. I initially assumed that this was some sort of prank on the part of my co-worker, yet I couldn't explain why there was no residue of blood to be seen, nor where there was any opening through which he could have sprayed it.

Later I wondered if it might have been a laser pointer, but the lack of any apparent aperture makes this just as unsatisfying an explanation. I'm also not sure these had been invented at the time (probably 1976.)

One plausible explanation eventually occurred to me: vg znl unir orra n genafvrag vyyhfvba pnhfrq ol n pbfzvp enl uvggvat zl bcgvp areir.

comment by hyporational · 2013-11-02T06:56:58.431Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Gur yvtug va gur erfgebbz cebonoyl unq erqqre gvag guna gur bhgfvqr, juvpu jnf cebonoyl syhberfprag, evtug? Jura lbh jrer bhgfvqr, erq frafvgvir pryyf va lbhe rlrf (naq lbhe oenva) jrer yrff nqncgrq guna oyhr naq terra frafvgvir pryyf.

Jura lbh jrag va, gur vasbezngvba guebhtu erq frafvgvir pryyf sybbqrq sbe n juvyr naq gur vasbezngvba guebhtu gur bgure pryyf gung jrer nqncgrq gb bhgfvqr yvtugvat qvzvavfurq.

Lbh unq cebonoyl qenax yrff jngre gung qnl naq lbhe hevar jnf qnexre, fb gur rssrpg jnf zntavsvrq. Nsgre n yvggyr juvyr, lbhe rlrf naq lbhe oenva nqncgrq gb gur yvtugvat naq rirelguvat frrzrq abezny ntnva.

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-02T20:13:11.873Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The red appeared to be in the water only for a split second, and then everything was clear again. The kind of transition you're proposing would surely take longer.

comment by wwa · 2013-11-02T21:30:09.263Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily. The brain pattern-matches continuous sensory experiences to something already known, which is discrete. I tend to think about it as rounding-to-nearest. Blood gradually transforming into water before your eyes doesn't make sense to the mind.

comment by hyporational · 2013-11-03T04:44:02.933Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A common experience of this would be seeing a predator in the dark for example, and then realizing it's a tree branch. The pattern recognized changes instantly, although the view might not change at all.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-11-02T00:07:37.339Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

At first I thought this would be suggesting horror stories that are particularly horrifying to rationalists, such as the one Eliezer mentioned on the HP:MoR author's notes about the Friendship is Optimal fanfiction.

comment by roryokane · 2013-11-02T00:32:55.710Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Link to the story: Friendship is Optimal. Though I wouldn’t call the story as a whole a horror story; rather, it has some fridge horror. And it is particularly horrifying to those interested in the singularity, rather than to rationalists in general.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-11-02T18:25:44.024Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was referring to the recursive fanfic, Friendship Is Optimal: Caelum Est Conterrens.

comment by ikrase · 2013-11-02T20:41:55.362Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't the recursive fic Caelum Est Conterrens explore the horror aspects a bit more?

comment by Leonhart · 2013-11-02T22:21:28.961Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Read them both, enjoyed them both, and didn't find either even slightly horrifying, although I think I understand why I am supposed to find them horrifying (Fun-theory-wise). I'm genuinely unsure if I should be trying to fix myself on this count.

Those who have a) read them, b) been horrified by them (either for EY's reasons or different ones) and c) would be reading more pone fanfic anyway, I'd be very curious to know if the existence depicted in MLP Loops is more, less, or differently horrifying to you.

comment by pinyaka · 2013-11-03T01:03:56.198Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I had an experience while meditating under the influence of a hallucinogen and a dissociative in which an entity was showing me different emotional dimensions in my life over time (anger v. time, etc.). The thing that was odd was that the graphs all extended a ways beyond the current date and when we got to the "suffering v. time" graph, there was a large spike 4-6 months in the future. I rejected the idea that I would undergo intense suffering like that (prior to this I had mostly been trying to maintain equanimity about the different graphs). The entity told me that it was related to the death of someone close to me, I rejected the experience and stopped meditating. Five months and one day later I got a call from one of my best friends and found out that he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer about two weeks prior and that it was too far along to provide anything more than palliative care.

Maybe I "rewrote" the time frame in my memory once the event occurred, but it sure feels like it was 4-6 months. Fear of the suffering associated with grief used to bother me, so it wouldn't be surprising that that might come up under the influence of psychedelics. I remember assuming that the person who was going to die was my dad, so I don't think that I picked up any clues about my friends medical condition.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-11-10T12:44:48.008Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there was that time me and some friends crawled under the fence around the backyard ditch and went up and down our street peering into people's yards.

While gunshot noises and screams came from around us, which nobody else had heard.

It was near Halloween and obviously you can convince yourself to hallucinate, but overall it was still a kinda messed-up experience.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-11-04T15:47:40.728Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have nothing as interesting as the stories here, though there have been a couple instances of my dreams sabotaging my attempts at lucidity by throwing lots of rapid-fire realistic events at me.

The more disturbing one, and more recent, involved all my priors actually making sense, except the one I wanted to test: a dead relative had come over and was acting completely normal. As soon as I tried to do a reality-check, she came to talk to me. She gave me a card that I was ready to put to the "changing text" test, but was distracted again before I could do so. It was also bothersomely realistic in terms of physical sensations, so I had a very hard time convincing myself that it must be a dream on the grounds of my memory insisting that this person was dead. (I spent some effort before that reminding myself in various dreams that "if you're wondering, it's almost definitely a dream", which I thought about asserting before I got swept up in the distractions).

Could be my mind subconsciously self-sabotaging, which is considerably more disturbing than the dream (but wouldn't be too surprising).

comment by Apprentice · 2013-11-02T23:44:14.243Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've got no cool stories of my own but a thread about a game of Risk some four years back still creeps me out.

comment by Gvaerg · 2013-11-03T10:30:46.121Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A year ago, I was going to the local Institute of Mathematics (I live in Bucharest) to attend a short talk on mathematical logic. The talk was scheduled at noon. Given that I had spent the night before at my girlfriend's and we were going somewhere together in the afternoon, I took her with me. While walking towards the Institute, I said to her that I don't remember the name of the speaker. She said that maybe it's a guy that we had met at a conference two months before (that conference was on a completely different area of math, namely algebraic combinatorics). She didn't have any prior knowledge of the logic talk or of that guy's mathematical interests. As we entered the room, we saw that it was really that guy. I still can't explain that..

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-04T02:03:05.298Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly you'd previously mentioned his name to her before forgetting it. Or she'd seen the name somewhere. Or she'd seen him on the street.

comment by MrMind · 2013-11-04T14:21:00.827Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or she'd seen him... a-hem... otherwise.
Sorry, I couldn't resist the joke. Literally.

comment by stripey7 · 2013-11-02T20:23:36.195Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I experienced this striking coincidence between what I was reading and what I was doing: http://understandinguncertainty.org/user-submitted-coincidences/fictionalreal-location

comment by passive_fist · 2013-11-01T22:43:20.639Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

EDIT: Deleted

comment by Transfuturist · 2013-11-05T19:00:55.703Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just press the retract button, it removes the ability of people to vote on your comment.