In the 1991 apocalyptic sci-fi film Until the End of the World, director Wim Wenders creates a vision of the future that, in a few ways, manages to mirror aspects of life in 2019. In the film, a virtual reality (VR) headset-like device is developed that gives blind people a form of sight. But as the film goes on, the device is transformed into a tool that records dreams, and a darker side of humanity comes to light: People become addicted to their subconscious storylines, spending all their time sleeping and waking only to watch their dreams.
The device looks nearly identical to an Oculus headset, but there are more similarities between our current reality and Wenders’ 30-year-old fantasy than that alone. Today, a team of researchers from universities across the country is working on a project dedicated to figuring out how to recreate our nighttime lives on the screen. And like Until the End of the World, it’s unclear what this technology might be used for.
The as-of-yet-unnamed project is the brainchild of independent dream researcher Daniel Oldis and represents a continuation of a question he and others in his field began exploring decades ago: Are dreams learning experiences, and can behaviors in waking life be influenced by what people dream about? Oldis and others concluded that the answer must be yes based on one key point: When people dream, their bodies move and react.
“Your eyes, the muscles in your body, it’s just like you’re awake. You’re responding to the dream story,” Oldis says. “Like in waking life, the body is learning from different experiences. We learn from dreams, and it affects our personality.”
The debate over whether dreams have meaning is a contentious topic among psychologists and neurologists and has been for decades. While some experts believe that dreams are simply the result of neurons in the brain firing at random, other researchers believe that dreams hold deep meaning for our lives and are even linked to our overall health. There’s some evidence to back up the argument. Studies have found that dreaming helps us process emotions, turn our short-term…