When Dreams become a Commodity

Van Mensvoort
July 6th 2010

As neuroscience progresses, we gain access to previously inaccessible and unexplored areas of the human mind. Consequentially the intricate processes in our brain are cultivated and transferred into explicit information. Soon after, they become a commodity.

In his forthcoming film Inception, director Christopher Nolan – renowned from blockbusters like The Prestige and The Dark Knight – explores the notion of people entering and sharing a dream space. If you had the ability to access somebody’s unconscious mind, what would that be used and abused for? The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cob, an expert in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable.

"What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind, can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it."

Although the technologies presented in the film are vastly speculative and assume a level of info-neuroscience that might never be realized – if only because the fundamentally distributed architecture of the human brain would turn out principally incompatible with digital information technology – the thought experiment of having shared dream spaces and being able to steal thoughts directly from someones mind, has a certain luster nonetheless.

Besides the obvious implications on governmental, corporate and personal espionage – I know where you slept last night – , there could be serious ramification on our copyright & patent system as well. While one currently has to materialize an idea to a certain extend when filing a patent, the technology to share and record your dream space allows you to have witnesses that can prove you did indeed already have that certain brilliant idea, long before someone else filed the patent, in your dreams...  Yet another step in the materialization of the virtual.

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