Last night I had dinner with Josephine, Dave, and their daughter Lucy. Josephine and I talked a little bit about the neurological implications I discuss in my paper on neurotheology’s social and scientific impact on theories of the evolution of consciousness. Then we talked about A Cyborg Manifesto and feminism (and -isms in general) as a purported totality — and how that’s fucked up. And I started to think to myself, there are other technologies out there to create “alternate” realities, in our brains. We’ve been doing it as a species for millennia. This idea isn’t too out there, and it happens all the time.

In the sense that the individual nature of consciousness and the isolated conscious experience of reality is “alternate,” we are constantly experiencing a kind of alternate reality. I guess this also came up last night when I was out for a cup of cheer with Danielle, and we talked about how important it is to validate the personal experiences of others, especially when you’re talking about privilege and oppression. Our realities are alternate realities in the sense of her experience of oppression as a black woman, and my experience of oppression as a biracial transgender human. I find this sense of “alternate reality” not very exciting, but the idea of social technology to expose such alternate realities to one another pretty rad.

Of course, another thing I couldn’t help but think of is psychedelic drugs. While there are certain legal, personal and health-related risks and downsides to doing a project using psychedelics as practice, I also would be afraid of such an adventure turning into something very trite. I would want to do a project of this sort falling somewhere between an erowid.0rg-type study and free-form creative sessions. Also, I would want to create some kind of tangible output that isn’t just a video of someone tripping. (How do you make someone feel like they are there? In a psychological sense.) Also, I would not want to trigger anything psychologically negative in myself or others. This seems risky on a number of levels, and would require an enormous amount of planning and execution. And legal disclaimers. (Though, from an amateur chemistry standpoint, it could also be totally rad.)

Finally, though, Twitter peep @mcburton proposed lucid dreaming as a possible alternate technology to create, explore, and document alternate realities. And I think this kind of goes back to the original concept — that we already contain alternate realities (and maybe each of us contains several, or more than several, legion, realities), the challenge is merely becoming conscious of them and then imparting the knowledge of those realities to others.

So the idea is — I learn to lucid dream. I document the process of learning to do so, and then use my lucid dream state to create an open-source virtual reality that others who are interested in lucid dreaming can also access via their lucid dreams. Maybe I will make a version of my virtual space using Unigine or something, too…although I don’t really want to, it’s hard to say how else to impart my vision of “my” alternate lucid dream reality to other users. I worry that a visual representation that you can walk through and see is a little too literal. I guess if I did it textually it would also raise the issue of continued isolation within our own interpretations of reality. In a perfect world, I think I’d like my open-source lucid dream engine to have its own wiki where other lucid dreamers can “build” on stuff, post it, and that would allow other users to visit it.

I guess it’d be a little like a meat-based MOO. MMOO?

This, ultimately, also goes back to my idea of hacking the body, optimizing human experiences to be the most pleasurable and fulfilling, through a variety of technological and social (which are sometimes interchangeable) methods. Also, what happens when someone is able to induce an experience of a fictional place in a dream state that is tangibly similar to someone else’s experience of that fictional place, and we construct it together?

Some other questions for consideration:

  • How will MMOO be run? Will there be a government? Am I willing to take on the role of an administrator in my virtual world?
  • What, if any, are the ethical considerations to managing someone’s dream experience?
  • How do you even find other people who can lucid dream? Or alternatively, how do you convince your friends to learn how to lucid dream so they can “play” in the virtual space? (I’m sure I have some takers, heh.)
  • When documenting MMOO, how much information is too much information? Is there such a thing? Would a 3D virtual representation of MMOO kill it?
  • Is it possible to network brains?

Your feedback, potential answers, and further questions are appreciated.