[ExI] Why do we dream? was: My guesses about GPTs consciousness

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Mon Apr 17 22:33:39 UTC 2023

On Mon, Apr 17, 2023 at 2:40 PM Giovanni Santostasi via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Dreams are very weird and do say a lot about our consciousness. In fact,
> there is a lot in dreams that dismantle some of the notions Brent has about
> qualia.
> Anyway, talking about strange experiences in dreams, if I don't drink in a
> very reliable way I dream about ghosts. I don't believe in ghosts but my
> dreaming brain is afraid of them even because they become real in my
> dreams. I also noticed that these dreams are always associated with me
> having a dry mouth or being very thirsty. Somehow my brain tells me I need
> a drink and shows me ghosts or when my brain and body need water it dreams
> of ghosts. It is very weird. Also sometimes, when I need to wake up from a
> particularly horrible dream I kill myself. It is like my brain knows it is
> a dream and a good way to escape is to die in the dream. One time I
> actually used a very loud old fashion alarm clock to wake up and it worked.
> Any time I fly I looked down, and I'm in awe and happy that finally, I
> master the magic of self-flight and then I invariably realize it is to nice
> and against the laws of physics so it is a dream and then I wake up.
> Dreams are really interesting.
> Giovanni
Why do we dream? I think the answer is because the brain is a dreaming
machine. That is, the main function of the brain is to take sensory data
and construct a virtual environment from it. This is what the brain does
whether it is awake or sleeping. When it is asleep, and dreaming, the
sensory data plays less of a role in guiding the brain's effort to
construct this virtual environment, and it is more free to drift into
directions not grounded by sensory input. As some neurologists have

“Consider that the waking state is a dreamlike state (in the same sense
that dreaming is a wakelike state) guided and shaped by the senses, whereas
regular dreaming does not involve the senses at all. Although the brain may
use the senses to take in the richness of the world, it is not limited by
those senses; it is capable of doing what it does without any sensor input
whatsoever. [...] Comforting or disturbing, the fact is that we are
basically dreaming machines that construct virtual models of the the real
-- Rodolfo Llinás in "I of the vortex : from neurons to self

“Every waking experience should then be seen as an “awake dream” selected
by the environment. And indeed, once the architecture of the brain has been
built and refined, having an experience – with its full complement of
intrinsic meaning – does not require the environment at all, as
demonstrated every night by the dreams that occur when we are asleep and
disconnected from the world.”
-- Masafumi Oizumi, Larissa Albantakis, and Giulio Tononi in "From the
Phenomenology to the Mechanisms of Consciousness: Integrated Information
Theory 3.0 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014402/>" (2014)

“Let’s start with experiences of the world around us, and with the
important idea of the brain as a prediction engine. Now imagine being a
brain. You’re locked inside a bony skull, trying to figure out what’s out
there in the world. There’s no lights inside the skill. There's no sound
either. All you’ve got to go on is streams of electrical impulses which are
only indirectly related to things in the world, whatever they may be. So
perception – figuring out what’s there – has to be a process of informed
guesswork in which the brain combines these sensory signals with its prior
expectations or beliefs about the way the world is to form its best guess
of what caused those signals. The brain doesn’t hear sound or see light.
What we perceive is its best guess of what’s out there in the world. [...]
We don’t just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The
world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from
the outside in. [...]
In fact, we’re all hallucinating all the time, including right now. It’s
just that when we agree about our hallucinations, we call that reality.”
--  Anil Seth in "TED Talk: Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyu7v7nWzfo>" (2017)

This theory is often paraphrased as "Waking life is a dream, modulated by
the senses."

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