Virtual reality is upon us.
Shipping of the Oculus Rift began in April 2016. Vive launched in June. And Playstation VR breaks loose in October. These mind-expanding technologies are bringing interactive virtual worlds to gamers everywhere.
But did you know that you already possess a far superior form of biological virtual reality? It stretches all the way back to before the discovery of fire. To the the dawn of our species.
Of course, I'm talking about lucid dreaming. Mother Nature's very own hyper-advanced biological VR system.
It's interesting to hold up a lens to the infinite world of lucid dreaming, comparing it with the remarkable advances of virtual reality technology.
I'm thrilled to be alive to witness the emergence of realistic VR. And I look forward to a lifestyle in the near future where both virtual reality and lucid dreaming enriches my experience.
For now though, here are some of the truly awesome - and practical - advantages that lucid dreaming retains over any technological virtual reality.
Despite the astonishing conclusion of Moore's law, today's consoles and computer systems are light-years behind the raw computing power of the human brain.
The brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. Scientists have found there are 86 billion (86,000,000,000) neurons in the human brain, with an intricate network of around 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) synaptic connections. They fire 5-50 times every second.
If you counted all the neurons in your brain at the rate of one per second, it would take 2,727 years to count them all. Or 4,090 years if you wanted to sleep.
To top it off, your brain is your lifelong interface with reality.
Your brain already knows reality. And it knows you. There is no VR device on Earth that can match your brain's ability to replicate your personal experience in lucid dreams.
Forget HD. Forget positional tracking. Lucid dreams run on the very operating system with which you experience reality. It provides the most authentic VR experience possible.
There are some very unsettling implications for our future privacy when virtual reality becomes the norm.
If you think the way Google tracks your online behaviour is creepy, wait until it starts to map your behaviour and reactions to an alternate universe of VR experiences.
Lucid dreams are not like this. In fact, they are probably the most private experiences you'll ever have.
When we retire to bed at night, we do so knowing that whatever we dream about, we get to choose if we'll ever share it. Be it a saucy rendezvous with a secret crush, or that dream where you felt it would be interesting to fly naked through McDonalds with Hodor and a swarm of flying chihuahuas (is that just me?)
Your dreams are for you and you alone. Perhaps they are the last bastion of true privacy.
Virtual reality will always be an experience created for a target audience by someone else. And it's likely that the programmer of your favourite VR game will still have a different take on what makes a fun experience.
This can be a good thing, as you can access experiences that you may never have otherwise pursued. Although it's also likely that such experiences can feel hollow and devoid of personal significance.
Lucid dreams are immensely more direct and personal. They are built from the fabric of your being. Your memories, knowledge and understanding of reality make up your exquisitely tailored lucid dream experience.
(I feel every lucid dreamer should aspire to become a programmer of their own mind. To help achieve just this, check out my Kickstarter project The Lucid Dreamer's Guide to the Cosmos.)
This is a no-brainer. The most popular virtual reality headsets cost upwards of a thousand dollars, and that's without the necessarily pricey computer systems they run on.
Lucid dreaming, on the other hand, is the epitome of the axiom "the best things in life are free". You're born with the hardware - your brain - and all you need is the motivation and knowledge to install the free software - understanding how to lucid dream - found on sites like this.
When virtual reality gaming goes mainstream, we're going to find ourselves in a sea of advertising.
If you thought pop-ups were bad, just wait for the invasion of tangible, 3D advertising flooding your field of vision, urging you to take the latest VR upgrade or buy the new and improved colon cleanse.
Skyping with Granny on your Vive? Why is she constantly drinking Pepsi?
On a virtual Oculus date? Then click here to buy the Second Base(TM) expansion pack!
Lucid dreaming makes no such invasion. It keeps your virtual reality real.
About The Guest Author
Daniel Love is a British lucid dreaming researcher and educator, as well as the creator of the Kickstarter project The Lucid Dreamer's Guide to The Cosmos.
This series of books is a project by dreamers, for dreamers. Its goal is to explore the major scientific themes of space, time, consciousness, reality and philosophy through the eyes of a lucid dreamer. Learn more here.
Rebecca Turner is a science writer, illustrator, explorer of consciousness - and founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a biology degree in Auckland and blogging at her site Science Me.
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