Analyzing Dreams with Artificial Intelligence
Technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives, and soon, it will invade our dreams too. Dream analysis, the practice of assigning meaning to dreams, can reveal psychological issues lying in the abyss beneath the waters of the mind. Recently, researchers have decided to use artificial intelligence to analyze dreams en masse.
Dream analysis itself is not new. In ancient civilizations, dreams were considered a form of divination. In fact, Gudea, the king of an ancient city-state, spend a large portion of the nation's budget to rebuild a temple when instructed by a dream. Additionally, many ancient myths assign profound meanings to dreams.
Even in the modern age, humans have yet to liberate themselves from their dreams. For example, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, passengers that dreamed of a plane crash were more likely to cancel their flight than those who didn’t, and people who dreamed of a friend helping them were more likely to trust that friend.
The researchers who decided to use artificial intelligence to analyze dreams required participants to write down their dreams, in words, before submitting them. The researchers used Natural Language Processing, the artificial intelligence method of allowing computers to interpret words, to analyze the participants’ dreams—essentially an automated method of classical dream analysis.
This method has its fair share of issues. For example, when participants are writing down descriptions of their dreams, their descriptions could omit important details of their dreams. Furthermore, participants could intentionally lie about embarrassing details.
However, with recent advances in biotechnology, spawning companies such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink, another possibility has begun to emerge. Instead of having participants write about their dreams, data collectors could place helmets that measure the brain waves of their subjects, collecting massive amounts of data without the participant’s voluntary involvement. The technology for this is already in place—working prototypes of an instrument that the musician plays using brain waves already exist.
Dream analysis, albeit futuristic and intriguing, has certain moral implications. First of all, many regards dreaming as an inviolable sanctuary, from which reemerges sparks of their unfathomable memories. Sharing a dream report for inspection, therefore, will possibly evoke discomfort. Further, it is not difficult to imagine a world where the government manipulates dream analysis technology to, allegedly, monitor the psychological well-being of their citizens.