The average person has about one or two hours/night of REM sleep, and is awake for about 16 hours/day. So of all your experience, about 90% is awake, and 10% is in dreams.

But dreams tend to involve much stronger emotions than waking. In a typical waking day, you’ll go to the office, maybe hang out with friends, do a lot of boring stuff you’ve done before. In a typical dream, you’ll find true love, or get attacked by zombies, or discover a new continent. So much more than 10% of your interesting emotions, happiness, and unhappiness happens in dreams. Let’s kind of arbitrarily say it’s 50%.

You spend so much work trying to improve the quality of your waking life, and it’s so hard. But you put almost no work into improving the quality of your dreams. And improving the quality of dreams is much easier! A cooler room, a softer blanket, or a cup of tea before bed could all do it. That’s before you even get to all the complicated herbs and meditation techniques people have invented for the purpose. If, as a utilitarian, your goal is to maximize your positive and minimize your negative experiences – then if you’re concentrating on waking life, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

This suggests probably the most important and neglected effective altruist cause is giving people better dreams. It probably costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Amnesty International to prevent one person from being tortured when awake, but far more people are tortured in nightmares, and those probably can be prevented for a few dollars each. The same is true of positive utilitarianism. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to create new lives. But there are dozens of medications and supplements that can give people much more vivid dreams, and if we give those the the people whose dreams are most likely on net to be pleasant, we’re creating vast amounts of extra pleasurable experience.

If your dreams are generally good, take galantamine and melatonin to get more of them. If your dreams are generally bad, take scopolamine and clonidine to get less of them. This is by far the most effective life improvement advice you will ever get.

#to be clear this is a joke #but i am still trying to figure out exactly why

I think this is related to the distinction between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self”? Most people remember their dreams pretty weakly (I generally don’t remember mine at all.) We generally seem to treat the “remembering self” as more real than the “experiencing self”. (Consider the use of “conscious sedation” in medicine.)

That just kicks the can down the road to “making dreams more *memorable* is one of the most important things we could possibly do”.

And before anyone is like “but most waking experiences are also not memorable”: maybe your *brain* doesn’t remember, but if you care to arrange it you can get an exoself that *does* [link]. As technology advances (data storage, wearable recorders, automated transcription, etc), this gets more practical every year.

Whereas…okay, I haven’t yet had a chance to post the draft I’m thinking of here, but for now: the scariest part of lucid dreaming is the acute awareness that you’re operating with a malfunctioning memory compiler with *nothing* you can do to compensate for that. Everything around you–every bit of scrap paper, or keyboard, or microphone, or friend–is an illusion even more fragile than your current consciousness.

A sedated me is, if she can *possibly* manage it, wearing a microphone around her neck [link]. A dreaming me gets nothing: maybe an after-the-fact journal entry if she’s *lucky*.

{{I later posted the draft I was thinking of.}}


#reply via reblog #amnesia cw #101 Uses for Infrastructureless Computers #dreams #transhumanism #drugs cw?

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