How the Dream Hacking in USA's "Falling Water" Could Happen in Real Life

Saturday, 08 October 2016 - 12:26PM
Weird Science
Saturday, 08 October 2016 - 12:26PM
How the Dream Hacking in USA's "Falling Water" Could Happen in Real Life
Dream-hacking has been of interest to scientists for years, even before Inception brought it to the public eye. Now, the new USA show Falling Water is exploring the idea in even more detail, and is consulting neuroscientists who say that there is, indeed, dream-hacking that can occur in real life.



At the Falling Water panel at New York Comic Con today, renowned neuroscientist Dr. Moran Cerf discussed the real-life version of "incepting" dreams, as well as science fiction's influence on the real science of dreams.

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Opening quote
"Shows like Star Trek and movies like Inception take science fiction and bring it to life. They make scientists look at things differently."
Closing quote


Cerf, who started out his career as a computer hacker, claims that the same techniques used in computer hacking can literally be used to "hack" into dreams.

Opening quote
"[We use] the same technique that hackers use to break into black boxes in order to break into the ultimate black box—the one between our ears."
Closing quote

Dr. Cerf explained that dreams are ruled by external experiences, so by exposing a dreamer to a certain stimulus while he or she is in REM sleep, a scientist can induce specific experiences in a dream.

Opening quote
"We can do things to you that actually activate aspects of your dream," he said. "So if we spray you with the smell of roses, you will start dreaming about something positive, not actual roses, but something positive."
Closing quote

In Falling Water, the central conceit is that all of our dreams are connected. While there's no evidence of that particular speculation, Dr. Cerf said that it should be possible in the foreseeable future to induce the same dream in two different people.

Opening quote
"The question is can you do this to two people. The answer seems to be yes, if they are in a dream state at the same time, we can spray them both with roses and their dreams will take on the same narrative."
Closing quote

While we still have a long way to go before we're actually creating whole dreams in other people, Inception-style, a lot of the science surrounding dreams is already taking on a futuristic quality. Recording dreams, for example, has advanced by leaps and bounds, and Dr. Cerf said the "most extreme" research in which he participates quite literally records the visuals of people's dreams while they're having them.

Opening quote
"[We conduct these experiments on] patients who have brain surgery, probing their actual brains and placing electrodes on their brains, and actually visualizing on a screen their thoughts while they sleep," he said.
Closing quote


Opening quote
"We thought what we were making was fantasy, about hacking dreams," said executive producer Gale Ann Hurd, "but it turns out that what Henry [Bromell] and Blake [Masters] envisioned, is actually possible."
Closing quote

The pilot of Falling Water is now streaming online on USA. It premieres on USA Network on October 13.
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