I don’t sleep, I dream

I recently read an article about a new technology that can induce lucid dreams on demand and it got me thinking about what if…” dreams are actually the path to our collective unconscious, and what would happen if that collective unconscious was commercialized into a social media network? This piece is an attempt at pulling a coherent 1000 words out of the disconnected mess of words I’ve written on that idea. I hope it will become a longer story.

Mark jolts awake, disoriented and covered in sweat. His watch was yelling that it’s time for the store to open. He’d come into the mall through a side entrance and sat down, just for a minute, in a broken massage chair that had been sitting abandoned next to a shuttered kiosk.

He drug himself back toward the store. There was a crowd now, dozens of people shuffling around restlessly, waiting for the doors to open. Everyone was eyeing everyone else wondering who would get in and how many of the new dream machines would be for sale. Mark was 43rd in the queue and was trying to guess who might have numbers 1-42. He was hoping this location got at least 50 or even better, 75, so he could be out of there before the last one is sold, and any of these sleepwalkers woke up enough to be angry.

The lights in the showroom came up, first illuminating the floor and then rising as it filled the two story space. Mark thought it looked pretty majestic for a place that used to be a Macy’s. In the middle of the room was a display of the newest dream machine, a thin steel band that widens in the back, an inverted tiara. The display was surrounded by a dozen members of the dream team.” Each of them, dressed identically in white t-shirts, stood in a circle. They joined hands, said something that he couldn’t make out through the glass doors, then they let go of each other’s hands, clapped in unison, and headed to their stations. One-by-one they let people in, adjusted their headpieces, activated them, and said sweet dreams” as they left the store.

43” displayed above the doors and Mark was greeted by a member of the dream team, a young woman, he guessed maybe 19 or 20, with fading acne and a practiced smile. She led him to a fitting station, a clean wooden table with a dream machine headset on a simple display.

I bet you’re excited for the new model,” she said, It’s the best yet, are you excited for the networking upgrade?”

Turns out Carl Jung was right, dreams are a path into our collective unconscious. It wasn’t long after the tech companies figured out how to give people control of their dreams that they figured out how to tap into that collective and monetize social dreaming. While their customers were counting sheep, the companies counted dollars.

Mark pulled a notebook from his coat pocket. It was bulging with loose papers and held closed with a binder clip. He spread the scribbled on receipts and other scraps across the table. He unfolded a sheet of paper covered in hand drawn maps and cryptic diagrams.

He kept this bloated dream journal by the side of his bed and carried it with him everywhere. He tried to capture anything he could remember from his dreams. It was always a struggle for him write quickly and legibly as he put his glasses on, as his eyes adjusted, the places, the people, the feelings all became blurrier and disappeared as the words came into focus.

I had a dream,” he said to the young woman, immediately self-conscious that he sounded like one of the commercials. He thought to himself that he still couldn’t believe they somehow got away with using a reanimated version of Martin Luther King in that first ad campaign.

I was on a beach, it…she was beautiful,” he hesitated, We’d been at a party, I followed her through a door and then we were standing on an empty beach, she was backlit by the the sun rising over dark brown waves. I could feel the warm water on my feet, the smell of salt and seaweed on the breeze, she looked at me and smiled.” He looked at the mess on the table and then directly the young woman. I felt completely in love. We were in love. Then, I was awake and she was gone. I’m in bed. The salty wind on the beach was the draft from the windows in my old house, the sound of the waves was just my wife’s snoring.”

I know I shouldn’t obsess over a woman from a dream, especially as a married man.” He held his hand up to show his wedding band. I love my wife. I do, but at this point, she’s asleep more than she’s awake.”

His wife’s company had been one of the first to switch to working in their dreams. Pioneers in the new frontier of connected working. Because these dream machines weren’t technically medical devices they hadn’t required FDA approval, and now that they’d sold a 100 million of them people are starting to see the consequences.

I know these look crazy,“ he gestured the notes. sometimes they are enough. They give me a quick snapshot, a landmark to find my way back.” He started reading off some of the notes, The Burger King bathroom stall opens to the courtyard of the junior high school, the curtain on the stage at city hall connects to the beer cave at the gas station by my parent’s house. The basement of the old hotel, through the showers, into the parking garage, into the bathroom of a keg party at that college…”

I keep track of doors.” He showed her the page of diagrams, tracing his finger along the lines from node to node. The architecture never makes sense in dreams. Places that are miles in reality and years apart in memory are just a step through a door.”

He knows that sharing these scribbles and describing all of this to this college kid made him look like a madman. Can this this memory feature, help me? How does the mapping work? Can it get me back?” She reassuringly rattled off the list of new features as she did the fitting. As she said sweet dreams” he was already halfway to the door.

Up next The Price of Attention A short story exploring a place at the intersection of our attention economy and augmented reality. A place we call, the grocery store.
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