Virtual Reality is Upon Us
Shipping of the Oculus Rift began in April 2016 followed rapidly by the launch of the Vive and Playstation VR.
These mind-expanding technologies are bringing interactive virtual worlds to the public for the very first time in history.
But did you know that you already possess a far superior form of psychological 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 psychological VR (psy-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.
1. Lucid Dreaming is State of The Art
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 (at least for the foreseeable future).
2. Lucid Dreaming is Private
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.
3. You're The Programmer
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 sometimes 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.
4. Lucid Dreaming is Free
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.
5. Lucid Dreams Don't Contain Advertising
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.
Chatting with Granny on your Vive? Why is she constantly drinking Pepsi?
On a virtual Oculus date? Click here to buy the Second Base(TM) expansion pack!
Lucid dreaming makes no such invasion. It keeps your virtual reality real.
As you can likely tell, this article is distinctly tongue-in-cheek. In truth, while a comparison can be made between VR and lucid dreaming, the two are both incredibly valuable and offer very different experiences, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
Since originally writing this article back in early 2016, I've had the pleasure to immerse myself into the world of VR. During this time I've discovered the incredible and untapped potential of social VR - a perfect tool for communicating ideas on a global scale with the intimacy of a face-to-face gathering. Indeed, I have gone on to establish the world's very first virtual reality based lucid dreaming events.
Interestingly, regular VR users are reporting an interesting side-effect, that of increased instances of lucidity within their dreams. I have also experienced the profound impact that VR has made upon my own dream landscapes.
It's early days but the relationship between VR and lucidity is certainly very promising. Yes, lucid dreaming will remain the most immersive alternate reality for many years to come and many of the points above remain valid, however, I believe there will be some very interesting discoveries over the coming decades. The future of lucid dreaming and VR is very bright indeed!
Explore further: To explore lucid dreaming further, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel, or pick up a copy of "Are You Dreaming?: Exploring Lucid Dreams, A Comprehensive Guide".