Better Rationality Through Lucid Dreaming

Note: this post is no longer en­dorsed by the au­thor, for rea­sons par­tially de­scribed here.

In the spirit of ra­dio­ing back to de­scribe a path:

The truly ab­surd thing about dreams lies not with their con­tent, but with the fact that we be­lieve them. Perfectly out­ra­geous and im­pos­si­ble things can oc­cur in dreams with­out the slight­est hes­i­tance to ac­cept them on the part of the dreamer. I have of­ten dreamed my­self into bizarre situ­a­tions that come com­plete with con­structed mem­o­ries ex­plain­ing how they se­cretly make sense!

How­ever, some­times we break free from these illu­sions and be­come aware of the fact that we are dream­ing. This is known as lu­cid dream­ing and can be an ex­tremely pleas­ant ex­pe­rience. Un­for­tu­nately, rel­a­tively few peo­ple ex­pe­rience lu­cid dreams “nat­u­rally;” for­tu­nately, lu­cid dream­ing is also a skill, and like any other skill it can be trained.

While this is all very in­ter­est­ing, you may be won­der­ing what it has to do with ra­tio­nal­ity. Sim­ply put, I have found lu­cid dream­ing per­haps the best train­ing cur­rently available when it comes to in­creas­ing gen­eral ra­tio­nal­ity skills. It is one thing to no­tice when you are con­fused by or­di­nary mi­s­un­der­stand­ings or tricks; it is an­other to no­tice while your own brain is ac­tively con­struct­ing mem­o­ries and en­vi­ron­ments to fool you!

I’ve been in­volved in lu­cid dream­ing for about eight years now and teach­ing lu­cid dream­ing for two, so I’m pretty fa­mil­iar with it on a non-sur­face level. I’ve also been ex­plic­itly look­ing into the prospect of us­ing lu­cid dream­ing for ra­tio­nal­ity train­ing pur­poses since 2010, and I’m fairly con­fi­dent that it will prove use­ful for at least some peo­ple here.

If you can get your­self to the point where you can con­sis­tently in­duce lu­cid dream­ing by notic­ing the in­con­sis­ten­cies and ab­sur­di­ties of your dream state,[1] I pre­dict that you will be­come a much stronger ra­tio­nal­ist in the pro­cess. If my pre­dic­tion is cor­rect, lu­cid dream­ing al­lows you to hone ra­tio­nal­ity skills while also hav­ing fun, and best of all per­mits you to do this in your sleep!

If this sounds ap­peal­ing to you, per­haps the most con­cise and effi­cient re­source for learn­ing lu­cid dream­ing is the book Lu­cid Dream­ing, by Dr. Stephen LaBerge. How­ever, this is a book and costs money. If you’re not into that, a some­what less effi­cient but much more com­pre­hen­sive view of lu­cid dream­ing can be found on the web­site I fur­ther recom­mend that any­one in­ter­ested in this check out the Face­book group Ra­tional Dream­ers. Re­cently founded by LW user Brien­neStrohl, this group pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss lu­cid dream­ing and re­lated mat­ters in an en­vi­ron­ment free from some of the mys­ti­cism and con­fu­sion that oth­er­wise sur­rounds this is­sue.

All in all, it seems that lu­cid dream­ing may offer a method of train­ing your ra­tio­nal­ity in a way that is fun,[2] in­ter­est­ing, and takes es­sen­tially none of your wak­ing hours. Thus, if you are in­ter­ested in in­creas­ing your gen­eral ra­tio­nal­ity, I strongly recom­mend in­ves­ti­gat­ing lu­cid dream­ing. To be frank, my main con­cern about lu­cid dream­ing as a ra­tio­nal­ity prac­tice is sim­ply that it seems too good to be true.

[1] Note that this is only one of many ways of in­duc­ing lu­cid dream­ing. How­ever, most other tech­niques that I have tried are not nec­es­sar­ily use­ful forms of ra­tio­nal­ity prac­tice, effec­tive as they might be.

[2] And, to be hon­est, “fun” is an un­der­state­ment.