Ideas

Here are some of the key ideas given throughout the book as the author reports and contemplates 332 precognitive experiences.

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Observed characteristics of the oneironaut phenomenon (precognitive dreams)

  • Precognitive experiences can include any of the senses; most often auditory and/or visual.
  • Strong correlation to cognitive puzzles, surprise, and novelty.
  • Contains approximately 9 seconds of autobiographical information.
  • Onset very often at 12-13 years of age.
  • May be associated with temporal lobe epilepsy for some individuals which creates the illusion of déjà vu or déjà rêve.
Figure 7-1 from The Oneironauts. Clenching your right fist can help you learn where various brain lobes are located. The hippocampus is near the center of the brain, where the tips of your ring and middle fingers touch the palm. The left and right sides of the brain each have a hippocampus and the structure is curved, somewhat like the two horns of a ram.

Possible Neural Correlates

  • The author interprets the oneironaut phenomenon as a feature related to memory and learning as opposed to the paranormal.
  • The medial temporal lobe (hippocampal formation) is strongly implicated because it is critical for memory, learning, and navigation.
  • The onset at 10-13 years of age may be explained by the myelination of neurons, when they gain a fatty sheath that increases their diameter, speeds up signal transmission, and better integrates functions of the brain.
  • The nine seconds of future information is in the ballpark of 2-3 second "alpha bursts" that occur during REM sleep (dreaming). This electrical burst at 10 Hz is similar to waking consciousness and could represent the fleeting time period when the brain is experiencing a future waking state.
Figure 6-2 from The Oneironauts. Abell 1689 is a cluster of massive elliptical galaxies that look like bright blobs in this Hubble Space Telescope image processed by the author. The short arcs of light that surround the larger blobs are background galaxies that appear as arcs only because empty space is warped by the massive galaxies in the foreground.

Insights into the nature of spacetime (reality)

  • Spacetime is non-intuitive, as demonstrated by experiments in the last century that uphold the reality of relativity, gravitational lensing, and quantum mechanical phenomena such as wave-particle dualities and entanglement.
  • The mechanism for the oneironaut phenomenon (time-travel of information) is not known. The book makes qualitative comparisons to quantum entanglement, but states that the neural correlates of quantum mechanical effects have yet to be pinpointed in the brain.
  • The book suggests that information travels from the present to the past. This solves the problem that it is highly unlikely to correctly dream about a specific future event given the huge number of possible future experiences that involve many unpredictable factors. However, the current waking brain can send information to its distinct past self.
  • The book asserts that the oneironaut phenomenon is a measurement that supports the the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics on the macro scale (the multiverse or parallel universes). This solves the paradox of an oneironaut either deleting or affirming a future event using precognitive information.
  • The oneironaut phenomenon demonstrates that information can be shared between parallel universes or timelines. Among the consequences is that information may escape black holes (e.g., a device in a timeline outside of the black hole can record information from the parallel universe where the same device is inside the black hole).
Figure 3-1 from The Oneironauts. The author's apparent instincts to navigate through the city of Heidelberg appear to be a set of irrational choices, but in reality they are rational behaviors based on precognitive information.

New ideas regarding instincts and evolution

  • Knowledge of the future can lead to behaviors (choices) that appears irrational to the outside observer, as if instinctual in nature, yet they represent a rational response to precognitive information.
  • In associative learning, an apparent unconditioned response may in fact be a conditioned response from future learning.
  • Most instinctual behaviors are hard-coded into genes over millions of years of evolution, except for some behaviors controlled by the genes for the oneironaut trait. For example, the successful search (foraging) for food may seem like a trait associated with genes that were selected for their profitable navigational choices, but if the search is based on precognitive knowledge, then the behavior is a return to food, an advantage provided by the genes that express the oneironaut trait. "The genes for the oneironaut phenomenon therefore drive evolution like a charioteer..."(Chapter 3).
  • The oneironaut phenomenon should come into existence if physics (e.g., quantum mechanics) permits information time travel. Over millions of years of evolution, organisms test all possible physical mechanisms that can provide advantage. Cognitive models of the external world, including the anticipation of future events, provide advantage, which means that an intrinsic natural drive exists to find ways to sense future information.

The role of sleep and dreaming

  • One function (or consequence) of sleep is to nurture apparent instinct (or human intuition) by perceiving future information.
  • Another function of the brain, particularly during sleep, is to organize sensory information that is disorganized because organized information provides a survival advantage. A process that goes from disorganized to organized information is analogous to the physics concept of going from high entropy to low entropy. This is regarded as the backward arrow of time (future to past) and may hint at the mechanism that generates the oneironaut phenomenon.
  • Sleep and dreaming came into existence through evolution because organisms optimize their function by exploring all possible states of consciousness (or biochemical changes) appropriate for their environment. The book explains this concept in terms of Pareto efficiency (the zero-sum game) in economics and physiology.
  • Sleep and dreaming can maintain health or accelerate recovery if a person is able to perceive and focus on future states of optimal health.
  • The oneironaut phenomenon is currently useless because each dreamer reinterprets future events in the framework of their personal semantic associations tied to the present and the past. A group of dreamers who will have a shared future experience enables the separation of the personal from the objective.


Implications for the individual

  • Your personal identity at any instant is not solely derived from memories of the past. It is also shaped by the possibilities of your future life briefly glimpsed in dreams. The oneironaut phenomenon can influence your choices, or explain why you like or dislike certain things or people.
  • The oneironaut phenomenon gives a physical basis for the human concept of hope. Hope can derive from the weak perception of a real future life that is desirable. (This does not necessarily exclude the imagination as a source of hope too.)