Why do we dream?

Apparently AI reached the level of complexity where it is not capable of explaining every underlying reason for its actions. What does that remind us of? Intuition, I guess. Or, in the language of my field, the Unconsciousness. And what might the Unconsciousness be? Without going into psychodynamical theories it seems safe to suggest that a purely conscious apparatus would be overwhelmed with processing our extraordinarily complex environment. So, certain information must be handled in a second, unconscious, entity.

Now, I am willing to assume that our dreams do come exactly from this second layer of our mental apparatus. Does it mean that there is a chance that a complex AI would dream? Dreaming as a byproduct of processing a complex environment? Maybe.

Still, cautiousness seems sensible when comparing computers’ artificial intelligence with man’s brains. As Robert Epstein pointed out recently in his article „The empty brain“ in the Aeon magazine, our understanding of our intelligence alters its analogies depending on the developments of our Zeitgeist. Neither the hydraulic metaphor of ancient times, the electricity metaphor of the 1800, nor the comparison with computers in our time are capable of describing our brain’s intelligence properly.

Usually Artificial Intelligence has a goal which its capabilities are directed to. It manages to find unique ways of dealing with its task, but it is still bound to the goal; a teleological machine. Is this valid for us humans as well? What is our goal? Survival? Of the fittest (meaning procreation)? Are all our capabilities designed to master our extraordinarily complex environment to survive? Evolutionary theory might suggest so, but our cultural accomplishments give us hope that our intelligence is indeed not that artificial.

Dr. Oliver Pintsov, 6 June 2017
Psychiatrie & Psychotherapie FMH