October 1, 2006
Huxley suggested that bureaucracies behave stupidly because,
unlike its individual members, a bureaucracy nevers sleeps and
therefore never benefits from a fresh start in the morning of
Sleep deprivation in most mammals promotes aggression as well
as stupidity. The cosmopolitical headline here: International
Sleep Disorder Causing Epidemic Dumbness and Hostility.
Almost 40 years ago a dream starring Darwin
led to the publication of the Circadian Theory of Learning (University
of Chicago Press).
That dream was both brief and silent. As the dreamer watches
from behind a tree, Darwin puts his index finger to his lips indicating
silence is required. Then he wiggles that finger telling Freud
to follow him, and it is apparent to the dreamer that Darwin is
leading Freud into the forests of time.
Darwins finger then points to a host of many types of mammals
sleeping peacefully all around them, and then finally admonishes
Freud by wagging his finger. The dreamer gets the message: Darwin
is instructing Freud that mammals have been sleeping and dreaming
for at least a hundred million years and, therefore, must have
some important evolutionary function, something Freud never considered
when he studied and wrote about dreams in Victorian Vienna.
The dreamer awakes with a great sense of scientific adventure
ahead, and already has a one word clue... the Darwinian function
of mammalian sleep and dreaming is Learning.
discovered that the earth has two great motions revolving
around the sun, producing the cycle of the seasons, and rotating
around its own axis, producing the circadian cycle of day and
Cosmopolitics corresponds with two radical notions of time
exponential time series based on our annual revolution around
the sunstar, and now ciradian time which gives equal billing and
importance to waking and sleeping.
The engines of human history would not have started without dreams
dreams of discovery (what is) and dreams of invention (what
The circadian theory provides the best explanation of free will.
Dreams interrupt the linearity of the previous waking state, converting
a when-based record (one damn thing after another) to a what-based
record (the gestalt of categories, concepts, and constructs).
Example for parents: when your toddler in her highchair is pushing
everything food, drink,and utensils overboard and watching
each fall to the floor at some point during dreaming the
toddler realizes that everything falls, regardless of what it
is, and having now acquired a functional appreciation of gravity
the behavior recedes and disappears.
When writing, inductive logic, and non-subjective analysis appeared
about 5000 years ago, it was no longer essential for humans to
dream in order to think with power and flexibility. But if a scientist,
even with a full arsenal of mental heuristics, cannot solve a
problem or see it in a new light, then dreaming again provides
The astoundingly brilliant mathematician Ramanujan,
when asked at Cambridge how he was coming up with his perfect
gems, said that he was dreaming of the Hindu goddess of his youth
and would awake with the theorems written on my tongue.
30 minute NPR interview about the theory at http://sciencestudio.org/bryson.wma