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By Lieutenant Breakfast

October 1, 2006

Aldous 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 the mind.

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 and Freud 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.”

Darwin’s 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.

Galileo 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 night.

Cosmopolitics corresponds with two radical notions of time – the 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 if).

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 breakthrough.

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




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