Dreaming of a Theory of Consciousness

A Reverie

Everything that exists was once either a dream of man or a dream of God. It is through dreams that the prophets of all great religions receive their wisdom, that scientists contemplate the mysteries of the physical world, and that artists conceive works that bridge the divide between the sacred and the profane. Indeed, the entire universe dreams of itself. Since the beginning of time, evanescent particles have danced through the quantum vacuum in a cosmic reverie so potent that if you were to awake, you would swear that it all really happened.

What are these things we call dreams? They are proto-creation and ur-consciousness. They are at once intimate and strange, random and full of meaning. We create them, yet cannot control them. But imagine the wonders we could build, the frontiers we could explore, and the mysteries we could solve were we to become masters of our dreams…

Prophetic’s Mission

An American chemist once remarked that the laws of thermodynamics owe more to the invention of the steam engine than the invention of the steam engine owes to the laws of thermodynamics. His point was simple and profound. Humans are tool makers: we make our greatest strides toward understanding the fundamental workings of reality not through theory, but engineering.

At Prophetic we aim to solve the greatest of all mysteries: the mystery of consciousness. It’s a question that has captivated humans for millennia and eluded the greatest minds to ever inhabit the Earth. But at last we have the necessary ingredients to create a steam engine for consciousness. Now it’s time to build it.

A Steam Engine for Consciousness

Consciousness is a problem that is so difficult to comprehend that even its definition is disputed. But we don’t have to engage in semantic debates to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge that stands before us. Generally speaking, the problem of consciousness can be divided into two separate categories: one “easy” and one “hard”.

  • The Easy Problem of Consciousness

    Philosopher David Chalmbers defined the easy problems of consciousness as problems that are concerned with behavior and the mechanistic analysis of neural processes that accompany behavior. This includes, for example, how sensory data is processed in the brain, how sensory data influences behavior and language, the neural basis of thought and emotion, and so on. These are problems that can be analyzed through "structures and functions".
  • The Hard Problem of Consciousness

    By contrast, Chalmers defined the hard problems of consciousness as problems relating to why and how those neural processes are accompanied by experience. For example, why are certain brain processes accompanied by this particular sensory experience rather than another? In other words, the hard problem is the problem of explaining why certain neural mechanisms are accompanied by conscious experience.

One technology, Two Solutions

Historically, these two problems have been attacked separately due to their enormous complexity. We believe that this is a fundamental error that has stymied progress in our understanding of consciousness. Any solution that leads to a full understanding of consciousness must be able to answer both questions at the same time. This would represent a true General Theory of Consciousness.

The question is how to bridge the gap between these two problem spaces.

The answer is by stabilizing lucid dream states.

Lucid dreams are a type of dream where the dreamer becomes aware that they are dreaming. A skilled dreamer doesn’t just “awaken” themselves within a dream, they also control its narrative, characters, and environment. Lucid dreams are pure phenomenological experiences in the sense that they have little or no external sensory inputs such as light, sound, or smell. In many ways, a lucid dream is like a particle accelerator for consciousness. They allow us to witness the workings of consciousness in its purest form.

Lucid dreaming has been portrayed in many films—-perhaps most notably Inception and Waking Life—but lucid dreaming isn’t a fiction. There are thousands of skilled practitioners around the world that have developed techniques to increase their chances of lucid dreaming. But even the most skilled dreamers can’t induce lucid dreams on demand or sustain the dream at will. This makes it nearly impossible to study consciousness through lucid dreams with the same rigor we’d expect from other hard sciences.

If we can stabilize lucid dreams states, however, that would give us a vector to solve the easy problem of consciousness. At the same time, it would open a pathway to solving the hard problem as well. This is our vision at Prophetic: One technology, two solutions.

Introducing - The Halo

A technology to stabilize lucid dreams may seem futuristic—or even impossible. But the technology is already here. The key lies in transcranial ultrasound, a neurostimulation technology that has proven to be a safe and reliable way to induce and stabilize brain states. Transcranial ultrasound can direct focused mechanical energy—sound waves–through the skull at millimeter resolution to reach deep brain structures that are inaccessible to conventional electro-stimulation technologies like tDCS. In order to use transcranial ultrasound to induce and stabilize lucid dreams, we need to know two things:

  1. What areas of the brain do you need to stimulate?
  2. What ultrasound frequency is optimal for inducing and sustaining lucid dreams?

While there is a modest body of research on lucid dreamers that offers some tantalizing clues to the answers to these questions, more fMRI and EEG data is needed from active lucid dreamers. At the same time, we also need improved techniques for translating this data into actionable insights that will improve our ability to induce and stabilize lucid dreams. Prophetic’s Halo will address both of these issues.

The Halo is a neurostimulation device that is capable of both collecting EEG data and stimulating the brain with transcranial ultrasound. The EEG data is used to determine when the dreamer has entered REM sleep and is ready for lucid dream induction via ultrasound. The data collected by the Halo is processed by a proprietary neural transformer architecture that runs on the Prophetic app paired with the headset. Think of it as Halo's “autopilot” that will improve the user’s ability to induce lucid dreams and stabilize those dreams once they’ve begun. At the same time, it will provide unique insights into the user’s sleep fitness.

The entire Halo headband has been designed with the user’s comfort in mind. Its endoskeleton is a biomimetic design that flexes and expands to ensure a perfect fit for any head shape and size. We carefully selected the exterior materials and placed the headband contact points to create a pleasant and natural feel without interfering with the Halo’s ability to induce lucid dreams.

Toward Epistemological Metaphysics

The Halo is the answer to a modern culture that is torn between a nihilistic consumerism and yearning for an idealized past to which it can never return. It is both a tool and a way of looking at the world, a catalyst for individual and social transformation. It represents the arrival of a new philosophy fit for an age defined by rapidly accelerating technological progress. At Prophetic, we call this new philosophy epistemological metaphysics.

Epistemological Metaphysics

A philosophy for acquiring new knowledge to solve metaphysical problems.

Epistemological metaphysics starts by acknowledging that modern humans require provable answers to the questions they ask, but that our insistence on data and proof is not necessarily at odds with timeless metaphysical questions about the fundamental nature of reality. Epistemological metaphysics is a framework for synthesizing our species’ spiritual core and technical prowess to answer life’s deepest question: what is the nature of consciousness?

“Yes, the history of the world has been, and ever will be, written in consciousness, and they are the only words that matter! Imagine then what that final theory will entail, what it will give us: a sensorium syntax as pristine as mathematics, a dialect of pure consciousness. Imagine what type of alien utterances it will allow, for to write in such a language, to speak in such a language… No poet has ever come close. Words blow away as empty signs next to the white-hot heat of it! There is something it is like to be!”

Erik Hoel, The Revelations

If you want to help us answer this question reserve a headset and join our movement.