Dreaming in a digital world

By Chuck Sigars | Feb 27, 2013

The NBC show “30 Rock” recently ended a nice network television run, seven seasons of Tina Fey’s comedy stylings and Alec Baldwin’s head of hair. It was a funny show. Not life changing. Just funny.

But there’s a line from an episode that I return to a lot lately. Dennis, the former boyfriend of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character, has shown up with a business plan. He’s going to sell beepers to New York City, and in fact become The Beeper King, and he’s confident.

When Lemon points out that nobody uses beepers anymore, he says, “Technology is cyclical, Liz.”

She doesn’t need to get exasperated and correct him, although she does. We know where the humor comes from; this moron believes the exact opposite of what we all realize is true.

VHS tapes are not coming back, in other words. Like it or not, use it or not, technology moves in one direction, and that is forward.

I had a conversation with a friend on this subject the other day, after he joked about being a Luddite and not owning a smartphone. He’s not, of course; he works in a high technology field and he’s been an early adopter often.

He just hasn’t found the need for a smartphone yet. When he does, or when he doesn’t have a choice anymore, he won’t be looking back.

I tend to look forward myself, as if I had a choice. There are some innovations I have no interest in or use for (tablet computing, satellite TV, anything having to do with golf), but mostly I’m a happy joiner. I appreciate convenience and efficiency, and if it’s shiny and talks to me I tend to be impressed.

It’s my unconscious I worry about.

I read an article recently on training ourselves to experience lucid dreams (i.e., dreams in which we’re aware that we’re dreaming).  I’m not sure I understood the supposed benefit; I skimmed the piece, although I’ve had my share of dreams.

I’ve also had my share of lucid dreams, although I’ve always had the feeling that these were mostly early-morning dreams in which I was sleeping lightly and kept waking up, only to return to the same dream after consciously thinking about it for a few seconds.

An explanation, in other words, although I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about dreams, other than to note that I obviously dream, and the other night I dreamt of a basketball player.

I haven’t watched basketball for years, and I’m almost completely clueless about the good teams and the star players.  I’ve heard of Koby and a couple of others, but it’s off my radar and I assume will stay that way, even if Seattle steals from Sacramento and we get back in the game.

As with football, it was a passion once and has faded to essentially uninterested.  There are only 54 games I’m interested in, and those are the ones that make or break a baseball season.

But this guy in my dream: I sort of remembered him, or maybe I made the whole thing up.  A name eventually popped up in my dream, and in that weird lucid or whatever state I was in, I created a mild mnemonic so I’d remember his name when I awoke, and could research it.

This was my lucid moment, then: I made a dreamy, mental note to Google something when I woke up.

I can’t imagine a situation, this side of being ordered by a court of law, in which I’d keep a notebook by the side of the bed to write down my unconscious scenarios.  Again, I’m not all that interested in dreams.  I’m very interested in sleep, in terms of getting it on a regular basis.

But I do keep my phone there, next to my bed, notifications turned off between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. but functional, serving as a clock and something to read before I say nighty-night.

So I looked it up.  Walter Davis was his name, and he is real.  He joined the Phoenix Suns in 1977, during a period when I was an avid Suns fan and lived in Phoenix.  I remember him faintly.  Mystery solved.

It was just the novelty of this experience that made me stop and think.  There are plenty of memories, accurate and not, floating around somewhere in the recesses, and I’m not surprised when they show up at night when I can’t do anything about them.

Memories, trivia, and things I learned once and haven’t had the decency to forget, like algebra.

It was the notion, though, that my unconscious would send me a message, and that message was: Google It.

And that I actually did it, too.

I don’t know how I feel about this, or if I feel anything.  Obviously it’s fun and handy to have a constant link to information in my pocket.  It ends arguments and wins bets, it finishes puzzles, it clears things up.  I’m grateful for Google, Wikipedia and IMDB.  I like the convenience.

But it’s messing around in my dreams now, and in a sense it feels like abdication.

My brain, which has been around awhile now, and which theoretically contains remnants of stuff I knew or know, has gotten on the bandwagon and passed off the responsibility to the good folks at Google, and I think it bothers me.

Maybe I should be writing this stuff down.

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