One night in 3000 AD, Fry, a 25-year-old young man, slept snoring.
He had a strange dream. He dreamed of returning to the university classroom with an empty head, and he was about to take the test of ancient Egyptian algebra. Suddenly, the professor found that Fry was topless, wearing only a pair of plain white underwear, and began to reprimand him:
Young people, it's time to get to know the speed of light underwear!
Lightspeed underwear, whether for work or leisure, fits today's lifestyle perfectly! Lightspeed brand underwear, fashionable and comfortable, specially designed for the elegant crotch! …
▲ Lightspeed brand underwear, the brand advertised in your dreams, buy it!
This is the plot of the sixth episode of the first season of the animated cartoon "Flying Out of the Future." Putting advertisements into your sleep sounds absurd, but recently, some scientists have warned that: Don’t laugh, this may come true.
Researchers Adam Haar Horowitz, Robert Stickgold, and Antonio Zadra from MIT and Harvard recently wrote that advertisers have begun to invade our sleep and try to implant products in our dreams.
▲ Pictured from The Guardian
What worries them is a marketing campaign for the beverage brand Molson Coors in January this year.
Molson Coors called it "the largest dream study in the world." They invited a Harvard psychologist to collaborate and produced a special commercial with a relaxing waterfall and mountain scene and carefully arranged background music, interspersed with products from time to time.
Eighteen subjects watched the video several times before going to bed, and five of them said that they dreamed of beer or soda from Coors's house.
The three researchers called this sleep intervention "Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI)."
They pointed out that dreams can be manipulated. Your behaviors before going to bed and the information you receive during sleep, including sounds and smells, may be used as "stimulus sources" to affect dreams, and even have real-life effects.
In 2020, Horowitz and Stickgold participated in a related study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a new wearable device Dormio .
Dormio has built-in sensors that can monitor your heart rate and muscle response in real time, and track your dreaming process. When half awake and half asleep, the research team played audio to the test subjects, suggesting that they were thinking of a tree, and finally found that out of 67 dream reports, 45 of the tree images appeared.
I hear the energy flowing from the roots of the tree, as if they are going to take me somewhere…
I am much bigger than trees and can easily eat them…
▲ Picture from Unsplash
Like most scientists who study sleep, the three researchers are full of expectations for the usefulness of "dream incubation". They found that the dreams of those "trees" were extremely creative, and believed that TDI could be used to cultivate creativity, and it was very suitable for writers, musicians, filmmakers and creative people.
In addition to looking for inspiration, they are currently studying the use of "dream incubation" for medical treatment.
For example, to help patients with PTSD alleviate sleep problems caused by traumatic memories, or to help patients with frequent nightmares control their dreams. Studies have even shown that releasing the mixed odor of "rotten eggs + fishy + cigarettes" during sleep can help smokers reduce smoking.
▲ Picture from Oscar Rosello
However, the possibility of commercial use of "Dreamland Incubation" caused the three researchers to panic about the same paragraph as the "Black Mirror".
A 2018 study showed that playing a recording of a familiar snack name during sleep may change the preferences and choices of subjects. For example, if you originally wanted to eat M&Ms, you might wake up and change your mind and want to eat skittles because of the repeated thoughts of colleagues next to you during your nap.
To the overwhelming "Guess you like" and "Recommend for you" personalized advertising world, the manipulable dreamland is simply a blue ocean.
Imagine that when you turn off the lights and go to bed, the smart speakers in the bedroom start to get busy, and broadcast advertisements for you all night long. In your sleep, you don't know it, but your brain has been implanted with the message "If you don't buy a certain brand, you lose money".
▲ Picture from science.org
The three researchers have even more "black mirror" imaginations. Now, we are accustomed to using smart watches/bands to collect sleep data as self-quantified health indicators, but what if these private data are misused or stolen?
For example, the data shows that you have not had enough sleep recently. Studies have shown that this may be caused by insufficient sugar intake. Sweet snack ads will pop up immediately. For another example, if you swipe the same brainwashing advertisement several times while playing on your mobile phone before going to bed, then your breathing and heart rate changes in your sleep may also fall into the hands of advertisers to let them know whether the brainwashing routine is effective.
▲ Picture from Futurism
Molson Coors is not the only brand interested in dream placement advertising.
In 2018, Burger King launched a hamburger called "Nightmare" on Halloween. Sleep scientists tested it on 100 people and said it increased the chance of people having nightmares 3.5 times. And Xbox has also launched a "Made with Dreams" marketing campaign, allowing players to play Xbox games before going to bed, and then record their fantastic dreams.
▲ "Nightmare" Hamburger
Recently, the American Marketing Association (AMA New York) conducted a survey of 411 marketers and found that 77% of them plan to deploy and use "dream incubation" related technologies in the next three years.
Out of concern, in June of this year, more than 40 sleep and dream researchers signed a joint letter calling on the US government to early legislate to regulate such business-oriented dream control behaviors. Three researchers also reminded that:
Coors' dream advertising is more than just a fancy marketing campaign. This is a signal that what used to be science fiction may soon become a reality. We are now on a very slippery slope. Where we will skate and at what speed depends on what action we choose to take to protect our dreams. "
▲ Pictured from the movie "Inception"
Seeing that "Inception" might come true, YouTube netizen @Brb joked:
It's too ridiculous. Maybe in the future we have to pay to open VIP memberships in exchange for a night of sleep without ads.
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