Does dream inception work?

By Kristen French

Will Dowd lost his ability to read over a decade ago. He has a condition called binocular vision disorder, which makes it difficult to coordinate his eyes. Words drift across the page, getting tangled up in one another, and the pain of trying to extract meaning from the resulting quagmire gives him debilitating migraines. Dowd had been an obsessive, devoted reader—a poet and MIT-trained science writer who lived mostly in the world of paper and ink—so the condition left him feeling exiled from himself. 

The act of dreaming was the only other time Dowd felt the readerly combination of total absorption and flight, and so he wondered: Could there be a connection between the two? Could reading be a kind of lucid dream? He recalled hearing about a device called the Dormio, a targeted dream inception device developed at the MIT Media Lab, and wondered if it could help him simulate the reading experience. A grant from the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University enabled him to test this theory out on himself over the 2022-2023 academic year. The resulting project is called Dreamfall.

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