The Knowledge Osmosis Hypothesis

Today, after a day of new experiences I rested for an hour and realised that during that rest many things were going though my mind concerning the day. Good points, bad points, lessons and new neural pathways to refine my way of thinking based on the experiences. I remained awake but I was dreaming. The function of dreams and the brain suddenly became clear.

Learning a new experience or conquering any new mental discipline can take a long time; many months. That is because there are many levels to the thought processes and consciousness is only the top layer. It takes time to filter down each level of programming through to the bottom later.

I will quote my friend Andrew Williams

"The procedure for learning something is:
1. Total Incompetence. Beginner.
2. Conscious Incompetence. You know what you're doing, but you aren't very good at it yet.
3. Conscious Competence. You do well, but it's difficult and you still have issues.
4. Unconscious Competence. Mastery. You do it without thinking."

Those steps are easily detectable in students, and indicates that there are many different layers of the brain. Unconscious competence takes a long time to learn because it involves a lower layer. Each layer is interleaved with a template layer. A liquid one which acts like a filter, and must, before the information and pathways are laid down, calculate the correct information to pass. The interleaving layers are very interconnected (self-analytical) and more easily modified than the other layers; which are very slow to change by comparison.

Dreams occur in the interleaving layer between consciousness and the immediate unconscious. There are different degrees of unconscious and I hypothesize that there are different classes of dreams that occur between deeper levels; even "dreams" that contain no sensory data that we might not perceive as dreams.

When experiencing something that is new it is at odds with the current pathway layout of our conscious mind. At some point an experience passes a threshold of newness where the experience is sufficiently new that it should be learned from, assessed and passed down a layer into the immediate subconscious. The processing of this is a dream; which can take place while awake or asleep but will most likely need to take place after the new experience has ended. In fact, I think that dreams are more likely to take place when awake, in a period of dormancy, than when asleep.

When asleep there is no sensory input and no experiences at all. In such a circumstance the upper layer; that which we call consciousness, is inactive. At this point I think that the dream layer which is now dormant analyses itself and the patterns in both the top conscious layer and the one below. The dreams are passed to the conscious layer, now empty because of the blackness of sleep, and so those dreams appear in the conscious mind; which is why dreams appear to be actual experiences instead this processing acting like an invisible background mental process.

Conclusions And Hypothetical Predictions

1. Dreams are vital for learning and those who dream more learn faster.
2. Those who dream less are learning less and changing less mentally.
3. Performing a new activity will result in more dreams compared to doing something that is not new.
4. Dreaming is just as common when awake as when asleep.
5. There are different classes of dreams that separate deeper layers of the brain. Some dreams are less sensory and more obscure.
6. Modifying a dream or daydream affects learning; the configuration of a lower layer of the brain.
7. The content of dreams indicates what is being and what has been learned by the brain.

Mark Sheeky, 18 April 2009