Advertising inside your dreams?
Some researchers fear a dystopian scenario in which smart speakers feed sleepers subliminal ads without their consent.
Are advertisers coming for your dreams?
If you’ve ever crammed for an exam just before bedtime, you may have tried something dream researchers have been attempting for decades: coaxing knowledge into dreams. Such efforts have had glimmers of success in the lab. Now, brands from Xbox to Coors to Burger King are teaming up with some scientists to attempt something similar: “Engineer” advertisements into willing consumers’ dreams, via video and audio clips. This week, a group of 40 dream researchers has pushed back in an online letter, calling for the regulation of commercial dream manipulation.
“Dream incubation advertising is not some fun gimmick, but a slippery slope with real consequences,” they write on the op-ed website EOS. “Our dreams cannot become just another playground for corporate advertisers.”
Dream incubation, in which people use images, sounds, or other sensory cues to shape their nighttime visions, has a long history. People throughout the ancient world invented rituals and techniques to intentionally change the content of their dreams, through meditation, painting, praying, and even drug use. Greeks who fell ill in the fourth century B.C.E. would sleep on earthen beds in the temples of the god Asclepius, in the hopes of entering enkoimesis, an induced state of dreaming in which their cure would be revealed.
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