Which Reality is Real

A while back I wrote about Inception, a film that featured Leonardo DiCaprio as a thief who specialized in stealing secrets directly from someone’s mind using shared dreaming technology. It still remains one of my favourite movies of all time. But one thing I only briefly mentioned was the idea proposed in the film that it’s easy to lose your sense of reality in the dream world.

It’s an interesting and scary idea. What if you’re dreaming and don’t know it? What if I’m dreaming and don’t know it? Am I really typing away on a keyboard communicating with the world or am I sleeping, in my bed, maybe hooked up to some machine that stimulates a part of my brain, generating hyper-realistic dreams? Well, if that’s true, you’d think I’d dream up a better house.

How do we know we’re awake? I hear one way to tell is to try to keep an eye on space, because dreaming bypasses spacial awareness. But that might not be 100% reliable. I’ve also noticed that, whenever I dream, the colour schemes are simple and bright. An entire room of bright red, or bright blue, which is something you never really see in real life. But that might not be the same for everyone.

So I guess the real answer is: we don’t. We don’t know if we’re awake or asleep. But let’s try to make the best of what we have regardless, because the idea that we live in a simulation is highly unlikely, and honestly, not worth losing sleep over.

Oh, wait… I just made a joke and didn’t notice.

Anyway, nonetheless, some people have lost sleep over it, and Higgs bless ’em, because as a result, we’ve gotten some great works of fiction out of it. There was The Invisables, The Matrix, Vanilla Sky, The Truman Show (in a way), and Total Recall. Even an episode of Stargate SG-1, and two episodes of Doctor Who have dealt with this theme. Is the world we live in real?

The most interesting one is the Doctor Who episode where Amy, Rory, and Eleven are all trapped in the TARDIS, as it hurtles toward a ‘cold star’, while falling asleep at random intervals, dreaming they are back on earth, being chased by aliens…or they are back on earth, being chased by aliens, while falling asleep at random intervals, dreaming they are trapped in the TARDIS, as it hurtles toward a ‘cold star’.

The question they have to answer is simple: Which dream is just a dream, and which one is reality? It forms the basis for the entire episode, as the Doctor argues for the TARDIS reality, and Rory argues for the Leadworth reality, and Amy has to make the tie-breaking decision. Great episode. But what if this same idea wasn’t restricted to a single, 45 minute episode of Doctor Who? What if someone managed to create an entire series based around this simple idea: the idea of not being able to tell the difference between a dream, and reality. Well…someone has. Continue reading

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