Chances are, you are the victim of a very popular lie.
It goes something like this: every human uses only ten percent of their brain. And, as a corollary, if a human brain could be coaxed into using 100% of its capacity, it could perform extraordinary feats not possible in an ordinary situation.
The Wake-up Call
There wouldn’t be much point in having a brain if you weren’t going to use it. Thus, it should come as no surprise that most humans actually use all of it. They just don’t use every part of it at the same time.
The brain is specialized into regions, and not all of those regions are useful in every situation. When they are not needed, they are allowed some well-earned rest.
However, there is the matter of that corollary. Can the human brain be pushed to perform extraordinary feats? Surely that’s just as debunkable as the “ten percent” myth.
There are some highly documented cases of the brain performing superhuman feats.
Sometimes, these gifts are inborn. A person can be born with an eidetic memory or a genius-level IQ.
In other instances, cognitive superpowers can be unlocked through trauma or damage to the brain, causing a person to suddenly become a piano virtuoso or fluently speak a foreign language, all because they survived some terrible accident.
But perhaps the most interesting of these extraordinary feats is one that will be experienced by all of us. Because every conscious person will experience moments of extraordinary brain power on a semi-regular basis, though the phenomenon is still largely a mystery, despite millennia of documentation.
I am naturally talking about night visions—or, as they are commonly called, dreams.
CPU vs. GPU
Dreams are supposedly a manifestation of the human subconscious, yet it’s also common for people to report certain particular dreams as a state of hyper-consciousness, where every aspect of the dream world is rendered in infinite detail, and entire cityscapes or planets are composed inside the dreamer’s vision.
On the surface, this seems impossible. A skilled architect can take weeks or months to design a single building. To dream up a city in the course of one night is surely unrealistic.
Yet it happens.
One comparison that can be made, crudely, is found in computers, which often possess two processing cores: a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and a Graphical Processing Unit (GPU).
Most tasks a computer faces require stupidly little processing power. Even a CPU from two generations ago can handle most of today’s computational workloads.
The exception is when rendering graphics, such as the ones found in cutting edge computer games. Creating a three dimensional, realistic world out of computer code requires tremendous amounts of computations (billions per second).
And that’s where a computer’s GPU comes in. Faster and stronger than a regular CPU, a current-gen GPU can draw photorealistic digital worlds in real time (or close enough). And, if called upon, they can turn that processing power toward other tasks, such as password cracking or mining cryptocurrency.
However, GPUs cannot be employed for every task. They have a habit of overheating and taxing the rest of the computer’s systems. Whenever faced with a task that does not absolutely require a super-fast graphics card, the computer relies on the more dependable CPU.
Now, the human brain is not a computer (no matter what pulp science fiction says). As a machine, it is nondeterministic, capable of growing/rewiring new circuitry without outside help, and uses both chemical and electrical signals. But we can say, without much exaggeration, that it can be overclocked, and even pushed to the point of activating a “god mode”, to use the parlance of video games.
It was a Friday Morning
Those who follow me on Twitter already know this, but on the morning of February 28, 2020, I was treated to a most amazing night vision.
In the dream, I was given the entire first act (and a sliver of the second act) of a novel, which my brain allowed me to write in-world.
What do I mean by writing the book in-world? I mean that the story was rendered graphically before my eyes as I composed it.
Furthermore, the dream was 100% cooperative with all my directions. If I felt that I needed to revisit a scene, to flesh out a character or location previously written, I was allowed to rewind the dream world to the desired point and fill in the gaps as they occurred to me. This allowed me to patch up plot holes and flesh out character backstories and motivations as the need arose.
It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Even days after the event, I can still recall the story with tremendous detail (though I did take the trouble of writing down many pages of notes). I developed several characters, multiple settings, and an elaborate, rule-based magic system for a fantasy world, all while sleeping.
The book is called Affinity, and it has now been added to my list of works in progress. I unfortunately cannot get started on it due to being waist deep in another project. But it has risen to the second-place spot in my queue.
It just goes to show how much can be accomplished with your eyes closed.
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