The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Animals Dream

I mean, it makes sense, but I’d never really given it much thought. I remember seeing my dogs twitch in their sleep and saying, “Aww, they must be dreaming.” But I guess I didn’t really believe it, or I didn’t really follow the thought through to its conclusion. But I find the image of a dreaming rat retracing its steps through a maze to be a little sad and, er, poignant. Am I a sap?


From everything I’ve learned about lesser mammals they are just like us only less sophisticated. I’m positive if we could figure out to communicate with them we would see they are ‘talking’ about their wants ‘food’, ‘where is my partner’, ‘i’m fine, thanks for asking’

It’s sounds crazy but all the conversations I’ve seen with Koko the gorilla we’re similar to that of a 8 year old.

I think we’ll learn that other mammals are a lot more like us then we think.

Re: Ted’s comment—I’ve never encountered significant scientific evidence to counter that notion. I might be a little biased b/c it’s essentially the notion I grew up with. I don’t think you’re a particular sap—but that it’s the same essential sap of most existential melancholy. C’est la vie, right?

Re Matt’s question: Yes, you are. And bless you for it.


I like comparing the “animals can dream” idea to the “what if animals could talk?” idea. Wittgenstein said “if a lion could talk, we would not be able to understand him”. Pessimistic, but at least it allows that the lion might have something to say. More pessimistic is David Premack: “if a chicken [could talk], it wouldn’t have anything interesting to say.”

I actually agree more with other commenters, that other mammals, birds, cephalopods (?) are more like us and have more to tell us than Wittgenstein and Premack seem to allow. But I do think it depends on what you mean by “interesting”. In some ways it would be really interesting if a chicken could tell us about its emotional relationships to other chickens, other animals, its understanding of its surroundings, etc. But on the other hand I’ve ridden public transit in the cell phone era long enough to know that these kinds of things maintain interest strictly depending on context.

So, do animals have interesting dreams? Are their dreams mysterious and surreal and reflective? Or are they just practice runs and memory consolidation without the deeper layers of (apparent) meaning that human conscious builds around and into our own dreams?

Remember the experiment where people played tetris for hours and then had dreams about tetris? Cool research, but probably some of the more boring possible dreams. Having unintentionally performed the tetris dream experiment on myself a few times, I’d say a tetris dream is indeed pretty boring, at least until it starts to spin off into other realms. I think we can assume that a rat dream is more than just practice, memory consolidation, etc., but the question is “how much more?”.

Peter, everyone knows that if animals could talk, all they’d say is I love mama.

Exactly, now imagine that instead of a YouTube video, that was your dog all day every day.

cephalopods (?)

Heh. A commenter after my own heart.

I’m guessing ost of the time animals don’t have interesting interesting inner lives–like, let’s face it, most humans. And presumably some of the time some of them do. I’d love to talk to that lioness who kept adopting herbivores a few years back, for instance.

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