My Amazonian guide, whom I persist in picturing as lithe and ethereal, knows what I read on my Kindle, when I read and much more. Her suggestions with regard to what I might want to read are more and more reliable. The algorithms deliver results which are frankly awesome.
In 1968 Philip K. Dick asked whether ‘androids dream of electric sheep’. My new smartphone with the Google OS implements further algorithms making my everyday existence even more transparent than before. I am subject to the scrutiny of artificial intelligence, entities as good as plugged into my life.
Fine! I think I can accept even the notion that my conscious choices and even ultimately my thinking can be parsed and analyzed. Why? Because there is a zone to which no AI bot has access, one over which not even I have any control. That is my dreamscape.
It is populated neither by electric sheep nor, alas, by lithe, ethereal and erotic presences. And yet it is a coherent and recognizable parallel universe that I visit with amazing regularity on my excursions during REM sleep phases. I shall not attempt to describe my dreamscape here… that’s possible best saved for a future storytelling project. Suffice to say that it is a place where my lifelong involvement in the media is reflected, where I find myself almost always in a subaltern role facing challenges which are on the whole perplexing but enjoyable. At the frontiers of this world there are signs forbidding entry to ‘thinking machines’.
On the night before last in my reverie I was given the stewardship of about a dozen photographs. The icons on the computer monitor did not reveal even thumbnail images, a fact I found frustrating. The flow of the dream was interrupted when a nocturnal call of nature interrupted and I awakened sufficiently to make the trip in the dark to the bathroom. But when I climbed back into my bed it was… as often is the case… quite easy to return to my dreamscape, as if a ‘pause’ button had been released once more. The pictures were still not revealed, but I was left in no doubt as to the identity of the person who had confided them to my safe keeping. I noted a name!
That name was still in my consciousness when the alarm woke me at seven in the morning. It meant nothing to me, although I have an interest in names, especially such as I might use in a writing project in progress. For some reason I wrote on a scrap of paper ‘Nick Veney’, which was how the name had sounded in my dream.
I don’t commonly scribble notes on dream content, although on Friday I was aware that a few days earlier I had failed to write down an intriguing but unfamiliar term which I had encountered in my dreamscape… it could have been Aconitine, but by the time I’d brewed my first coffee of the day I had no accurate recall.
So Nick Veney… noted and Googled. Did I mean ‘Venet’? Suddenly the name seemed vaguely familiar… but only very, very vaguely.
Nick Venet, born Nikolas Kostantinos Venetoulis, was an American record producer, primarily known for signing the Beach Boys and producing their early material. His name had cropped up in conversations with another American record producer of Greek extraction, Jim Economides.
A mystery solved but another puzzle thrust into the limelight. Such trivial conversations had taken place in London, in 1968, and had had no great importance whatsoever. What on earth could account for Nick Venet’s emergence in my dreamscape forty-seven years later? There’s a functionality of the human brain which can retrieve from deep memory a random item never once re-visited for almost a half century only to present it with capricious autonomy in the dreamscape. I sincerely doubt if even the most advanced AI will ever be equal to interpreting such involuntary phenomena. The bots will have to settle for their electric sheep.