Proyecto Visión 21

Now I know why I can’t distinguish reality from fantasy

Francisco Miraval

For a long time I have asked myself why we, humans, have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy. The questions, obviously, is not new. In fact, it is as old as the oldest philosophical inquiry. Yet, the question acquires a new meaning when asked in the context of a globalized, technological civilization. And the answer is easy: we treat ourselves as hens.

Let me explain. What I am saying is that in many cases we treat ourselves in the same way that sometimes we treat hens. I read (I don’t remember where) that to get more eggs to satisfy the demand, we “trick” the hens into “thinking” it is a nice, warm summer day, even if outside it is a cold day in the winter.

So, we put hens in henhouses where we control the temperature and the lights. The hens, lacking the intellectual ability proper of human beings, assume that if there is light and it is worm it should be a good time to produce more eggs and they act accordingly.

Then I remember I once read (but, again, I don’t know where) that some casinos en Las Vegas are built to trick us, that is, once inside, we don’t know if it is day or night, hot or cold outside. Using an ingenious combination of lights, paintings, sounds, and architecture, the casinos let you to forget about the time of the day.

In the same way we trick hens in the henhouse, we also trick people with artificial days inside the casinos. People also lose track of the normal cycle of day and night and almost without thinking (and with no “almost”) they act accordingly, playing, eating, and having a good time.

Obviously, we can’t be all of us at the same time inside a casino and remain there all the time to lose track of time. However, according to a recent report, there is no need to do it, because now the smartphones, tablets, and similar devices have a similar effect on our brain.

I read (I’m sorry, I don’t know where) that the light emitted by smartphones and tablets affects the human brain in such a way that the brain assumes it is still day and, therefore, the pineal gland stops creating melatonin, the natural substance controlling the sleep-awake cycle.

In the same way the small brains of the hens think it is day when it is not, our big human brain assumes it is day and, therefore, prevent us from going to sleep, even if we try to do it. No sleeping means no dreaming. And without dreams we can’t learn to separate reality from fantasy.

Many researchers have said that one of the main reasons why we dream is to learn to distinguish what is real and what is not. After all, we only realize a dream was just a dream after we wake up. But now we deceive ourselves in such a way that we can’t even detect the deception.

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