Influencing the Unconscious

When I was a kid, I remember watching one particular episode of Dexter’s Laboratory where Dexter, (self-proclaimed) Boy Genius, forgot to study for his French test. So, being the inventor he is, he makes a helmet-like device to wear while sleeping that could directly ‘download’ information to his brain via the soundtrack of a “Learn French” vinyl record (I think despite being a modern inventor, Dexter preferred vintage). This was so he could learn French without missing out on his sleep. Unfortunately, the old record got stuck in a particular place, repeating one phrase over and over again: “Omelette au fromage“, which is French for “cheese omelette”. And because of his “amazing invention”, this basically wiped out Dexter’s entire language bank, effectively replacing his entire vocabulary with “omelette au fromage“. The entire plot then takes a sudden hilarious turn, where instead of hindering Dexter’s everyday life, this phrase turns him into a famous superstar in the course of a day, only to end in him activating the self-destruct mechanism of his secret laboratory because he keeps saying the wrong password.

The thing about this episode that always fascinated me was whether something like Dexter’s ‘learning helmet’ could ever be made. Is it possible to influence what and how the mind thinks by playing certain soundtracks while a person sleeps? Kind of like brainwashing yourself, but feels less silly and saves more time. I already know firsthand that hearing certain things while asleep can affect the dreams you have, so who’s to say Dexter’s invention couldn’t be invented sometime in the near future?

The downside is that everyone who could afford to buy such a device would be really smart, and therefore be able to make more money via finding higher-paying jobs, which leads to widening the gap between the rich and the poor. And it also defeats the purpose of having tests and exams, because you can be ‘artificially educated’ in this way. Too bad, even though it’s a tempting idea – I’d always wanted something like this whenever I had to scramble to study for a test.

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