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Scientists break through the wall of sleep to the untapped world of dreams

204 points115 comments17 hours agobeta.nsf.gov
by mindcrime8 hours ago

Great, I'm so excited to be asleep and have some guy show up in my dreams saying "Hi, I've been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty..."

by brainless7 hours ago

Recently I started day dreaming about a day when, say, I need to see a part of the EM spectrum outside what my natural eyesight allows and I just switch a mode beside my skull which boosts my eye implant.

The more I read how close we are getting to communicating with the brain a bit more directly, the more I feel we are entering a stunning and scary world.

by easton6 hours ago

Futurama had a bit about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElkVRgeAzYs

by airhead9695 hours ago

I want my covid stimulus $300 Nixon Bucks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_HyY-8dQJA

by officialjunk8 hours ago

tin foil hats will make a comeback

by watertom5 hours ago

You need your body encased in a Faraday cage otherwise the tin, or more likely aluminum, hat won't be blocking anything. In fact as some suggest it could act to focused the brain controls waves straight to the brain

by birdman31317 hours ago

Tinfoil hats are just adding a large antenna to your head.

by rajangdavis6 hours ago

That's just what Big Foil wants you to believe.

by MisterBastahrd6 hours ago

Fitted colanders are the new fedora.

by airhead9695 hours ago
by WalterGR14 hours ago

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26203685 - Scientists Achieve Real-Time Communication with Lucid Dreamers in Breakthrough (https://www.vice.com/en/article/4admym/scientists-achieve-re...) 121 points | elsewhen | 3 days ago | 60 comments

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26185603 - Real-time dialogue between experimenters and dreamers during REM sleep (https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)...) 47 points | kasperni | 5 days ago | 21 comments

by sradman13 hours ago

TL;DR: during lucid REM sleep, patients with extra EEG probes around the eye socket can make detectable left to right eye movements that can be repeated to communicate numerical values (e.g. 2) in response to verbal questions like “eight minus six”.

by MasterScrat13 hours ago

Note that the fact that you can communicate during LDs through eye movements has been known and used for decades already.

by WalterGR13 hours ago

The dreamer has indeed been able to signal to instrumentation via eye movements during lucid dreaming for some time. Do you have any links about two-way communication being used for decades?

by sriku10 hours ago

Yeah .. and a dialog my wife pokes fun at -

Me: (snoozing/dreaming) what's behind my head?

Wife: A pillow.

Me: Oh! I thought it was a spaceship.

by twic8 hours ago

The title references H. P. Lovecraft's story 'Beyond the Wall of Sleep':

https://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/bws.aspx

A lot of scientific research has been inspired by science fiction, but i tend to think that the worlds of H. P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, etc might best be avoided rather than sought out.

by africanboy2 hours ago

Black Sabbath were huge fans of H.P. Lovecraft

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OYgBOVoLI6U

by Kelamir10 hours ago

AING folks have been doing lucid dreaming for years, their Russian forum at forum.aing.ru has 400k messages, so if you're interested in the topic, there's something you can learn from them. They have a number of attempts to make contacts with each other while lucid dreaming.

You can check out the English version for their stuff here: https://obe4u.com

by throw12346512348 hours ago

I have practiced lucid dreaming for literally years, and imho anyone who says they get super detailed dreams is full of **. Your mind doesn't have enough processing power to render realistic scenes. It's all a blurry mess and you wake up if you exert too much control.

by Enginerrrd4 hours ago

FYI, I used to have similar experiences. Until I started deliberately lucid dreaming and learned some "dream stabilization" techniques.

The first time I had a proper, photo-realistic dream with complete awareness that it was a dream it blew my fucking mind in a way that was almost religious. I could feel the sun on my face, and the texture of the sidewalk I was walking on. I couldn't stop looking at plants! It was incredible to see every leaf and twig with the realization that they were being entirely rendered by my brain in real time. TRUST ME, those experiences are completely possible, and the detail a brain can create is nothing short of ASTOUNDING.

Upon reflection, it makes perfect sense. EVERYTHING you conceive of or percieve in your waking life is a lie, essentially a hallucination of sorts. It is a mostly high-level construction and summary made by some part of your brain based on sensory input. It turns out, your brain is perfectly capable of synthesizing the high level construction without the fine-grained sensory input.

by mkmcde3 hours ago

How did you get to that point? I've been working towards trying for consistent lucid dreams. I'm most successful when I wake up early and go back to sleep for ~1 hour.

by throw12346512343 hours ago

1. It's most likely a lie. I am not saying that to start a flame war, I just have actual experience with this. As in years of dedicated experience.

2. Keep a dream journal.

3. Do reality checking throughout the day.

4. Meditate before sleep. Do a relaxation exercise. There's 100s of them.

"Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life" is the definitive book on the topic that everyone copies. No one has additional information.

by yters3 hours ago

These really intense dreams, are you in control of the imagery, or is it something you are experiencing beyond your control? When I have intense dreams and try to control them the fidelity breaks down and I usually wake up.

by Enginerrrd25 minutes ago

Yeah, I don't have much control yet. I can choose where to go, and I can look around and stuff, but I can't really change the scenery. I think you can do it with practice though.

I have managed to fly a few times, but the first couple of times I tried, I jumped and fell flat on my face! I don't really experience pain in my dreams though.

+1
by mirekrusin51 minutes ago

Didn’t practice too much, maybe you can get better at control, my own actions I could control including things like walking through wall or flying off from balcony, but not so much environment around me, a bit but not much. For waking up (very common when you realise you are in a dream) for me spinning around always worked very well. For me visual and sensual details were absolutely impressive, it’s at the level you can easily believe there exists another world, but it’s always nonsense threaded from your own memory with logic errors everywhere, however when inside the feel of truthness of reality is absolutely overwhelming.

by pengaru5 hours ago

According to you, a sample size of one...

Back when I dabbled in extreme sleep deprivation I'd be forced into a sort of wakeful sleep where what I can only describe as "eye movies" would forcibly take over my vision center. They were entirely fabricated, and indistinguishable from normal vision. My eyes would still be open, in some cases I'd still be engaged in a demanding activity like riding a motorcycle (this was insane), but my mind was completely out to lunch and I'd be observing a completely different world than the one reflected on my retinas.

My conventional sleep dreams never had that amount of consciously-accessible fidelity, but I presume some people can access their dreams as well as my sleep deprivation experiences proved for me.

Some people can't access their dreams at all, why wouldn't variety in the other direction occur as well? I think we should assume it's a spectrum across the whole gamut.

by ckosidows8 hours ago

Isn't it possible other people experience their dreams in a different way than you do?

by throw12346512348 hours ago

Sure, it's possible, by in my experience, most people exaggerate everything - especially things that can't be verified.

The other reason I have a hard time believing this is that I know normal people can't visualize anything. Artists, really good artists, are able to visualize a face with some detail. Most can't visualize a circle and toggle its color, let alone anything complex.

To me, that is a strong argument to believe the mind can't generate clear worlds, as people claim.

by godshatter30 minutes ago

I have aphantasia, and I have specifically invoked lucid dreams. I use the SSILD method (which stands for senses induced lucid dream). I have no ability to visualize during the waking state at all, but I do obviously remember what I see during the day. When I have lucid dreams, they are visual, and detailed. They can be blurry, but there are techniques to increase their clarity. I specifically examine closely what around me when I realize that I am dreaming, and that tends to make things more detailed. In fact, my dreams are visually more detailed and clear than in my waking life, because of my failing eyesight. There are other techniques people use, such as spinning around quickly or simply asking loudly for clarity.

Aphantasia seems to be a defect in (or a difference in, I don't know) one portion of the brain whereas dreaming seems to use a separate portion of the brain. I can also see images when I'm between being awake and asleep, which seems to be related to dreaming. I've had a couple of dreams where I've successfully used the WILD technique (wake induced lucid dreaming) where you use hypnagogic imagery to create an environment and (if you're successful at it) go directly from being awake to being in a lucid dream. It's an experience that will lead you to believe that you do actually visually experience your dreams, since there was no apparent break between lying on your bed and entering a dream. I've also watched a dream fade before, and woke up immediately afterwards with no apparent loss in consciousness.

You don't have to believe me, of course, that's up to you. I'm as surprised as anyone that I can visualize while dreaming but not at all when I'm awake.

+1
by tyre7 hours ago

> Most can't visualize a circle and toggle its color, let alone anything complex.

What? I’m doing this right now. I can do it with a white tiger. I can see Barrack Obama in a marching band on Mars.

I have a friend who cannot picture anything in their mind, so it’s probably a spectrum. You might be projecting your experience onto others.

+1
by Bakary7 hours ago

Are you sure you aren't suffering from aphantasia and extrapolating that to other people?

by andai6 hours ago
by throwaway_kufu5 hours ago

> Your mind doesn't have enough processing power to render realistic scenes.

isn’t that exactly what the mind (or at least the brains visual cortex) is doing all day long?

by sweetsocks216 hours ago

I can tell you that I have had dreams that I have mistaken for reality. In fact some of those dreams became normal memories that I have to filter because they never actually happened.

I've been able to read magazines, have full conversations with multiple people, stare at a brick wall and notice all the little pits. It does not happen every day, but maybe a couple times a month. I used to have severe sleep apnea and those were the most intense dreams. So I don't think it's possible to extrapolate your own experience to others. The mind already constructs a model of reality, so why wouldn't it be able to in a dream state?

by jeddy33 hours ago

Yeah I know what you mean, I have been trying physical excercise for literally years now, and everybody who says they enjoy it is literally full of **.

Everything I do makes me sweaty and winded, even walking.

by mehphp5 hours ago

This seems odd to me, I definitely have very detailed and realistic dreams. I'm also a very visual thinker so maybe we are just different?

by DoreenMichele6 hours ago

There is some vague, hand wavy evidence suggesting that enough of the right nutrients can help. I want to say people who live by or visit the coast (thus exposed to salt and minerals from the sea) seem to have more vivid mental stuff and interest in boldly colorful art/decor. B vitamins are also known to be important to the brain.

by mrtesthah8 hours ago

That’s not quite true; you have far more neurons going to the retina than you have coming from it. The retina supplies a surprisingly small amount of bits per second to the brain. Neuroscientists believe that at least half of our conscious experience of reality is effectively “hallucinated” by the brain based on internal models it has built from past experiences. So it’s highly plausible that that same perception-generating system which creates your conscious perception of reality could also function while asleep.

by codr76 hours ago

Visualization is a skill that can be practiced, and some brains just seem to be more visually oriented than others from my experience.

by beermonster5 hours ago

You can always try and simplify too. Some days I can visualise anything I want, other times my mind seems too busy or not focussed. On those days I visualise being in an empty cloudy pool, or walking in a snowy field as there’s less for me to render. Works quite well.

by hoseja13 hours ago

Can't wait to get targeted adverts in my dreams.

by avsteele11 hours ago
by soylentcola10 hours ago

Maybe this is obvious, but are "Lightspeed Briefs" meant to be a pun on Fruit of the Loom (often abbreviated as FTL) and the scifi trope of FTL (faster than light) travel?

That was my thought when I first saw this episode many years ago and I can't tell if I'm reaching or it's one of those things that's obvious to everyone else.

by ilikepi10 hours ago

I'd say it's highly likely that is an intentional pun. Several of the show's writing staff hold advanced STEM degrees. One of them wrote a mathematical proof specifically to include as a plot device in one episode[1].

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner_of_Benda

by sirmoveon12 hours ago

Fastforward 20 years viagra ads will claim morning boners are thanks to them.

by smitty1e12 hours ago

Can't wait until we grasp that 'can'!='should' and figure out how to leave things up to nature.

by netizen-93682411 hours ago

Are humans not part of nature?

by wholinator210 hours ago

Sometimes it feels like corporate advertising/marketing very much are not. Honestly, most of corporate America feels like soulless money robots, very much anti-human.

+1
by teddyh9 hours ago

Possibly your concept of “human” needs updating, since “corporate America” still consists of mostly humans.

by smitty1e9 hours ago

You 'can' AutoTune and Grid the humanity right out of your music, 'should' you care to squeeze all the humanity out of your art.

by lucasmullens6 hours ago

If you include humans as part of nature, then isn't literally everything part of nature? The common phrase "let nature take its course" would have no meaning then.

by breakattn8 hours ago

Stephen LaBerge made this same discovery in 1987 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_LaBerge They did not do their research.

by vekker4 hours ago

Everything old is new again...

It goes back to the late 70s with Stephen LaBerge's and Keith Hearne's research, but as far as I know, those experiments were always involving one-way communication.

A few years ago, the author of the awesome blog lucidcode, trained himself to communicate in Morse code with the outside world: https://lsdbase.org/2012/05/11/hello-dream-world/

I also recall someone doing a full-on two-way communication experiment involving eye signals and light flashes a couple years ago, but I don't remember the source.

by SSGN14 hours ago

Very difficult not to click on this headline.

by sep_field11 hours ago

I always read the comments here before the article. Usually the comments tell me everything I need to know and are more interesting. Most of the time I never end up clicking on the actual article because I've gotten enough info from the comments.

by anthony_romeo7 hours ago

I have tendencies to want to do this, but I choose to stop myself, to remember that random (hopefully) people on the Internet aren't necessarily more reliable than some random article on the Internet. It's valuable to check one's sources, but how many people actually check the source of some random upvoted commenter? How many people have the capacity to verify the veracity of convincing-sounding Hacker News comments?

by tkahnoski7 hours ago

I make a point to never upvote without reading the article first. Only signal boost new information/insights not rehashes.

by jnsie9 hours ago

Same. It happens often that the comments repudiate or at least undermine the article's claim. By the time I've read a few I've lost interest in said article.

by danaliv9 hours ago

You should read the articles. You'll find that a lot of the "repudiations" are less convincing, or at least less interesting.

(I didn't read this article.)

by Karuma13 hours ago

Agreed. This one was a better title:

> Scientists communicate with people in lucid dreaming state

by optimalsolver11 hours ago

I failed the test.

Interesting article, though.

by godelzilla8 hours ago

Solid bait. It would have helped to mention AI. 4/5 stars.

by Jeff_Brown8 hours ago

But is lucid dreaming restorative? In my experience it's kind of fun but it doesn't really help me feel more rested.

by ReDeiPirati8 hours ago

From personal experience, after lucid dreaming (not semi-lucid) I feel like a vulcano. Seriously, I've never experience something as energising as lucid dreaming. I still remember the first time I had my first one: I felt like I was overloaded by electricity, one of the best sensation of my life. On the other hand, when the lucid dream transitions to semi-lucid and no-lucid, then I usually feel pretty tired.

by beermonster5 hours ago

These days when I lucid dream it often wakes me up very soon after I realise I’m lucid dreaming. So, definitely less rested.

When I was a kid I could just live in my dream for hours. Seem to have lost that ability.

by vekker6 hours ago

They can give an incredible energy boost and moodlift in my experience, but if feeling physically more rested is the goal, then I wouldn't spend the time & effort to try to induce lucid dreams.

by bordercases7 hours ago

From someone that has chronic lucid dreams, I heard they were not over time.

by annoyingnoob8 hours ago

Just what an always on world needs, connected in your dreams. I won't even need to get out of bed the next time I get paged in the night. Can't wait to ssh in my dreams. Naw, I can wait forever on that one.

by the_dripper11 hours ago

This is interesting, as I am currently reading Sigmund Freud's Dream Analysis.

by foxhop10 hours ago

Follow that work to Carl Jung.

by slingnow9 hours ago

The subject stated that while he was receiving these questions, he was "dreaming that he was asleep in the lab".

Isn't is just as plausible that he wasn't lucid dreaming at all, and was instead in a half-asleep, half-awake stupor and responding to the questions from his awake consciousness?

It would be much more convincing if the subject were in a different landscape.

by thestu2 hours ago

They verified via brainwaves that he was in the REM stage of sleep. I don't really know anything about brainwaves, but this seems like the kind of thing that's fairly definitive.

by untoxicness6 hours ago

As far as I know the "brain patterns" (as measured by EEG) during sleep are quite distinct. The article mentions somebody confirming that the subject was actually sleep.

by sschueller14 hours ago

Is there an app or device that can reliably determine if you are in REM and signal you so you can become lucid? Does lucid dreaming affect the recovery you get from sleep?

by godshatter18 minutes ago

I used to have a NovaDreamer induction device (http://www.lucidity.com/novadreamer.html). Ironically, I was never able to attain lucidity while using one. It's a mask that watches for eye movements (such as those during REM sleep), then turns on leds inside the mask. You're supposed to use bright lights as a reality check during the day - if you see a bright light, perform a test to see if you are dreaming. Hopefully, the led light will be incorporated into your dream as external stimuli sometimes are, and you will hopefully have the habit down of doing a reality check which will fail and you'll realize you're dreaming.

by hh3k014 hours ago

There's a device with app which can reliably determine if you are in REM: https://dreem.com/.

I have sleep apnea and bought it in order to keep track of the quality of my sleep.

by pedalpete2 hours ago

I'd be interested in hearing about your experience with Dreem. We're building a similar product at https://soundmind.co

Though Apnea is not in our initial target group, we'll be looking into ways we can resolve apnea in the future. I have central apnea (brain stops breathing).

Do you continue to use your Dreem? How does knowing the "quality of your sleep" help you? We're more interested in improving the quality of your sleep than in just giving you the data.

Details are in my profile if you feel like reaching out.

by FooBarWidget14 hours ago

But it doesn't send a signal so I don't think it will help the poster.

Tracking REM sleep seems to be fairly easy. My Xiaomi wristband seems to reliably detect when I go into REM, even though the device is very cheap.

by frederikvs13 hours ago

Out of curiosity : how do you know it reliably detects it?

I have a polar watch that also tracks my sleep and presents it in a nice plot. I have no way to check whether that plot is a good representation of my night, or whether they just randomly put in a few blocks and mark them as REM.

I don't mean to imply that I don't trust the device or anything. I'm just saying I have no way to verify how reliable it really is.

by FooBarWidget13 hours ago

Because every time I wake up after having a dream, I see it being properly registered. Conversely, if I wake up without having dreamt right before waking, then I see that the device didn't register REM.

+1
by hh3k013 hours ago

> I don't mean to imply that I don't trust the device or anything. I'm just saying I have no way to verify how reliable it really is.

Dreem 2, for example, has a few studies to back it up:

> The aim of this study was to assess the signal acquisition and the performance of the automatic sleep staging algorithms of a reduced-montage dry-electroencephalographic (EEG) device (Dreem headband, DH) compared to the gold-standard polysomnography (PSG) scored by five sleep experts.

And the relevant results:

> The algorithm achieved an overall accuracy comparable to human-level performance of 85.76% (N1: 56%, N2: 88%, N3: 85%, REM: 92%, and Wake: 85%).

https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/43/11/zsaa097/5841249

by Pyramus10 hours ago

I've worked on detecting sleep stages from accelerometer data and it should work in theory (loss of muscle tone) but it doesn't in practice (still there are muscle twitches).

You need more modalities like heart rate, and a very sensitive heart rate monitor (the one in my Xiaomi/Amazfit is nowhere near the quality needed).

On the other hand, you can make quite good guesses based on the recurring pattern of REM sleep (in healthy subjects). Because REM sleep is quite prevalent in the later stages, your accuracy when guessing will be quite high.

by FooBarWidget14 hours ago

What do you do with the data? After knowing the quality, how do you improve it?

by hh3k013 hours ago

I can try to make lifestyle changes and see how it impacts my sleep, for example.

Additionally, I can also quite reliably see when my CPAP needs adjusting by my doctor.

The Dreem 2 has two functions I'm rather fond of:

1) It can wake you up in light sleep within a specific timeframe you've set. That made me less groggy and grumpy in the mornings.

2) It can generate pink noise which is said to enhance the quality of your deep sleep (there are a handful of studies about it).

Both features work well for me but I think the pink noise function is not available in the US for some FDA-related terminology reason.

by sn4112 hours ago

I find pink noise relaxing when working.

by notretarded14 hours ago

Saw them at CES 2020. Scary. Data broker for your brain activity. Avoid at all costs.

by ashin7 hours ago

Once again, xkcd did it first.

https://xkcd.com/269/

by alexmingoia13 hours ago

Does EEG activity identifying REM sleep only occur during sleep?

by _a1_12 hours ago

People who train themselves to reliably induce lucid dreams call themselves oneironauts (Oneiros = Greek god of dreams).

I was actively interested in this topic when I was younger and had much time to sleep and practice, but after I got my job and life problems kicked in, suddenly I realized that the only thing I require from a dream is to get a good night sleep so I will have strength to face problems during the day. A little bit sad but true.

But, during my lucid dreaming endeavors I realized the technique itself is incredibly powerful. Especially for people who have tendencies for daydreaming. One easy technique used during learning is to create a habit of looking at the watch and asking oneself if this is a dream or not. Doing it for a few times during a day will eventually create a habit, and will eventually increase the chances of unintentionally doing it during the actual dream. Then, the question "is this a dream?" will have a chance of recalling that we have consciousness, while still being inside the dream. It will be a lucid dream.

Maintaining lucid state of a lucid dream is another topic. Sometimes a few seconds after starting to be in a lucid dream, we forget about the state and we go right back to a normal, non-lucid dream. There are techniques for prolonging the state, but require training (like everything I guess).

by wombatmobile11 hours ago

But is a lucid dream merely a dream in which the dreamer is aware of being asleep and dreaming, or is it more than that? I thought it also included taking control and doing whatever you want e.g. jumping off a building and flying wherever you want, because the laws of physics are suspended in dreaming.

How to activate superuser mode in dreams?

by madpata10 hours ago

Here's some knowledge from the time I was into lucid dreaming (6+ years ago):

Some people classify the lucidity of a dream as "non-lucid", "semi-lucid" and "lucid".

"Non-Lucid" is just a normal dream. "Semi-Lucid" is a dream in which you know that you're dreaming, but you don't have real control and are just going with the flow. In real lucid dreams you're fully aware that you're dreaming and can control yourself (movement & talking). Experiencing a lucid dream is just plain awesome in my experience. You know that the experience is not real, but it feels real.

Controlling the dream itself (surroundings, other people, flying etc) is something the dreamer has to learn, as it isn't as straight-forward as just thinking/saying "I want to fly now"/"Let there be an orgy". If your brain doesn't expect something to happen, then it likely won't happen.

Flying is relatively easy because it really doesn't change your surroundings. I just imagine how I'm flying and it happens.

To change my surroundings I usually use the "spinning"/"blinking" trick: Either spin around or slowly blink with your eyes while imagining what you want to change. With some good luck it happens.

But dreams are unstable. Things can change quickly and without your control. It's a constant fight against your subconscious. A fight which often leads to waking up.

I have a recommendation for anyone still reading: Instead of flying or fucking/killing people (those were the most common themes on the forums back then), just talk with the people in your dream. You're not talking with real people, you're talking with yourself, but it doesn't feel that way. Talking with dream characters can be useful for introspection, as dreams are heavily influenced by your feelings.

Man, that all sounds so esoteric and non-scientific. Just my experience.

by vinceguidry10 hours ago

My experience has been that trying to do huge things to a dream setting either just ends the dream it doesn’t really work. For me, it was easy to get to a state of , okay I’m lucid, now what? Only thing is to go with the flow, surf rather than control. I imagine with lots of practice it can be better handled.

by sethc28 hours ago

It’s pretty easy. Instead of looking at a watch a few times a day you carry around a controller and a few times a day you hit: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A and Start, and then ask yourself if you’re dreaming. Then when you do it while dreaming: bam! Superpowers. :)

by bujak30012 hours ago

Apparently while lucid dreaming the brain doesn't renegerate the same like during normal sleep, so it's like less sleep / interrupted sleep.

by steverb11 hours ago

My daughter has narcolepsy and (according to her) always lucid dreams, so I hope this isn't completely true.

by gsich10 hours ago

If you remember your dreams it's a sign of bad sleep, so yes it's probably true.

by koenvdb11 hours ago

I literally saw this 2 days ago when watching a new series on Netflix called 'Behind her eyes'. Maybe you will like it!

by untoxicness6 hours ago

I was quite surprised to hear Jim Keller talking about lucid dreaming on a recent episode of the Lex Fridman podcast. [0] If I recall correctly, Keller uses dreaming as a productivity tool.

[0] https://lexfridman.com/jim-keller-2/ (1:46)