AI. Machine Learning. What’s the Impact on Digital Marketing Today? [PODCAST] by @brentcsutoras

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Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been highly predicted trends in marketing and SEO. But how are they changing the industry now? Read on to find out more about the influence of AI on the marketing world in this Search Engine Nerds episode.

Marc Poirier, CEO and co-founder of Acquisio, joins SEJ’s Brent Csutoras to talk about how artificial intelligence and machine learning impacts online marketing.

Poirier also gives us a primer on how AI is affecting local search, and shares his verdict on the battle between AI and humans in search and marketing.

Artificial Intelligence

We’re starting to see AI integrate itself into a lot of marketing campaigns. Is that the direction we’re headed in?

Marc: I think this is the direction most software companies need to start steering towards over the next five years or so. We have all this data we’re looking at; no matter what field of marketing you’re in, there’s just so much data coming at us now. Being able to leverage that data and make good use of it through machine learning and data mining is something that’s happening today, but it’s going to accelerate over the next few years.

How do you see the transition of machine learning and AI really start to interact with marketing over the next five years?

Marc: There are various models of algorithms that are designed to solve specific problems, and they exist out there. So you can just use some of the work that has been done by academics before and apply it to the problem you’re trying to solve to parse through a ton of data and come out with a better answer really rapidly. I think a lot of companies do that today, but it hasn’t necessarily been labeled as such.

The reality is not so much about the data and having tools to visualize it. That’s great, but what are you going to do with it? How do you analyze it? How do you make decisions based on that data, and how do you automate that decision making process? How do you do that in marketing?

Brent: I think we see that even with small data. You can go in and show somebody Google Analytics at a very small scale and show the data.

Marc: Yeah, exactly.

Brent: And people aren’t really willing to implement that data as it is, let alone start getting into large-scale data collection and analysis. I think one of the big things for marketers is this sense of disconnect because it might not be overly new. It might not be overly complicated at the rudimentary level, but when it comes down to it, if I wanted to do AI, if I wanted to incorporate some of this stuff into my marketing campaigns, there’s a disconnect in the path on how I do that.

When you look at an AI solution versus an expert, do you feel that AI provides an equal or better outcome? Or is it still just a time versus money type of scenario?

AI vs expert: man arm wrestling with robot

Marc: No, it’s a better outcome, but it depends on the problem you’re solving. Some of the things we do are just research, so the outcomes are not better.

What we’ve been doing for five or six years is controlling money, and that’s not something humans can do very well, especially at scale. So we build software to help the small business, but we don’t sell it directly to them. We work with large resellers, companies that have tens of thousands of small businesses they need to serve. They need to make sure that the results are on point, that they’re spending the budgets, and they’re maximizing phone calls and clicks and things like that. This is where technology will do a better job than humans 100% of the time.

Brent: Is this similar to the stock market where you really have no chance if you’re not utilizing these tools? Has it gotten to that point, you feel?

Marc: Yeah, it has. We’re making decisions and making changes on budgets and bids every 30 minutes now across tens of millions of ad groups and hundreds of thousands of accounts. So you can’t imagine humans doing that.

First of all, it’s redundant. It’s error-prone and there’s a lot of accurate decision making going on, a lot of machine learning applied that always tries to hone in on the target. We’re trying to spend a $500 budget, or a $200 budget — it’s very little money, so how do we hit it? How do we get really close to it and not go over? How do we learn about that specific business, about their trend? So there are a few levers there that are really important to model.

I mean you could do it if you have just one account to manage and you apply a lot of time and energy. I’m sure humans can do a pretty good job at it, but you can’t do that at scale for small accounts. It just doesn’t make any sense, and it doesn’t work. It’s not possible to make the right decision all the time. That’s what algorithms and AI do.

What would be the steps and tools to start incorporating AI into paid search? What would be the end-point solution for somebody right now?

Marc: We have a product called Promote where any local business can sign up and we’ll create a local presence for them. We’ll create a Google AdWords account for them and all of the keywords they need, the ads, everything. It’s all automated. Then we’ll assign a small budget and control it really well.

If you look at what Google’s doing, or Marin Software, Kenshoo, Adobe, Ignition One, SearchForce, all the companies in this space, all the bid management solutions have some kind of algorithms or rule engines. So there is technology there to help make the right decisions on large data sets, and they do very well for different situations.

There are products out there in the search world that do that, but they’re limited, typically, to bid management. I think the areas of focus for us are how do we go beyond that in the future and automate more and do a better job at writing ad copy, for example, or testing ad copy.

What is it about AI or machine learning that’s really impacting local search? How does it affect what people are doing locally?

Marc: It revolves a lot around delivering value for small budgets, so it’s very difficult to control. If you have a lot of money to spend on AdWords, you’ll be able to see results, and there’s going to be a lot of waste. But you can’t afford any waste when you have a $200 budget for the month, right? You want to get some clicks. You want to get some calls, so it’s really important that we go out there and get those clicks that will cost the least amount of money. They need to be valid clicks and they need to be relevant.

It’s understanding the auction, understanding the profile for each business — the peaks and valleys, time of day, day of week — to see how the data has flowed historically when we have that. This is something the software will pick up, not only per vertical but also by business. You just gain more certainty if you can have many layers.

So you can say, “Okay, I’m looking at the law services category in general, all of the different attorneys and legal services that are available. Do I see patterns on a day of week basis? Yes. I see some kind of trend where Monday seems to be maybe 20% busier than all the other days.”

Then let’s look at by city for example, or by DMA. Do we see trends there as well? Yeah, larger cities seem to have more of that. Then per business, like for this specific business, if I look back three months, do I see a pattern? Do all these things come together? And does that help me make a better decision? How sure am I that this decision of changing that bid, lowering it by five cents will have an impact in the next 30 minutes?

In a nutshell, it’s a lot of complexities, a lot of data points to look at, but it’s to make that small decision. They’re always small changes that we make, and then validate the next 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes. Did I see pick up on impressions? Because when there’s not a lot of click-flow, do I at least see more impression flow hour per hour? Those decisions will be tweaked as the function of the results we observe.

How do you feel about where people spend their money on paid ads right now? Do you feel that Google AdWords is still a major place to spend budget? Are you seeing certain social areas better than others?

Marc: Facebook ads is the place where small businesses are going to start because Facebook is making it easy for anyone to start and they’re making it part of your everyday experience. If you have a business page and you wrote a post, we’ll suggest you boost it for 10 bucks or something. Facebook’s been really good at garnering small span from small advertisers, small SMBs. Most SMBs today have realized that before they graduate to do some paid search investments, they’ll go to Facebook first then introduce Google AdWords.

Brent: Is that just because of the ease of use? It’s just something they can easily engage with, and then once they see some kind of traction, they start looking at other areas to run ads?

Marc: Well, yes, it’s easy and there are many ad products on Facebook. It’s a Swiss army knife of advertising. And there are different ways to build your audience as well, so it’s not only the ad products, it’s how you target. It’s quite complex, despite how easy they make it for a small advertiser to start. They have products like local awareness ads that are that simple. But local awareness helps retailers, restaurants and bars, the food industry in general.

But maybe it’s not that helpful for an emergency plumbing service or the landscaper. When you need a roofer, you’re going to look for it. It’s not going to be an awareness play so it may not be the first place you go for those. Depending on the type of business you are, it may be best to start on Facebook when you’re building local awareness. When it’s something that’s more search-driven intent, search ads would be more appropriate to start with.

Do you feel that you can take learnings from one platform to the other? Or do you feel that they really are individual and need to be viewed as individual?

Marc: We’re not finding any learnings from Facebook can apply to search or vice versa. However, the one thing we’re doing there in terms of bringing things together is budget allocation. How do we devise or change the way our product works to automatically allocate the money correctly across search — AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook? We didn’t crack that nut yet. This is something that’s really interesting to a lot of companies.

But we’re in the middle of exploring if it does make sense, if it adds value. We’re hearing a lot of “yes”. So we’ll continue that investigation, but the idea of having a marketing budget for advertising online, like a digital advertising budget, and to have one place where you can just sort of put your money in there and trust that the algorithm will do the right thing, seems to be appealing to marketers today.

To listen to this Search Engine Nerds Podcast with Marc Poirier:

Think you have what it takes to be a Search Engine Nerd? If so, message Loren Baker on Twitter, or email him at loren [at] searchenginejournal.com. You can also email Brent Csutoras at brent [at] alphabrandmedia.com.

Visit our Search Engine Nerds archive to listen to other Search Engine Nerds podcasts!

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

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Trump shoves another foreign leader in his latest big boy diplomacy move

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Trump shoves another foreign leader in his latest big boy diplomacy move

Image: steve kopack/twitter

President Trump isn’t content to be leader of the free world. He wants to be head of all lines, too.

In yet another humiliating moment for the country, President Trump seemingly shoved Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic while at the NATO conference in Brussels today. After pushing Markovic, the president subtly demonstrated his dominance by pulling on his jacket like the big boy he is.

Watch our adult child president at work.

Montenegro recently joined NATO, despite efforts by Russian allies in the country to block the move.

Trump’s push followed a historically embarrassing speech at the conference where he enjoined his fellow members to contribute more of their budgets to defense. As pundits all across the political spectrum have repeatedly pointed out, that’s not how NATO works, but oh well. 

It’s not America first, it’s Trump first, everyone.

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May repeats that future UK-EU relationship should be discussed same time as withdrawal terms

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UK government spokesman reporting from G7 summit in Sicily 26 May

  • May also reaffirms wish for early clarity on position of  EU citizens in UK and vice versa
  • May will meet with Trump during G7

Currently the EU are insisting that the exit terms  and “Brexit bill” ( talk of €100bln) have to be completed before any other talks can take place.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn polishing up his French and German in case he gets the nod on 8 June.

GBPUSD currently on fresh session lows of 1.2848

                                       Trump and May to meet again in Sicily

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Male Tortoises Mysteriously Stop Boning

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A desert tortoise. Image: Andrew Walde

There are only a few things in this life animals really have to do. They have to eat, they have to shit, and they have to bang. So when conservation biologists transplant a bunch of wild animals in order to save them, but half of them stop getting laid as a result, it’s cause for concern.

That’s the issue scientists are now grappling with in the Mojave Desert. In 2008, 570 threatened desert tortoises were translocated—moved from their homes at the Fort Irwin Army National Training Center to a different tortoise-filled neighborhood a few miles south, to make way for expansion of the base’s desert warfare practice areas.

Years later, a genetic analysis has revealed something alarming: The translocated male tortoises aren’t banging. Or at least, they aren’t having babies. The implications go beyond tortoise-kind, raising concerns about the hidden risks of translocation, a popular conservation strategy.

Well, okay, maybe these tortoises are banging. Image: Andrew Walde.

“A big take home is that mitigation isn’t always what it seems to be,” Robert Fleischer, head of the Center for Conservation Genomics at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, told Gizmodo. “In the case of the female [tortoises], it’s a success, but the males aren’t reproducing, at least after four years. It looks like they’re duds.”

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The researchers reached that conclusion through a massive genotyping analysis, examining the DNA of hundreds of translocated tortoises, plus hundreds more tortoises living in the area the newcomers were moved to. During an egg laying season four years later, biologists returned to collect blood samples from hatchlings for maternity and paternity testing. Of 92 baby tortoises genotyped, not a single one appeared to be sired by a translocated male. Translocated females, meanwhile, were popping out babies at roughly the same rate as the local ladies.

“Every single offspring we were able to identify was ID’d to a resident male,” Fleischer said. “We can’t say [the translocated males] didn’t father any, but it’s very likely” they did not.

Translocation is an increasingly popular conservation strategy, used to move vulnerable populations out of harm’s way, or to boost a species’ genetic vigor by mixing genes between isolated groups. But it’s also known to carry risks, including increased stress and mortality, increased conflict with humans or livestock, impacts on resident wild animals, or the unintentional spread of disease, according to a 2008 review paper. A study published in 2015 indicated that translocation can be particularly stressful for animals with an established social hierarchy, according to a Nature blog post.

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To the authors’ knowledge, their results published in Biological Conservation are the first time genetic paternity testing has revealed a fertility problem with males following translocation. The study points to yet another potential factor conservation biologists need to consider before moving populations of vulnerable animals around.

Two male desert tortoises fighting near the United States Army’s Fort Irwin Army National Training Center. Image: Joel Strong

In the case of the desert tortoises, it’s anybody’s guess why the males have lost their spark. “We’re guessing either the trauma of being moved affects males more than females, or the males in the new territory are subordinate to the males already there,” Fleischer said. “We don’t really know.”

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Brian Horne, Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society, called the study “incredibly important,” saying that it “opens up a large amount of area for new study.”

“I think it has very broad implications,” Horne told Gizmodo. “I think it’s surprising that so many previous conservation programs based on the assumption that there was equal probability of mating between males and females never really tested [that] assumption.”

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It’s important to note that this single study only tells us about desert tortoise translocations, and right now, there are more questions than answers. Fleischer would like to return to the field and see whether any of the translocated males have, over time, managed to turn their rotten reproductive luck around. A follow-up study would require additional funding, and if you’re wondering what government agency has made understanding the sex lives of desert tortoises a priority, you may be surprised to learn it’s the Department of Defense.

Now, I don’t think any of us would mind if a bit of that 54 billion dollar defense spending boost went toward making sure the tortoises are still banging.

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[Smithsonian]

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Hackers just gave you another reason to hate vaping

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It turns out vaping may be bad for more than just your look. 

With a few tweaks of the pen, a security researcher has demonstrated that vaporizers can be modified in such a way as to pass code to your computer. 

The problem, as with many things security related, comes down to the USB port. Used for both charging and data transfer, the port is a convenient place to plug in phones or other devices that need a battery boost—devices like vape pens. 

In a video demonstrating his work, the researcher, who goes by FourOctets, plugs an e-cigarette into a computer’s USB and the device immediately lights up as if to charge. A few seconds go by and the computer starts to react. 

"DO U EVEN VAPE BRO!!!!!," reads a message that pops up on the screen. 

Essentially, the vaporizer issued a custom command to the computer, and the computer was all too happy to oblige. 

Take this as the weirdest example yet that you should never plug random devices into your USB ports.

While FourOctets has no ill-intent, it is easy to imagine someone less scrupulous loading a computer with something not quite as funny. Like, say, a keylogger. Or ransomware

So how did he make this happen? Thankfully for people worried about their e-cigs catching a virus, it required some hands-on work. 

"It started as more of a joke than anything," FourOctets elaborated over Twitter direct message (he declined to give his real name). "This is done with extra hardware and a little bit of code."

As to the point of the demonstration, other than the fact that it is legitimately hilarious? 

"Another goal usually when doing dumb stuff like this is that stuff is not always what it seems and that random stuff that can plug into a computer can be dangerous," he explained. "A lot of folks aren’t aware that something like this is even possible whether it be with firmware or added hardware and a tiny bit of code found online." 

So should you be worried that your vape pen is delivering malicious code to your laptop? 

"It’s probably pretty unlikely to ever get something like this from the factory that would do this," FourOctets noted, "but the possibility is there and people need to be mindful of that."

So, you know, something to maybe consider the next time you’re ripping that sweet cotton. 

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NASA just released the first inside-look of Jupiter’s rings

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since July, 2016. But only just recently have scientists had a chance to analyze all of its data — and the results are painting a different picture of Jupiter than what anyone expected.

Juno is also returning images unlike any we’ve ever seen, including of Jupiter’s ring system. Jupiter’s rings may not be as pronounced as Saturn’s, but its ring system still extends to an impressive 140,000 miles away from the giant gas planet. This video shows the first inside peak of Jupiter’s rings — Juno snapped it when it was between the planet and the ring system.

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The 20 Highest Paid CEOs In America

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A lot of Bros dream of climbing that career ladder to the C-suite. America’s corporate leaders are very handsomely compensated by shareholders their leadership, especially during the fat years when margins slim, revenues skyrocket, and stocks soar. The New York Times plugged the numbers of compensation packages across cash, stock, options, and perks to rank the most handsomely paid CEOs in the Land of the Free, home of the brave. Here are the titans of industry bringing home the most bacon:

  1. Thomas M. Rutledge – Charter Communications — $98.0m in total compensation
  2. Leslie Moonves — CBS — $68.6m in total compensation
  3. David O’Connor — MSG — $54m in total compensation
  4. Fabrizio Freda — Estee Lauder — 47.7m in total compensation
  5. Mark G. Parker — Nike — $47.6m in total compensation
  6. Mark V. Hurd — Oracle — $41.1m in total compensation
  7. Robert A. Iger — Walt Disney — $41m in total compensation
  8. Safra A. Catz — Oracle — $40.9m in total compensation
  9. David M. Zaslav — Discovery Communications — $37.2m in total compensation
  10. Robert A. Kotick — Activision Blizzard — $33.1m in total compensation
  11. Margaret C. Whitman — Hewlett Packard Enterprise — $32.9m in total compensation
  12. Alex A. Molinaroli — Johnson Controls International — $32.6m in total compensation
  13. Jeffrey L. Bewkes  — Time Warner  —  $32.6 in total compensation
  14. Virginia M. Rometty — IBM — $32.3m in total compensation
  15. Joshua W. Sapan —  AMC Networks — $30.5m in total compensation
  16. Gregory B. Maffei — Liberty Media & Liberty Interactive — $29.8m in total compensation
  17. Brian L. Roberts — Comcast — $28.6m in total compensation
  18. Leonard S. Schleifer — Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — $28.3m in total compensation
  19. John J. Haley — Willis Towers Watson — $28.2m in compensation
  20. Stephen A. Wynn — Wynn Resorts — $28.2m in total compensation

There are still many, many more on the NYT’s comprehensive list, including the CEOs of Netflix, Twenty-First Century Fox, Goldman Sachs, Chevron, and General Motors. Go read the rest of the list over at the New York Times… 

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MoneyLion’s redesigned app gives personalized financial advice and instant access to personal loans

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Personal finance management app MoneyLion was created to help users save money, reduce debt and improve their credit. Today the app is being updated to provide users with more personalized information about how they can improve their financial health, as well as even faster access to personal loans.

Like other PFM apps, MoneyLion works by connecting with all of a user’s bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts and then providing them with a information about how they could improve their financial health.

One way it does this is by giving users personalized recommendations to encourage positive financial behaviors. By analyzing their individual spending habits and credit, the MoneyLion app gives daily advice based on a user’s most recent financial information.

Another way it aims to help users is by improving their credit. It offers free credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax, push notification-credit monitoring, as well as access to credit counseling and credit repair services.

In both cases, the latest version of the MoneyLion app has an updated its user interface to make things easier to navigate and provide faster access to the information. With its new UI, MoneyLion’s home navigation now shows swipe-able cards to provide up-to-date information, recommendations and personalized advice.

The app also has streamlined to process of applying for personal loans from MoneyLion itself. Users who are looking to borrow from MoneyLion can now get a loan approved in as little as 15 seconds, and can have funds in their account as quickly as the same business day.

That combination of personalized financial advice and access to personal loans is helping users to improve their financial health, MoneyLion says. Customers have saved more than $5 million in rate reductions and rewards by demonstrating good financial behavior, and users save $46 on average in overdraft fees each month, the company says.

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What Is Lucid Dreaming and How Do I Get Started?

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Logo design by Angelica Alzona. Photo by sophie.

Welcome to Lifehacker’s Lucid Dream Workshop. Each week we’ll learn a little more about the mysterious realm of sleep science, dreams, and how to “wake up” when we’re fast asleep.

What are dreams?

Experts can’t agree on what dreams are, precisely. Some say dreams are the brain resolving problems or processing emotions from your waking life; some say they’re just a collection of memory data that your brain is trying to incorporate. But perhaps the simplest possible definition is that dreams are your brain’s way of knowing that it exists. Your brain has plenty to do in your waking state, when you have nonstop external stimuli for it to process, but when you’re asleep, it has very little stimuli to sift through. When there is no world for your brain to perceive, it adapts by creating its own to maintain normal function and keep sharp.

We may not know why we have dreams, but we do know when we have them. When you get a proper night’s rest, you experience four main stages of sleep:

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  • NREM 1 (N1): Also known as “non-rapid eye movement 1,” or “light sleep.” Your body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and energy use all decrease across the board. Your muscles are still active and you can still produce reactions to environmental stimuli. Essentially, you are falling asleep.
  • NREM 2 (N2): Drifting toward deep sleep. You’re harder to awaken, and conscious awareness of your environment goes away. This stage accounts for about half of your sleep time.
  • NREM 3 (N3): Deep sleep or “slow-wave” sleep. Environmental stimuli are no longer likely to produce any reactions. Thought to be the most restful stage of sleep, and accounts for about a quarter of your sleep time. This stage leads into the fourth stage and is sometimes considered to be a part of the fourth stage as well.
  • REM (rapid eye movement): Also known as the “dream state.” Your muscles become paralyzed and your breathing and heart rate become unregulated. The true function of REM sleep is unknown, but missing it can impair your ability to learn complex tasks. This stage accounts for about a quarter of your sleep time as well.

Each night, you cycle through each stage about four or five times in the order of N1, N2, N3, N2, REM, then repeat. The REM stage is where your most vivid, memorable dreams occur, and you experience that state for about 90 minutes a pop.

What is a lucid dream?

Normal dreams are a lot like an amusement park ride you didn’t choose to get on; you’re on guided rails, there are strange things all around you that seem real, and you’re forced to experience everything that comes your way. You may have the ability to react, but you can’t get off the ride, whether you love it or hate it.

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Lucid dreams, on the other hand, are like exploring an amusement park that you built yourself. Not only can you go wherever you want, you can do whatever you like. It’s your world. In essence, a fully lucid dream is a dream you have complete control over. Want to fly like a superhero? It’s possible—I’ve done it. Want to confront a bully without fear? No sweat. Want to have romantic relations with a beautiful dream person? You most certainly can. Imagine going to bed every night and living out your most extravagant fantasies, then waking up still feeling refreshed and rested. That’s lucid dreaming.

Now, I’m sure you’re excited to give lucid dreaming a try, but like most wonderful things, it will take some patience and effort. Over time, we’ll learn to identify our dream state and bend every REM stage of our sleep to our will. But for now, we need to focus on a different state of consciousness: the one you’re in right now.

Assignment: Become More Aware of Your Present State of Consciousness

Being aware inside of a dream is not unlike the awareness you’re currently feeling as you read these words—except the worlds in your dreams lack certain consistencies. For example, if you were to click back on your browser at this very moment, then click forward, you’d end up on this webpage again. In a dream state, you might click back then forward and end up on a different webpage, or on a sailboat. Dreams are not consistent, and spotting those inconsistencies is one of the easiest ways to realize you’re dreaming, which is the first step to becoming lucid.

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But to truly understand what it feels like to be lucid in your dream, you need to possess a better understanding of what it feels like to be lucid in the real world. This exercise, from the book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D., and Howard Rheingold, will be your first assignment. Do all of these steps once a day:

  • Look: Become aware of what you see: notice the richly varied and vivid impressions—shapes, colors, movement, dimensionality, the entire visible world.
  • Listen: Become aware of what you hear: register the various sounds taken in by your ears—a diverse range of intensities, pitches, and tonal qualities, perhaps including the commonplace miracle of speech or the wonder of music.
  • Feel: Become aware of what you touch: texture (smooth, rough, dry, sticky, or wet), weight (heavy, light, solid, or empty), temperature, and the rest. Also note how your body feels right now and compare that to the many other ways it feels at other times, tired or energetic, stiff or limber, painful or pleasant, and so on.
  • Taste: Become aware of what it is like to taste: taste a number of different foods and substances, or remember and vividly imagine their tastes.
  • Smell: Become aware of what you smell: the odor of warm bodies, earth, incense, smoke, perfume, coffee, onions, alcohol, and the sea. Remember and imagine as many of them as you can.
  • Breathing: Attend to your breathing. A moment ago you probably were not consciously aware of your breathing even though you have inhaled and exhaled fifty times while doing this exercise. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Let it out. Now take a deep breath. Notice that being conscious of your breathing allows you to alter it deliberately.
  • Emotions: Become aware of your feelings. Remember the difference between anger and joy, serenity and excitement, and as many other emotions as you care to feel. How real do emotions feel?
  • Thoughts: Become aware of your thoughts. What have you been thinking while doing this exercise? What are you thinking right now? How real do thoughts seem?

Pause and reflect on these things, or even write them down. You use these senses and experience these other things at all times throughout the day, but how often do you really pay attention to them? The more in-tune you can become with your senses and feelings, the more easily you’ll be able to use them as tools in the dream state. After all, you can’t conjure a pleasant sunset beach in your mind if you don’t know how to define and recall the smell of the ocean breeze, the texture of sand between your toes, the color of light on the horizon, or how relaxing it feels to be somewhere so peaceful.

Once you’ve done that, move on to these last two steps:

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  • “I”: Become aware of the fact that your world always includes you. As William James noted, it is I see, I hear, I feel, I think that is the basic fact of experience. You are not what you see, hear, think, or feel; you have these experiences. Perhaps most essentially, you are who is aware. You are always at the center of your multidimensional universe of experience, but you are not always consciously aware of yourself. Briefly repeat the exercise with the following difference: At the same time you attend to each of the various aspects of your experience, be aware that it is you who is noticing these things (“I see the light…”).
  • Awareness of awareness: Finally, become aware of your awareness. Normally, awareness focuses on objects outside ourselves, but it can itself be an object of awareness… Here, experience cannot be adequately expressed by language.

Congratulations: you have taken your first step to becoming an oneironaut, or “explorer of dreams.” Next week, we’ll go over the many benefits of lucid dreaming—and some of the minor dangers—and discuss the importance of building dream memory. You’ll also get a brand-new assignment.

Until then, feel free to ask questions or discuss your own experiences in the comments below. How did you feel doing the assignment? Have you had a lucid dream before? Some people get beginner’s luck and have a lucid dream simply after hearing about the phenomenon for the first time. This is your classroom, so discuss dreaming with your classmates.

You spend a third of your life asleep. Why not do something with it? Okay, oneironauts: sleep tight and dream on.

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