Ronny Siebes of the Free University of Amsterdam continues the debate
* I think that we are both convinced about the limitations of the current way of doing science and especially the reductionistic approach.
* Also I agree with you that the mind is more than the physical brain itself. Now I remember again an insight that I had some time ago. In my viewpoint (I read it somewhere but do not remember the reference) the individual brain without communication is only a bunch of meat and blood. The brain *needs* input, and that input is culture (and nature).
Also culture *needs* humans and can be seen (metaphorically) as a collective mind. Therefore I would like to see our individual minds as the individual brains fed by collective input, and the collective mind is the collective input plus all the individual brains. Therefore only looking at the biological brain does not allow us to understand the way our individual 'minds'work.
If you want to do that, one needs to combine the insights from not only neuro-physiologists, but also sociologists, psychologists, antropologists and artists (and probably many more).
To make my point and to come back to your original question "Can machines dream", I can now, given the insight during our discussions, say the following:
* Dreams are events that happen in the physical brain, but can only occur when the brain is also a mind (meaning that it had input from outside itself). Therefore to understand dreams, it is not enough to understand the brain, but one also needs to understand culture.
* Currently machines are brains without (or with very limited) input, so therefore at the moment a machine cannot dream because its culture is not rich enough (or it is still not able to see/hear/feel human culture). The Internet (and especially the Semantic Web) will be the collective mind of the individual machines and also provide input to them. So, when the Internet becomes culturally rich enough, machines will be able to dream too.
Ron Burnett responds
Networks are representations of collective engagement and of community in all of its variations. Whether they are a collective mind is an intriguing question. Is a family with six members a collective mind? How would that collective mind be represented? Perhaps this discussion needs to move to questions of networks and what they mean.