You may be familiar with the idea of “electric sheep” from the science fiction book written by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

If you haven’t heard of the book, you’ve probably seen the movie, Blade Runner, on which it’s based. The thought of software engineers dreaming of electric sheep crossed my mind in the middle of the night, so I thought it would be worthy of exploring. I asked several software engineers if they dream of electric sheep, and here are their answers:

“Mmm, occasionally, definitely. If I have a particularly hard problem that I’m stuck on sometimes the answer will come in a dream. It’s like the sleeping process untangles the knot I’ve tied around the problem.” -Senior Software Engineer for illumisoft, Dustin Ewan

And I also asked another software engineer, Jeff Walker, who had this to say:

“Sometimes I do dream of programming. Not usually though. I’d say my life is probably affected by being a software engineer. I’m probably more precise and literal in my language than I’d be otherwise. And my critical thinking abilities are probably enhanced a bit, since I need to pick things apart on a regular basis–figure out how things and systems might or should work.” -Software Engineer for American Express, Jeff Walker

I guess the answer is mixed. It depends on which software engineer you ask. But this question brings to light the phenomenon of solving problems in a dream state. Many people, including some software engineers, frequently utilize their dream states to solve problems. But the reality is, anyone is capable of solving problems during the night. There is something called dream incubation:
“In a study at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Deirdre Barrett had her students focus on a problem, such as an unsolved homework assignment or other objective problem, before going to sleep each night for a week. She found that it was certainly possible to come up with novel solutions in dreams that were both satisfactory to the dreamer and rated as objectively solving the problem by an outside observer. In her study, two-thirds of participants had dreams that addressed their chosen problem, and one-third reached some form of solution within their dreams.” -dream incubation from Wikipedia
So, perhaps before you go to bed tonight, focus on a problem that you’re unable to solve in your waking moments. Maybe a novel solution will emerge naturally or maybe even an electric sheep will visit you. If you sometimes solve problems in your dream state or have ever seen an electric sheep in your dreams, be sure and add your comments.