James Cameron Likens Dreams to ‘Generative AI’: ‘They’re Making Imagery From a Vast Dataset’ (Video)

“We’re trying to make sense of the world because we don’t really remember like a videotape,” the “Avatar” director tells CNN’s Fareed Zakaria

“Avatar” director and filmmaking visionary James Cameron is lifting the veil on his creative process, and it all starts with dreams. Literal dreams, that is. And the sci-fi filmmaker feels that dreams’ tendency to process memories and images is not dissimilar from generative AI.

“[Dreams] are kind of like a generative AI,” Cameron told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Sunday. “I think they’re making imagery from a vast dataset that’s our entire experience in life, and … then another part of our brain is supplying a narrative that goes along with it and the narrative doesn’t always make much sense.”

While the “Titanic” director admits that “scientists don’t really understand dreams and the psychological purpose that they serve,” he argues that, through dreams, “we’re storytelling to ourselves all night long” as people experience REM sleep.

“We’re trying to make sense of the world because we don’t really remember like a videotape; We remember stories like strings of beads,” Cameron said, adding that our mind can’t replay a memory of an interaction at a party exactly as it happened, but instead can recall an image from the scene or what topics were discussed.

“I do think we have certain innate programming that’s at a very deep level, much lower than higher brain function, and I think our subconscious, when it’s operating either in the background during the day or at night, where it sort of takes over, it’s sort of processing internally in a way,” he continued.

While Cameron’s dreams present themselves as a “bunch of random, sometimes very surreal images, sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrifying,” he recently came to realize these images might also include “a little metadata running underneath it that’s telling [me] what the picture means.”

“‘The Terminator’ was based on a single image of a chrome skeleton emerging out of fire,” Cameron said of his initial vision for the 1984 action flick presented through a dream. “But the metadata said it used to look like a man covered in flesh, and the fire burned it away, and so it’s actually a story segment … you start putting those story segments together and then it starts to turn into a story you’d want to tell to other people.”

Given his background as an illustrator, after Cameron receives these images from his dreams, he writes the ideas down or draws them.

“I think storytellers sitting around the campfire in a cave 50,000 years ago were doing the same thing,” Cameron said.

The filmmaker recently launched the long-awaited, successful sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Principal production is complete on “Avatar 3,” and Cameron plans to see the franchise through “Avatar 4” and “Avatar 5,” which are already written and designed.