Very interesting, Brendan — thanks for sharing. I found you and this article as a result of publishing my short story The Experiment, which touches on similar themes to your dream.
I hope that with the work on AI and Deep Learning currently being undertaken, we may eventually create an artificial consciousness that is as sophisticated as our own. We may then learn a great deal more about what consciousness actually is.
Although, I do subscribe to the view that it may be almost impossible to distinguish between a consciousness simulation and an actual consciousness. This leads nicely to the question of what is sentience.
I look forward to reading more of your work.