Theory and Speculations
We have little real understanding of the mechanisms that might underly the anomalous correlations found in the GCP data. Here we offer some speculations that might be useful in thinking about possible models, or in any case thought-provoking. We will be interested in comments and suggestions, which you may send to Roger Nelson at email@example.com.
Many questions are asked about underlying mechanism, such as whether there is an optimal speed or frequency for data collection, or whether the number of bits which are momentarily in play will matter. The short answer is that these and similar questions harbor assumptions that aren't correct. It appears that the domain for most of the effective variables is not physics but psychology, not matter but mind. So counting the events or measuring the speed are not relevant unless the counts and measures are in the non-physical realms we usually leave to poets and musicians.
So, for example, we often disregard the wisdom of the ancients, of other cultures than that of modern Western science, which Ken Wilber calls a monocultural flatland in his "A Brief History of Everything." He shows, for example, that the modern western view is shallow at best, a "flatland" incapable, because of its narrow focus on what can be located and what can be counted, even of asking the questions we know we must be able to ask about consciousness and spirit.
The GCP analyses are based on canonical statistics, and while some argue that this cannot provide "real" evidence, the implications of statistical measures can be profound. Though we don't know how an REGs behavior can be altered by thoughts and emotions or intentions, we know empirically the effects touch upon information theory and imply entropy reduction, and we think that resonance and coherence are good metaphoric descriptors for the necessary conditions. It also appears that the global consciousness effect is more than just casually related to nonlinear dynamical system models.
After a decade of experience with the GCP data, looking at the varieties of correlations and the factors that seem to matter, I am beginning to see a "mechanism" for the GCP effects. I don't yet know how to express it in clear scientific/mathematical terms, but the substance is that correlation is something. There is a real entity in the world whose nature appears to be relationship and pattern -- and it is not just an idea or an abstraction, but a "ding an sich" that can be captured in various subtle experiments. There is a clear, but still intuitive linkage of this idea with the insights of Carl Jung on meaningful coincidence, or synchronicity, and with the powerful structures represented in fundamental statistics. But there is a particular dimension or quality that isn't developed in canonical statistical science. It is clear that the core of correlations in GCP data, as for other psi effects is meaning. It is necessary to accept psychological factors that we cannot describe in physical terms in order to describe and ultimately explain the GCP findings.
We find some useful points in models based on David Bohm's notion of active information (which I'll summarize below), and in Brian Josephson's recent article on String Theory, Universal Mind, and the Paranormal. One of the most coherent approaches to the evidence demanding extensions of physical models is Rupert Sheldrake's description of Morphic Fields. Abraham Boyarsky argues that any theory of mind is better than none, and uses the language of nonlinear dynamical systems and ergodic theory is to present a theoretical framework for the study of mind. For a lively and insightful look at the physics of consciousness (with consciousness as primary, the ground of all existence) look up Amit Goswami. A series of web radio interviews gives a delightful introduction.
A number of correspondents suggest other perspectives, or make comments that can be stimulating. In this border area it is difficult to know what will turn out to be the most useful ideas, and it is worthwhile to keep an open mind. Philippe Viola offers an interesting approach with a Bioquantum Theory that addresses relevant issues, including linkage to Bohm and to Sheldrake's work. Alan Bondies offers a speculation on Universal Consciousness that touches pertinent questions.
However, most of what can be said is speculative, and not immediately useful for understanding the empirical data. We do not know how a mental state such as an intention or emotion is able to inform the physical system to affect its behavior. In addition, all of the robust measures we have providing evidence for the anomalous effects are statistical in nature, and the signal to noise ratio is extremely low. This means that we typically cannot be sure that the "signature" of an effect in any individual analysis is driven by the hypothesized influence of consciousness. The details written in the data from single instances are more likely to be chance fluctuations than consciousness effects. Only in larger concatenations, gathering the weak signals from many separate events, can we be satisfied that trends and structure represent the hypothesized effect.
After all the caveats, however, we can say that the evidence for an effect of consciousness on REGs is strong. We are driven by that evidence to infer that something like a "consciousness field" exists, and that intentions or emotional states which structure the field are conveyed as information that is absorbed into the distribution of output values of labile physical systems.
The bottom line is that the output distribution of data from the REG differs from what would be expected without the influence of consciousness. Two major questions should be kept in mind to help focus our speculations:
1) What is the physical meaning of the statistically unlikely patterns that appear in our random data?
2) What is the bio-social meaning of the correlation of such patterns with events of importance to humans?
The Active Information Field
The following is my summary of David Bohm's thoughts on the active information field. More recently I found a beautifully direct presentation in a 5-part interview with Bohm on YouTube. What he says is remarkably close to what we find the GCP data to be saying.
Returning to the canonical tools of modern physics, there are some effective expansions, and some questions that begin to distort the flatland into more dimensional forms. One of my most favored models is based on a general application of the "active information" proposed by Bohm as the core of his quantum potential, or pilot wave. If we look at the evidence from studies of the far reaches of consciousness, we are compelled to envision an equivalent to the fields that link physical objects (EM fields). But now this conceptual framework needs to be applied to the non-physical, to the experienced world of ideas, structures, relationships. We need a well-defined equivalent to EM that can accomodate the interconnections in a more subtle realm. We need something that integrates the effective interactions of a field with the meaningful implications of directed interconnection. I think we may have a starting framework in an extension of Bohm's efforts to link the sensible world with the implicate order. The remaining step is to take seriously the notion of active information and consider that is is a field linking us universally to our world. We may call this an active information field (AIF).
Most simply put, I think consciousness is a source of active information, and that the objects of attention for consciousness can be sinks that attract and hence actualize the information. The qualities of active information make the concept of an AIF richly supportive of the otherwise unexplainable connections we see between mind and matter. The AIF is non-local and thus has universal dimension and accessibility. It is virtual, and is actualized by a need for the structure or formative influence that comprises its nature. It is thus both the manifestation and the generative source of a universal interconnectedness. Its nature comprises both the creation and the application of form and meaning.
In the following, Lian Groza offers some suggestions that touch the same themes, but attempt to keep a strong link with familiar physical models:
Let's imagine that we have a fifth, non-physical field (see Bohm's quantum potential, or Sheldrake's morphogenetic field) and let's call it IF (information field). The information carried by it is, as Bohm describes, encoded in the form of the wave rather than its amplitude, hence it's independent of the field strength (distance independence).
Now, let's imagine this IF as being related to the EM field in the same way electricity and magnetism are mutually dependent: in the same way a magnetic field is created by an electric current moving inside a wire, an IF signal can be created by certain configurations (patterns) of EM waves, and vice-versa (IF signals can perturb and modify the EM-coded bioinformation of a target organism, producing a healing effect or, as the case may be, being registered as EM thought patterns in a telepathy experiment).
Another intriguing possibility is that this hypothesized EM/IF interplay may account for the target identification/specificity that such phenomena display. If one views a target's identity as being encoded by a unique EM signature, then a long-range IF signal might act as a scanner/matched filter that would first need to "resonate" with the target's EM signature before "delivering its message".(Of course, this is all highly speculative and I haven't got a clue as to what would constitute a unique EM signature for a person or location.)
In this scenario, then, the practice of yogic asanas, samadhi, etc. would serve to enhance one's ability to develop and sustain the necessary EM signal to create a coherent (resonant?) IF wave, while normal consciousness would be equivalent to a plurality of weak, non-resonant, mutually destructive IF signals.
The empirical case is good, but theoretical modeling remains weak and speculative. The best bets are quantum mechanical "entanglemant" operating in a quasi-macroscopic realm, described nicely in Dean Radin's recent book, The Entangled Mind, and "active information", a conceptual structure in David Bohm's physics.
My own "model" is that consciousness or mind is the source or seat of a nonlocal, active information field. This is not a standard, well defined physical construct, but as an operational metaphor it helps to form useful questions for the empirical research. Such fields interact, usually with random phase relationship and no detectable product. When some or many consciousness (information) fields are driven in common, or for whatever reason become coherent and resonant, they interact in phase, and create a new, highly structured information field. The REG has an informational aspect (entropy) and a completely undetermined future, and I speculate, following Bohm, that it manifests a "need for information" which allows or guides the actualization of the active information sourced in human, group, or global consciousness.
The M5 Model
A different perspective is taken by Bob Jahn and Brenda Dunne in their "Modular Model of Mind/Matter Manifestations", which looks deeply into the sources of both the physical and the experiential world. They urge a more "cogent representation of the merging of mental and material dimensions into indistinguishability at the deepest levels of their interactions." A description of the model will be published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2001. Here is a brief note on what I think is a powerfully insightful core idea that helps to think about how mind or consciousness may have effects on the physical world.
The most crucial interface in our model, that between [the unconscious and the intangible], is the least sharply defined. Indeed, if the contention of several authors regarding the indistinguishability of mental and physical phenomena at the deepest levels of these two domains is valid, there can remain no interface there at all, only a pre-distinction continuum bearing only vestigial characteristics of the Cartesian divide that forms above. We are proposing that it is this homogenized lowest layer of [the unconscious and the intangible] that provides the tunnel for anomalous passage of information from the mental side to the material side or vice versa, or perhaps more aptly, that it provides the gestation site for some embryonic "pre-information" commodity that subsequently will emerge into both tangible events and conscious experiences. Given their common origin, these events and experiences will inevitably display intrinsic correlations, and these comprise the apparent mind/matter anomalies that bemuse our conscious minds.
Models such as these are important steps toward understanding, and although they do not yet establish a complete explanation of the subtle effects of consciousness on the physical world, they can guide experiments and help to formulate better questions.
What I Think When Asked
Although I claim to be an empiricist and not much given to theoretical speculation, people ask, and it turns out that I do have some well-established opinions. Of course I have been thinking about formulating good questions in this difficult border domain of intellectual inquiry for a long time, more than 25 years. I have a collection of personal experiences like those of many people who meditate and who have surprising personal episodes of "anomalous" communication and striking runs of "luck". In addition, I've been doing hands-on research since 1980 in the company of bright and thoughtful people. I don't have any doubt about the phenomenology we're touching here, because of direct engagement in the entire process of experimental design, data collection and processing, and interpretation of results.
So I have properly educated opinions, and when Gina LoSasso asked if I would do an interview for an electronic journal published by the Mega Foundation, I agreed. The questions touch on issues of broad interest, and especially the philosophical implications of the GCP findings. Still no answers to the theoretical conundrums, but some suggestions for deeper consideration.
For someone else some time ago, I wrote a short abstract with bio that still feels about right. Here it is:
Interconnecting with everyone: Being in global consciousness
The Global Consciousness Project is an effort to capture some faint indications of a true global consciousness. The purpose of the project is to examine subtle correlations that appear to reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. Just as the biosphere is composed of all the organisms on Earth and their interactions, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin postulated that the noosphere is composed of all the interacting minds on Earth. The word refers to a transhuman consciousness emerging from our interactions to become a guiding intelligence for the earth.
Evolution starts with particles that coalesce to become atoms and then molecules and eventually complicated molecules. These become life building blocks from which smaller and then larger animals emerge and eventually you have us, self-aware animals. While that has been quite a run, it's not over. There is at least one more stage, in which we become a new organ of consciousness for the earth, evolving into something analogous to the cerebral cortex in humans. We can, and to survive, I think we must, engage in conscious evolution to decide what the future will be.
My favorite picture is that we are all already participants in a giant interaction, similar to that between the neurons in a brain. The neurons don't know anything about the mind or the questions we ask, or what consciousness is, but they participate anyway. I think we are participating already in something that is a higher level of consciousness and that for all we know, could even be conscious and self-aware already.
Consciousness has a creative, productive, generative role in the world such that what we wish for is more likely to be than if we hadn't wished for it. We have good evidence that this is true. What we envision together will manifest in the world in a subtle way. This means that we have an enormous, untapped (or at least uncontrolled) capability of changing the future. The corollary is that we also have a responsibility. So we have a capability and a responsibility for changing the world so that the future is brighter, and it depends on coalescing into a greater consciousness.
When rain falls on a mountaintop it creates rivulets that flow together and become streams. Then they wind down the mountains and join to become rivers, and the rivers eventually get to (and form) the sea. The Global Consciousness project is such a rivulet. Each of us in our way is such a rivulet, and sometimes we even feel the power of joining others. What would it be like to have most people on the earth join in a conscious intent?In the Upanishads, the ancients talk about 26,000-year cycles where consciousness wakes up and then goes to sleep, wakes up and then goes to sleep. I think this is the global consciousness idea. It is us being able to look at ourselves in a different way that allows us have insight into the ride we are taking on the universal wave of consciousness. So we can actually become doubly self-reflective. The truth is, most of the time we are asleep. But we can wake up a little bit. That is the promise of global consciousness.