Global Consciousness Project
The Global Consciousness Project (GCP, also called the EGG Project) is a parapsychology experiment begun in 1998 as an attempt to detect possible interactions of "global consciousness" with physical systems. The project monitors a geographically distributed network of hardware random number generators in a bid to identify anomalous outputs that correlate with widespread emotional responses to sets of world events, or periods of focused attention by large numbers of people. The GCP is privately funded through the Institute of Noetic Sciences and describes itself as an international collaboration of about 100 research scientists and engineers.
Skeptics such as Robert T. Carroll, Claus Larsen, and others have questioned the methodology of the Global Consciousness Project, particularly how the data are selected and interpreted, saying the data anomalies reported by the project are the result of "pattern matching" and selection bias which ultimately fail to support a belief in psi or global consciousness. Other critics, whilst disagreeing with GCP findings, have noted that the open operation of GCP "is a testimony to the integrity and curiosity of those involved."
Roger D. Nelson developed the project as an extrapolation of two decades of experiments from the controversial Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR), which Nelson says appeared to show that electronic noise-based, random number generators (RNG or REG, random event generators) seem to be influenced by human consciousness to bring about a less-than-random sequence of data.
In an extension of the laboratory research called FieldREG, investigators examined the outputs of REGs in the field, before, during and after highly focused or coherent group events. The group events studied included psychotherapy sessions, theater presentations, religious rituals, sports competitions such as the Football World Cup, and television broadcasts like the Academy Awards.
FieldREG was extended to global dimensions in studies looking at data from 12 independent REGs in the US and Europe during a web-promoted "Gaiamind Meditation" in January 1997, and then again in September 1997 after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The results suggested it would be worthwhile to build a permanent network of continuously-running REGs. This became the EGG project or Global Consciousness Project.
Comparing the GCP to PEAR, Nelson, referring to the "field" studies with REGs done by PEAR, said the GCP used "exactly the same procedure... applied on a broader scale."
The GCP's methodology is based on the hypothesis that events which elicit widespread emotion or draw the simultaneous attention of large numbers of people may affect the output of hardware random number generators in a statistically significant way. The GCP maintains a network of hardware random number generators which are interfaced to computers at 70 locations around the world. Custom software reads the output of the random number generators and records a trial (sum of 200 bits) once every second. The data are sent to a server in Princeton, creating a database of synchronized parallel sequences of random numbers. The GCP is run as a replication experiment, essentially combining the results of many distinct tests of the hypothesis. The hypothesis is tested by calculating the extent of data fluctuations at the time of events. The procedure is specified by a three-step experimental protocol. In the first step, the event duration and the calculation algorithm are pre-specified and entered into a formal registry. In the second step, the event data are extracted from the database and a Z score, which indicates the degree of deviation from the null hypothesis, is calculated from the pre-specified algorithm. In the third step, the event Z-score is combined with the Z-scores from previous events to yield an overall result for the experiment. The GCP claims that, as of late 2009, the cumulative result of more than 300 registered events significantly supports their hypothesis.
The remote devices have been dubbed Princeton Eggs, a reference to the coinage electrogaiagram, a portmanteau of electroencephalogram and Gaia. Supporters and skeptics have referred to the aim of the GCP as being analogous to detecting "a great disturbance in The Force."
Based on an exploratory analysis of 'highly statistically significant' experimental results, the GCP has suggested changes in the level of randomness may have occurred during the September 11, 2001 attacks at the times of the plane impacts and the building collapses, and over the two days following the attacks. Moreover, the GCP has identified similar 'anomalies' in the EGG data hours and even days before the attacks; while the GCP does not claim a causal relationship, such changes—if genuine—would seem to imply either subconscious mass precognition, or backwards causality.
Independent scientists Edwin May and James Spottiswoode conducted an analysis of the data around the 11 September 2001 events and concluded there was no statistically significant change in the randomness of the GCP data during the attacks and the apparent significant deviation reported by Nelson and Radin existed only in their chosen time window. Spikes and fluctuations are to be expected in any random distribution of data, and there is no set time frame for how close a spike has to be to a given event for the GCP to say they have found a correlation. Wolcotte Smith said "A couple of additional statistical adjustments would have to be made to determine if there really was a spike in the numbers," referencing the data related to September 11, 2001. Similarly, Jeffrey D. Scargle believes unless both Bayesian and classical p-value analysis agree and both show the same anomalous effects, the kind of result GCP proposes will not be generally accepted.
In 2003, a New York Times article concluded "All things considered at this point, the stock market seems a more reliable gauge of the national—if not the global—emotional resonance."
According to The Age, Nelson concedes "the data, so far, is not solid enough for global consciousness to be said to exist at all. It is not possible, for example, to look at the data and predict with any accuracy what (if anything) the eggs may be responding to."
Robert Matthews called it "the most sophisticated attempt yet" to prove psychokinesis existed, but cited the unreliability of significant events to cause statistically significant spikes, concluding "the only conclusion to emerge from the Global Consciousness Project so far is that data without a theory is as meaningless as words without a narrative".
- Random number generation
- Simulation hypothesis
- Web Bot, a project to predict events using the 'collective unconsciousness' on the Internet.
- Bancel, P, & Nelson, R. "The GCP Event Experiment: Design, Analytical Methods, Results". Journal Scientific of Exploration (2008) Section 2 of this research article by GCP scientists provides a concise presentation of the GCP hypothesis and methodology.
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- http://www.lfr.org/lfr/csl/library/Sep1101.pdf p.2
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- Bierman, 1996; Blasband, 2000; Nelson, 1995, 1997; Nelson et al., 1996, 1998a, 1998b; Radin, 1997; Radin et al., 1996.
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- "The EGG Story". Noosphere.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
- "Ibid. p.6".
- "GCP Event registry". Retrieved 2009-10-17.
- "GCP Event summaries". Retrieved 2009-10-17.
- "Gathering of a global mind". Retrieved 2008-03-23.
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- Nelson et al. (2002). "Correlations of Continuous Random Data with Major World Events". Foundations of Physics Letters. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
- May, E.C e.a. Global Consciousness Project: An Independent Analysis of The 11 September 2001 Events
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- Scargle, Jeffrey D. Was There Evidence of Global Consciousness on September 11, 2001?
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- Shamah, David (23 December 2008). "Digital World: I have seen the future,and it's on the Web". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
- The Internet-based Global Consciousness Project Global Correlations in Random Data