Interview for Marie Claire, Italy
On March 13 2007, Anna Alberti, a writer at Marie Claire, the Italian Edition wrote to propose an interview.
1) Next May 20 will be the first Global Peace Meditation Day. What are you going to do at Consciousness Research Laboratory in Pinceton University on this occasion? In which way you will look at the event? What kind of data will be collected by your computers?
The Global Consciousness Project is an independent international collaboration, and it is not associated with Consciousness Research Laboratory in Princeton University.
The GCP will not be doing anything unusual on May 20. We are planning a hypothesis test as one more replication in a series of assessments of meditation events over the past 8 years, but we are not making any special preparations and are not otherwise involved in the May 20 event. It may help to describe what we do as somewhat like reading a thermometer to see what the temperature happens to be. We don't hold a match to the thermometer because our interest is in the natural condition.
For any event we examine, the procedure is the same: we specify the beginning and end times of the event and a planned analysis, then we extract the corresponding data segment and conduct that analysis. See the next answer for "What kind of data we collect".
2) Could you describe what is the Global Consciousness Project (in a very simple way)? What is its purpose? What do you hope to achieve?
The Global Consciousness Project is an international and multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists and others. We have been collecting data from a global network of random event generators since August, 1998. The network has grown to about 65 host sites around the world running custom software that reads the output of physical random number generators and records a 200-bit trial sum once every second, continuously over months and years. The data are transmitted over the internet to a server in Princeton, NJ, USA, where they are archived for later analysis. The purpose of the project is to examine subtle correlations that appear to reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world.
3) How did this study get started? We know that you looked at other meditation events over the past 8 years. Which kind of results did you find? Are there any explanations or hypothesis about that?
The GCP is the third stage in an evolution from laboratory studies using random event generators (REGs) to study the interactions of mind and matter. The second stage took the laboratory experiment into the field and focused on how group consciousness may affect its environment in subtle ways. Finally, we decided to make a permanent network collecting data continuously to look at group consciousness on a global scale.
The results show a tiny, but highly significant correlation of deviations in the data with powerfully engaging global events. The 8 year accumulation of evidence has odds against chance of about a million to one. It is too early to claim we understand this, but one speculative explanation is an interaction of "consciousness fields" that affect the world when the fields are coherent, driven by common emotions and thoughts.
4) Can you tell us what data and results have been gathered during Lady Diana's funeral?
I asked my friends and colleagues to collect REG data during that day, and analysed the combined data to see if there was any effect. The result was a non-random deviation with about 100 to 1 chance odds.
5) We read that in 1974 the rate of crimes was reduced in a very meaningfull way during Trascendental meditation meetings in four different american cities. How can you explaine this? Which kind of energy is involved?
You need to ask the TM researchers for their explanations. I can say that I reviewed their research and found it to be careful and sophisticated.
6) What motivated you to become interested in this type of research? What do you hope to achieve?
I have scientific curiosity, and I like challenges. This research at the edges of what we know about consciousness and about physics is difficult, but the potential for learning is extraodinary. Philosophers and, later, scientists have been interested in how mind and matter relate for as long as we have been thoughtful -- I'm embedded in that historical tradition.
7) Do you practice meditation?
I have done, but at the present time I only wish my self-discipline were stronger and would keep me practicing.
8) More science or meditation? What do you think the we need more of today?
I guess I have to say both. I see no need for an either/or approach.
9) Is there something you would like to measure that your instruments can't read? Do you have any intuition that science (with its instruments) cannot explain?
I'm fully occupied now with learning what we can from the work already in place. Of course there are enhancements and branches, but they require more hands, and of course, more support. We have a number of things we know will be useful to do within the project that can be done as soon as the money is available. Go to http://teilhard.global-mind.org/ and look for the "Participate" button or the "Donations" link, if you wish to help.
10) What about your colleague's reactions? Are they curious or skeptical about your studies?
My professional colleagues are positive and supportive, and some are willing to spend the time necessary to understand the research and then offer critiques. Few mainstream scientists are aware of the work, but they tend to be respectful, with a "wait and see" attitude. A few skeptics have given useful comments, but not many have said anything.