How the Measurement Works
To help with an understanding of the Global Consciousness project or GCP, several unfamiliar concepts need to be defined and explained. This is a scientific exploration with no precedent because the technology and methods are new. On the other hand, the instrumentation and analyses in the project are direct extensions of laboratory procedures which have been in use for decades. In the laboratory and in recently developed field applications, striking effects have been found indicating that human consciousness interacts at some level with the physical world — that what we feel and think has a small but detectable effect. Here we describe the technology in very basic terms, acknowledging those aspects which are not presently understood. The question is, how do the actual instruments work? There are really two aspects to the issue. One refers to the technical functioning, and the other asks what we can understand when we read the data? How the intsrument works physically is straightforward; how the connection with consciousness occurs is not.
Note: This page is unfinished, but is presented while
under construction to be helpful. Questions are welcome.
Random Event Generator
We begin with the easy part. The measurement relies on small changes in the behavior of an electronic device designed to produce a random output. A random event generator, or REG, as used for the GCP data collection, is essentially a high-speed electronic coin flipper. Instead of heads and tails, the REG produces + or - pulses relative to a mean value, and these pulses are converted into 1’s and 0’s, the bits that are the language of computers. The bits can be counted, and stored as samples from a well understood mathematical distribution of random numbers. The device also is often called a random number generator (RNG), which is a name given to computer programs that produce
pseudo random numbers. The REG and RNG devices used in the GCP are hardware sources of
true random events — fundamentally unpredictable 1’s and 0’s.
There are three different random event or random number generators in use in the GCP network. They are all electronic and their different sources of
white noise all depend on completely unpredictable quantum fluctuations. The PEAR REG is based on Johnson noise, the extremely low-level fluctuations in electron flow in a resistor due to thermal influences. It has a built-in logic transformation (XOR) of every other bit from 1 to 0 or vice versa, to eliminate in principle any bias of the mean output of the device. The MICROREG uses a Field-Effect Transistor (FET) for the white noise, and also has an XOR stage, in this case with a table of all bytes with equal numbers of 1 and 0. The ORION uses two diodes, each independently producing a random bitstream and in this case the two output signals are XOR’ed against each other. The Orions have no built-in protection against bias, so a computed XOR is imposed for this type in the egg software.
The Effect of Consciousness
When it comes to
what we are measuring the story becomes more complicated because there is no real understanding of the mechanism whereby an REG’s 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. We find some useful points in models based on David Bohm’s notion of active information, and we expect that the global consciousness effect is more than just casually related to nonlinear dynamical system models. 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 output of the REG differs from what would be expected without the influence of consciousness.
The data come from electronic random sources (random event generators) which produce a steady flow of unpredictable bits. The GCP data consist of a continuous stream of
trials taken by each Egg at a rate of one per second. Each trial is the equivalent of flipping 200 unbiased coins, and counting the number of heads. The software on the host computer simply records the sum of the 200 bits, or the number of
heads, and we expect that the outcome for each trial will be about 100 (there is a 50/50 chance for a bit to be 1 or 0). This is a varying quantity, of course, depending on chance fluctuations, with a bell-curve distribution. The most frequent outcome is 100, tapering off to very few trials with scores smaller than 70 or larger than 130. The distribution for large numbers of trials is very predictable, even though the variations from trial to trial are not.
The idea is that we can use the scale of those variations, in particular, unusual deviations from the expected mean value, as a measure of some aspect of
consciousness. Three decades of laboratory research have shown that conscious intention can affect the randomness of REG devices in controlled experiments. In these experiments there is a tendency for the deviations of the trial mean from its expected value to be larger than expected when people wish for or intend this to happen. In field applications, the research shows that in situations which produce a coherent
group consciousness the data may depart from expectation even without specific intentions. The GCP/EGG project’s measures are a direct extension of the laboratory and field applications of the REG technology.
field studies with REGs we have found consistent deviations from expected randomicity in data taken in situations where groups become integrated or unified by something of common interest. During deeply engaging meetings, concerts, rituals, etc., the data tend to exhibit slightly greater order than random data should, and we are able to predict this deviation with small but significant success.
The GCP Network of Eggs
The background of field studies includes a few cases where the events that apparently created an anomalous effect were thousands of miles from the REG device. This finding suggested the value of a very large scale experiment designed to look at possible effects of
global events. We began to focus on the hypothesis that the whole world might become a
group on occasions that draw the attention and engage the emotions of large numbers of people. To test for an effect of such global engagement, we designed a network of
Eggs, consisting of an REG device and sophisticated software running on a computer connected to the internet. The software functions to record continuous data from the REG and transmit it at intervals to a central server for archival storage and statistical processing. The Eggs are hosted by people all around the world, and the network has been in continuous operation since August, 1998, with a gradual increase in the number of nodes to 37 in December of 2000.
In the Global Consciousness Project, exactly the same measures are made as in the Fieldreg studies with local groups. For each of the Eggs, and for all of them as an ensemble, we predict a detectable ordering (in the form of slight, non-random meanshifts) in otherwise random data during world-scale events that are likely to engage the attention of large numbers of us around the globe. The continuous data streams registered by the Egg network have a well-defined theoretical expectation, and we simply look at the empirical statistics to see whether the data support our predictions of departures from expectation that are correlated with the events. Just as in the field studies, the statistical evidence reveals that something unusual happens to the data just at the times we predict; not always, but so frequently that the odds against a chance explanation are more than a thousand to one.
Anomalous Effects of Consciousness
The best way to describe the anomalous effects we see in the data is as a correlation that comes to exist between the devices spread around the world — just during major events, defined in terms of the widespread attention and emotion the produce. That is, there are departures from expectation when human consciousness is powerfully engaged. The devices are designed to be independent, and they are separated by hundreds or thousands of kilometers, and yet we see the correlations — that is anomalous, and it is linked with consciousness. The implication is that we are not isolated from each other as seems to be the case, but linked in a subtle, unconscious and inaccessible way. Learning more about that, and tapping into the potential of our interconnection is the next phase of human development. We are at the beginning, and ready to move forward.
For a more technical and rigorous discussion of the anomalous effects, you can download papers from our publications page. The two most recent are Effects of Mass Consciousness, and The GCP Event Experiment.
Why should there be any effect of a world-wide New Years celebration, or a billion people watching a funeral ceremony, or the beginning of a war, on such REG devices located around the world? Although it must be recognized as a metaphor, it may be helpful to envision a
consciousness field. Picture a faint radiance of information extending out indefinitely from each mind, with a wavelike interpenetration creating tenuous interference patterns that differ depending on our intentions and our degree of engagement. Again, we are speaking of a metaphor, not an actual physical energy that we can directly measure, but something like a consciousness field carrying information, which may be responsible for the anomalous effects in
field studies with REGs.
In the GCP, exactly the same procedure is applied on a broader scale. We predict a detectable ordering in otherwise random data during world-scale events that are likely to engage the attention of large numbers of people around the globe. The prediction is tested by looking for slight, anomalous meanshifts in either direction, that is, changes in the variability of the data. The statistics for the continuous data streams registered by the EGG network have well-defined expectations based on theory and calibrations. We simply compare the empirical data with this background to see whether our hypothesis is supported. Simply put, we predict differences from expectation which are correlated with certain global events. If there is any effect of global consciousness on our detectors, we look for it to be concentrated during those special times when humanity experiences broadly shared interests, feelings, and reactions.
See also: Theory and Speculation, FAQ and Links.