Prototype Global Tests
Other investigators, including Dean Radin and Dick Bierman began doing similar field experiments looking at a broad array of situations, and we set up collaborations. For example, Dean asked some colleagues to collect data during the O. J. Simpson trial, which was expected to garner attention from huge numbers of people. The combined data from several REGs showed an impressive departure from expectation at the time the verdict was announced. Other tests looked at data taken during the Oscars, with segregation of the data into periods of strong and weak interest. Again the difference was significant.
In December 1996 I met by chance two people who were organizing a global “Gaiamind Meditation”. This meeting coincided with the developing idea of attempting to register some indication of a global consciousness, making a kind of FieldREG group consciousness experiment in the large scale. The coincidence led me to arrange a collaboration with colleages who could record REG data that might show evidence of a “consciousness field” during the Gaiamind event. The composite of data from 14 independent REG systems showed a significant effect.
This work was a prelude for our attempt to register effects of the world-wide expression of compassion at Princess Diana’s funeral in September of 1997, which, coincidentally, was followed exactly a week later by the memorial ceremonies for Mother Teresa. These were prototypical “global events” for the Global Consciousness Project, in that they were the focus of a great deal of attention, and at least in the case of Princess Diana, also occasions for an unusually widespread feeling of shared compassion.
Establishing the EGG Project
In November 1997, at a meeting of professional researchers in parapsychology and psychophysiology, the various component ideas for what ultimately became the Global Consciousnes Project coalesced into a practical form. The technology was becoming available to create an Internet-based array of continuously recording REG nodes placed around the world. This would metaphorically resemble the placement of electrodes on a human head for Electroencephalogram or EEG recordings, though of course the data would not be fluctuating voltages, but randomly varying numbers. The resemblance led Greg Nelson to suggest the network could be envisioned as an “Electrogaiagram”, and we began to call it the EGG Project. We later adopted the formal name “Global Consciousness Project” but continue to use an efficient terminology based on the EGG acronym and associations.
Three kinds of random sources are used in the project. They all were developed for use in research and all are high quality sources that produce random data meeting stringent criteria. The data are difficult to distinguish from theoretical expectation in calibration runs, although as real, physical devices, they cannot be perfectly random. All use a quantum level process, either thermal noise or electron tunneling for the fundamental source of random fluctuation.
The original software architecture for the project was designed by Greg Nelson, and refined by John Walker. It was well-considered, and has served with little modification since the beginning of the project. The primary operational software consists of two parts. At each of the host sites around the world an REG (or RNG) device is attached to a computer running the “eggsh” or “egg.exe” software (for Linux and Windows, respectively). The software collects one trial consisting of 200 bits each second, and stores the sum of the bits as the raw data. The indexed sequence of trials is recorded in a daily file on the host computer. The computer is connected to the Internet, and sends a packet of data at regular intervals to a server located in Princeton, NJ, running a program called the “basket”, which writes the data as it arrives from each egg into a permanent archive. The software is open source and available for inspection.
When one of the qualified hardware random sources is combined with the project software running on an Internet-connected computer, we call the resulting unit an “Egg”, hosted by a volunteer contributor. Host computers also run a program that synchronizes their clocks to network timeservers, to keep the independent data sequences synchronized to the second. The early egg hosts were colleagues in Europe and the US. As word of the project spread, people from other parts of the world volunteered to host an egg, and we gradually built a fairly broad geographic coverage. Approximately 40 countries are represented, in most continents, and in most timezones with substantial populations.
At the heart of the research project is the archival database. The raw data are stored in a binary format with header information to identify the specific source and timing for every trial. A web-based data extract form invokes scripts to decode the archive and present the specified data for inspection or analysis in a readable format. A completely normalized and standardized version of the data can be made available for well-defined research and analysis projects.
The development and major features of the project are presented in the GCP website, which is split into two tracks. One documents the rigorous scientific work we do to ensure the quality of the data and the analyses designed to identify and assess any anomalous structure that may appear in the data. The other branch presents a complementary, aesthetic approach to the project, fostering the subjective and interpretive perspectives that we believe are also valuable in efforts to study the subtle aspects of consciousness interacting with the physical world. In addition to the descriptions, the website is presents primary analyses and summaries, as well as access to the data.
The project has been supported from the beginning by generous contributions of time and expertise as well as money to defray expenses. A long list of people are responsible but I would like especially to note the help in various forms from Greg Nelson, John Walker, Dean Radin, Paul Bethke, Richard Adams, Peter Bancel, and Rick Berger. The full list is much longer, and includes the egg hosts as well.