Somewhat surprisingly, scientists have been attempting – so far with limited but tantalizing success – to predict such black swan events. One of the better known efforts is called the Global Consciousness Project (GCP), based in Princeton, NJ. According to its mission statement, the GCP is “an international collaboration created in 1998 to study the subtle reach of human consciousness in the physical world.”  Its forecasting model relies on random event generators – called ‘Eggs’ (which operate like flipping a coin) deployed in a network of nodes in some 65 locations, from Alaska to Fiji, on all continents, and in nearly every time zone. The generators in the network use custom software that reads the output of random numbers, recording a 200-bit trial sum once every second. This process goes on for months and years. The data are transmitted over the Internet to a server in Princeton, where they are archived for later analysis. The objective “is to examine subtle correlations that appear to reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world.”

It sounds fanciful but the backers of the project insist that they’re onto something. The GCP, they say, is predicated in part on an accumulation of “technologically and scientifically sophisticated experimental work (that) has produced incontrovertible evidence for effects of consciousness on physical systems.” In their view, these findings recall the theory of the noosphere proposed by the famous French metaphysician Teilhard de Chardin. Think of the noosphere like the cloud as a repository for computer data, only instead of data it’s a collective human consciousness – “a coalescing interconnection of minds” -- and wherever it’s stored, it certainly can’t be found on any server.


But has the GCP shown any practical results? The sponsors believe that it has. On 9/11, they say, “something strange was happening to the Eggs. Not only had they registered the attacks as they actually happened, but the characteristic shift in the pattern of numbers had begun four hours before the two planes even hit the Twin Towers.” In their view, these findings indicate that the activity of the generators was signaling a shift in consciousness around the world so dramatic that it was predicting a black swan event.

Scientists at the GCP point to another instance when “the machines went wild” – on Christmas Day 2005. Twenty-four hours later, an earthquake deep beneath the Indian Ocean triggered the tsunami that convulsed Southeast Asia, killing over a quarter of a million people. Researchers at GCP insist that their methods are sufficiently rigorous to rule out “random connections.” “Our data shows clearly that the chances of getting these results by fluke are one million to one against.”

AuthorLeslie Horvitz