The Random Number Generator as
a PsiFeedback Device
|The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Laboratory (PEAR)
laboratory of the department of Engineering of Princeton University has
been the largest single contributor to RNG research, having conducted RNG
experiments over a period of nearly 20 years now, with more than 100
subjects and millions of experimental trials. In the most basic PEAR RNG
experiments, the person sits in front of the computer screen, observing a
moving graphic line which represents the outputs of the RNG. (pear-RNG)
When the RNG produces more electronic “heads” than “tails,” the graphic
line moves upwards; with more tails than heads it moves downwards, and
with a 50-50 outcome it just advances horizontally. So, normally, we
expect the graph to fluctuate slightly, moving up and down randomly, more
or less hugging the horizontal ‘baseline’ in the middle of the screen.
The subject, of course, tries to get the line to move in the direction chosen (at random by the computer) at the beginning of the session - up (heads) or down (tails). Essentially, the person explores different mental strategies - visualization, wishing, willing, etc. - and uses the feedback display to determine which strategy seems to work best. As demonstrated by the overall PEAR results, people tend to succeed more often than expected by chance. The effects are subtle, but the RNG’s ‘coin-flips’ do tend to ‘conform’ to the individuals wishes.
Now, there are many fascinating issues and questions and theoretical implications that come out of such research; we’ll get to all that in a future column [or you can consult: Jahn, R. & Dunne, B. (1987). Margins of Reality : The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World. New York : Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich]. For now, I’d like to stress one of its most interesting practical facets. The Princeton University research offers a model for personalized, wide-scale explorations of psi: it allows anyone who has a PC to explore their own psi capacities using the feedback as a training device.
To understand what I mean, consider another feedback system: biofeedback. In biofeedback sessions, you are hooked up to a device which measures minute fluctuations in some aspect of your body’s physiology; for example, electrodes may be attached to your fingers, and measure the very subtle fluctuations in your body temperature. These tiny fluctuations are amplified by the device, and ‘fed back’ to you in the form of a graph, or a sound. For example, slight rises in temperature may translate to higher pitched sounds, while lower pitched sounds mean drops in temperature. Based on this information, you try out and compare different mental strategies -- for example, you may imagine you’re lying on the beach, toasting in the Caribbean sun, or you may imagine you’re dunking your handing in some warm water. The idea is to use the feedback signal, to see which of these mental strategies works best to get your temperature moving in the desired direction. As it turns out, after a few such sessions, people can learn a very refined form of control over these subtle aspects of their body -- which we once considered completely beyond conscious control -- and can learn to mentally cure a number of problems, such as headaches, stress-related diseases and so forth.
There are many fascinating issues and questions and theoretical implications that come out of such research; we’ll get to all that in a future section [or you can consult: Jahn, R. & Dunne, B. (1987). Margins of Reality : The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World. New York : Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich]. For now, I’d like to stress one of its most interesting practical facets. The Princeton University research offers a model for personalized, wide-scale explorations of psi: it allows anyone who has a PC to explore their own psi capacities using the feedback as a training device.
If we transpose this to psi, we can think of the RNG-computer combination as a psi-feedback device -- one which can help you learn some control over remote physical systems. The setup involves the same basic procedures as in biofeedback: a physical system displaying minute fluctuations in its output; your trial-and-error mental efforts to control that system; and feedback providing precise, instantaneous information about how you’re doing. So, theoretically, based on the feedback, you should be able to slowly discover mental strategies that bring about results in the RNG, vs. those that don’t work.
You might object, of course, that psifeedback is very different from biofeedback, as we don’t have a clue how the mind reaches over to a distant device and interacts with it. Well, that’s true. But from a practical perspective, the two procedures are not that different: no one really knows how biofeedback works either! In other words, no one knows specifically how a mere thought (for example, the mental image of lying on a beach) can induce an increase in your body’s temperature. And even if scientists did know the specific brain mechanisms or neurons implied in this process, it’s obvious that no biofeedback patient depends on that kind of information to achieve control: all they’re doing is focusing on the concrete goal -- increasing the pitch of the sound -- while experimenting with different mental techniques to achieve that goal. Similarly, in psifeedback, even if we don’t really know the ‘mechanics’ of psi, we can still discover strategies and techniques that work, given accurate feedback.
I don’t want to overstate my case here. There’s little doubt that mastering psychic abilities is not nearly as simple as mastering control over one’s own autonomic system. After all, many people have learned how to use biofeedback to reduce all kinds of physical and psychosomatic problems, but I don’t know of any masses running around controlling electronic equipment at a distance! Still, it could be that the essential problem here is that we haven’t really given it a fair try. Many people seriously pursue physiological and mental self-control over long periods of time, typically guided by some clinician or therapist who has the right equipment, and knows how to induce the right psychological conditions for learning. By contrast, up until now we have not really had serious, reliable mentors in the field of psi, nor have we put to use psifeedback equipment and techniques to help people explore and discover their own potentials. Scientists have been much too busy with pure research, looking to prove psi, and then to analyze it.
At this point, I’m convinced that the technology and the techniques are available for widespread personal explorations of psychic potentials. Putting this all together, and making it available to the public (rather than just a few isolated laboratories) is essentially what got me going on the Psi Explorer CD-ROM.
I’ve been in the field of experimental parapsychology for over two decades, so by now I have some pretty strong opinions about what it would take to put together a decent self-training package for psi. Certainly the computer-RNG combination -- or, more simply, a program using the computer’s random function -- is adequate for ‘psifeedback’: it permits people to try out different techniques and instantly evaluate their success. But in itself, this is just not enough. For one thing, you want to have at least some idea as to what we know about psi today -- for example, what favors it or antagonizes it. A good start would be to familiarize yourself with the most interesting results of modern psi research -- the best experiments, the ways people spontaneously experience psi, surveys, psi applications. This is all rather virgin territory so you can use all the accumulated knowledge and advice science can provide -- for example, suggestions as to what kinds of mental states favor psi.
At a second level comes your own experience: it’s important to be able to ‘try out’ psi conducive mental states. Research suggests that deeply relaxed states, coupled with mental imagery and positive suggestions work best for intentional psi (as well as for intuition and creativity training!) Thus, in one of the virtual spaces of the Psi Explorer CD-ROM (The Sphere) you get to explore these deep mental spaces, and get in touch with intuitive potentials.
Finally, of course, there’s the psi-feedback setup itself: tests which allow you to try out different mental techniques and which give you instantaneous feedback about how well you’re doing. You try out your psychic skills in two of the CD-ROM’s virtual spaces (the Test Room and The Gate) using both the immediate scores and the more long-term, cumulative scores to tease out the best approaches. All the tests have a game-like quality to them -- some are mysterious and Myst-like, others more bright and noisy; research shows that dry numbers and graphs are not the ideal way for training psychic capacities. Nevertheless, though dressed up as games, and meant to be fun, these are also true laboratory psi tests.
We’re just beginning to scratch the surface in the domain of our psychic potentials. But I’m convinced that some of the most interesting insights will come not so much from the specialists and the laboratories, but from the many, many individuals who explore their mental potentials on their own -- using their personal psi labs.
So, call your friends over -- psychic and otherwise -- and put them to the test!
[This article used with permission of the Psi Explorer CD-ROM]