The Global Consciousness Project (GCP) has recently become known to the blogosphere. As discussed in this article, it’s a study undertaken by Princeton University researchers to determine the existence of a shared global human consciousness. What the researchers are now claiming, however, is that their measuring system (the proverbial “black box”) is managing to actually predict major world events before they happen, with a high degree of sensitivity but very poor specificity. Best as I can tell, this is not a hoax.
For my part, I have always believed in the existence of a shared pooled human subconscious. It fits with Jung’s treatise on the racial subconscious and helps to explain a variety of human conditions whose consistency is taken for granted, such as the commonality of cultural and artistic archetypes and the tendency for individuals in different countries to make the same discoveries simultaneously. (Newton and Liebnitz inventing calculus at the same time, for instance.) Mind you, genetic predispositions and historical overlaps can explain some of the shared archetype stuff, and a commonality of science can explain some of the simultaneous invention stuff. But I think it runs deeper than that; just not sure exactly how, though.
However, I take exception with the suggestion that this shared unconscious can be harnessed to predict the future, as the GCP analyses appear to suggest; the data are simply too flawed to make that determination. There’s something statisticians and epidemiologists call the “Texas sharpshooter fallacy” wherein a fellow shoots holes in the side of a barn and then draws a bull’s-eye around each of the bullet holes, making it appear as if he was on-target with each shot. In short, there’s an important event happening everyday somewhere in the world; it’s a simple matter to match the black box’s responses to any of these events and claim a remarkable hit rate.
As always, I could be wrong…. But I’m rarely so 😉