Here, There and Everywhere

Ever take an online test? Perhaps you took an IQ test online; or a college final; or maybe you completed an anonymous Management Evaluation survey from Human Resources, only to discover a week later Security escorting your epithet-spouting, now-former supervisor and his belongings from the building?

Well, how about a test to retroactively predict a random number or event?

Ok, let’s say you have been handed a sealed envelope and told not to open it for two weeks. You are then asked to choose a number between one and fifty. For the sake of speeding this along, you choose the number ‘28.’ You both then record the number for posterity. Two weeks later you receive a phone call asking you to open the envelope. Inside you find a slip of paper with the number ‘28’ neatly written on it.

“Co-inky-dink,” you say. “Coincidence? Let’s try it again,” replies the caller, who then admonishes you to grow up. So, the experiment is performed again with a new envelope and a new number, but the results are the same. The experiment is retried again and again, and each time the number you randomly selected is, two weeks later, found to be the same number in the envelope. At some point you give in, as the weeks have turned to months now and you still have laundry to do. Something very strange indeed is going on.

This effect is the result of something known as retropsychokinesis or RPK, a phenomenon that lends credence to the notion that all times exist at once. This is not the meanderings of some Eastern mystic, but more like the idea in quantum mechanics that says a particle can exist in a thousand places at once – which sounds great if you habitually lose your keys. Here, the idea is that events in the past and in the future co-exist simultaneously, as opposed to time being an endless series of linear moments.

Retropsychokinesis

Retropsychokinesis has nothing to do with clothing worn in the late-1960’s, or the counterculture from that Age of Aquarius. Rather, it lies within the dubious realm of parapsychology, and is a close cousin to the more generally well-known psychokinesis, which has been studied extensively since the 1930’s when Dr. J.B. Rhine of Duke University began systematically testing claims that seemingly random events such as dice and coin throws were subject to subtle psychic influences. Whereas psychokinesis is the ability to create movement or to affect objects at a distance through the force of one’s will, retropsychokinesis is the ability to affect an event that has already happened.

Mainstream physics does not allow for such an effect, yet serious research into retropsychokinesis conducted by different researchers over the last two decades offers compelling evidence that the probability of their results being purely due to chance is somewhere in the order of one in 630 thousand million – fairly low odds by most standards.

The Experiment

The RetroPsychoKinesis Project, founded by Matthew R. Watkins of the School of Classics, Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury in the U.K. is one of several institutions studying the phenomenon. Using the personal computer, researchers intend to measure the claimed ability of certain subjects to alter random data generated, but not examined, prior to the time the data are presented to the subject on their monitor.

The original design of the experiment was changed due to the surfacing of “Decision Augmentation Theory” or DAT, which argues, “although the phenomenon undoubtedly involves the flow of information from [the] future to [the] past, statistical analysis suggests that it is a form of precognition and does not involve any sort of influence.” Well, the designers couldn’t have that, so they redesigned their model to account for this postulation. The paradigm now reads:

• The first subject, known as the skeptic, is emailed a randomly generated file, ‘Z,’ with instructions to copy it onto removable media, such as a thumb drive, and leave it unobserved until further notice.
• The skeptic should then remove the media from her/his machine and put it somewhere secure.
• The skeptic will then be asked to select a simple “message” to be “encoded” into this file and email the message to the Project.
• The Project then forwards this message, along with a copy of the skeptic’s ‘Z’ file, to a subject who has shown significant RPK abilities in past experiments, with instructions to encode the message into the file.
• On completing this task, the subject contacts the Project, who then instruct the skeptic to look at the contents of file ‘Z’ that have been safely held on removable media for the duration of the experiment.

If the experiment is successful, the skeptic will find the message that she/he chose already on the removable media.

Sounds simple enough, and it seems to demonstrate the rigid controls necessary for this type of experiment. And if the skeptic is somewhat less than honest and sneaks a peak at the removable media, a simple scan of the media contents can either validate the skeptics honesty, or suspend her/his television privileges.

For researchers of this ilk, the Internet seems like a godsend. But Helmut Schmidt, Dr. Rhine’s successor, cautions about its use in parapsychological (psi) experiments, stating that the key to getting results in these experiments may be to “maintain some semblance of personal contact between subject and experimenter.” Charles Tart, well-known consciousness researcher from the University of California at Davis, has suggested that “there is an important experimenter effect in all psi research; some people have the ‘magic touch’ and regularly get results, others don’t and we have little idea as to why.”

It couldn’t be that some experimenters are winking and nodding at their subjects, could it?

Philosophical Implications

The existence of this effect – if in fact it does exist – raises some very interesting questions concerning the nature of time, the relationship between consciousness and physical reality, the concepts of causality and randomness and the idea of “will.” Some have suggested that parallel universes play a role in the RPK phenomenon. Even the supposedly random nature of genetic mutation that is axiomatic to Darwin’s theory of evolution would need to be reconsidered.

More profoundly, the very idea of “similar” measurable events, essential to all theories of probability and statistics distribution, may need serious reevaluation. For if the phenomenon is real, it suggests that simply exerting one’s will can alter these distributions.

Hmm, perhaps it is possible to win at the craps table after all.

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