Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Remote Viewing allegedly allows a viewer to use his or her clairvoyant abilities to "view", i.e. gather information on a target consisting of an object, place, person, etc., which is hidden from physical view of the viewer and typically separated from the viewer in space by some distance, and sometimes separated in time (future or past) as well. Supporters claim that the existing experimental evidence supports the validity of these techniques, and claim that Remote Viewing is a method of clairvoyance which is better suited to experimental testing.
Proponents argue that Remote Viewing is distinguished from other forms of clairvoyance in that it follows a specific experimental protocol (or some variant of it). The critical aspect common to these protocols, proponents contend, is that the viewer is blind to the target in the sense of being given no (or negligible) information regarding the target being viewed.
The credit for the concept of remote viewing, has been publicly given by McMoneagle and Swann to René Warcollier, a French chemical engineer. A series of experiments in telepathic communication were conducted in the early 20th century, where participants sought to transmit drawings using the power of the mind, to subjects who would record their impressions on paper. In the book Mind to Mind prefaced by Swann in recent printings, Warcollier describes his pioneering work in detail.
Some critics of Remote Viewing claim that it, and clairvoyance, are part of pseudoscience, while other critics simply claim that the experimental evidence is inadequate. Some critics, such as Robert T. Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary, liken remote viewing to dowsing, and accord remote viewing just as much validity as that procedure.
While proponents call the Remote Viewing technique "scientific", there is a minority acceptance among scientists for this phenomenon. Critics claim the experiments relied heavily on subjective interpretation of the results and claim that the experiments lacked repeated confirmation under rigorously controlled scientific conditions.
Most of the remote viewing literature was developed as a part of U.S.-sponsored research projects, the aim being to develop a reliable "spying system". The ability to remotely view military installations and documents would be invaluable. The official project ended in 1995 after over 20 years of effort, with disagreement still remaining about the interpretation of the results.
Under the remote viewing family of protocols, the viewer is blind to the target, i.e. is not explicitly told what the target is; rather it is specified in one of several ways. One common method is that the target is described either in writing or by a photograph or by some set of coordinates (e.g. latitude & longitude), the latter of which may be encrypted.
The description is then placed in a double-set of opaque envelopes which may be shown to the viewer or its location described to the viewer, but which the viewer is not allowed to touch or open during the viewing session. The viewer then writes down whatever information he can gather about the target, typically including drawings and gestalt impressions as well as visual details (and sometimes auditory or kinesthetic details as well). The viewing session is often administered or facilitated by a second person called the monitor.
The output of the viewing session is evaluated by a third person, the analyst or evaluator, who matches or ranks the output against a pool consisting of the actual target with some number of decoy or dummy targets. In research scenarios (experiments) the monitor and analyst are also blind to the target along with the viewer until the evaluation is complete. The viewer is typically given information about the target after the evaluation is complete, especially during training sessions.
In the opinion of most of its proponents, remote viewing is a skill that typically improves with training, and certain variations of the protocol are used during training.
Some variations on the remote viewing protocol have names or adjectives:
- Outbounder Remote Viewing has a person (the outbounder) physically present at the target site acting as a "beacon" to identify the target site. This was one of the earliest protocols used in the SRI program.
- Extended Remote Viewing (ERV) refers to the first protocol used in applications at Fort Meade.
- Coordinate (or Controlled) Remote Viewing (CRV) in which target sites were originally described in terms of geographical coordinates, later generalized to any (non-descriptive) identifying code used to identify a target to the viewer. Originally suggested by Ingo Swann and developed at SRI. This technology was the basis which allowed remote viewing to be taught to non-psychics.
- Technical Remote Viewing (TRV), which is a trademarked term of one company's offered training PSI TECH, based upon CRV, incorporating advanced tools developed in the latter years of the DIA operational unit and in the private sector
- Associative Remote Viewing (ARV) is a variant which adds a level of indirection, specifically proxy targets are associated to events in order to answer binary (yes/no) questions. Often applied to predicting future events.
A substantial amount of remote viewing procedural training literature is also claimed to be held, under trademark, copyright and patent protection, by such companies such as PSI TECH and it's subsidiary Technical Remote Viewing Univeristy . Access to this literature is restricted, as some is available on its web site for free, but much is only available for a substantial fee. There is a so called declassified remote viewing manual offered on several websites, but it was authored by Paul Smith as a tactic to win congressional funding, and even Paul does not endorse its use as appropriate training material.
In 1972, Dr. Hal Puthoff , a researcher at SRI (Stanford Research Institute), put forth a series of proposals to study quantum mechanics in life processes. His paper outlining the intended research, Toward a Quantum Theory of Life Process, was not accepted, but was circulated to a number of people involved in similar research, including Cleve Backster who was using polygraphs to study electrical processes in plants.
A local artist, Ingo Swann , happened to read the paper while visiting Backster's laboratory, and wrote back suggesting that he should instead study parapsychological effects. He described a number of such studies that he had been involved with at the City College of New York. Puthoff was interested and invited Swann to SRI for a week in 1972. Prior to the meeting Puthoff had set up test equipment below the room in which Swann demonstrated his talents, all of which recorded anomalies. As a result of this meeting, Puthoff became convinced the matter was worth additional study, and published a short report on the meetings.
A few weeks later several people from the CIA arrived. The U.S., and the CIA in particular, actively read most published research from the USSR in order to keep abreast of their developments. When they learned that the USSR had serious programs pursuing the development and application of PSI abilities, they decided to fund research to evaluate the potential threat from this direction. Puthoff's report came to their attention and they decided that SRI would be a perfect place to carry out a small research project of their own.
Puthoff then arranged a meeting between members of the CIA delegation and Swann. Small objects were placed in boxes and Swann was asked to describe them, with results that were apparently "good enough" to convince the CIA to fund the project. The result was an eight-month pilot study, the Biofield Measurements Program . Joined by another interested SRI researcher, Russell Targ , the project got underway in late 1972.
Early tests in the program were similar to those of the demonstrations for the CIA. Documents placed in envelopes or objects in boxes were "viewed" and recorded (either verbally or as a drawing), with the results being judged by a 3rd party who had previously seen neither. By the end of the series they had changed the tests to include "outbound" studies in which the viewers (at this point there were about a dozen involved on and off) were asked to describe locations around the San Francisco, California area (home to SRI).
During this period Swann suggested yet another change to the study, wherein the viewers would view a location given nothing but its geographical coordinates. Puthoff and Targ were skeptical, but developed a series of test procedures to try it out. The CIA sent back the coordinates of a site to be viewed, one in West Virginia and another in the Urals. Funding was continued for another year.
Now into the second year, the CIA decided to try to use the viewers on an operational target, the nuclear test facilities at Semipalatinsk, USSR (now Kazakhstan). The viewer, Pat Price , returned a series of drawings, including a building layout "from above", details of several of the buildings, and a drawing of what was interpreted to be a large gantry crane. The site did indeed contain a gantry crane, and further studies were suggested.
Phase II studies were more subjective, with members of the CIA "interviewing" the viewers about the Semipalatinsk site. Phase III was a longer series of additional viewings of the site, along with other studies of a more general nature. These studies had all ended by 1975.
At that point a CIA overview of the project concluded that evidence for the workings of remote viewing was shaky at best. For instance, in the original Phase I Semipalatinsk tests were generally negative, with only the gantry crane being considered close to a match. The "hit" could have been due to a successful remote viewing, or it could have been plain luck, and the problem was that there was no way to verify which was which. They decided to withdraw from further testing.
However, additional funding was soon forthcoming from both the DIA and Department of Defense, under the name Project Star Gate. During this period the nature of the studies expanded from remote viewing to just about any psychic phenomenon, including the testing of Uri Geller's abilities to bend spoons. This era continued into the 1980s with additional small-scale funding throughout this period.
Project Star Gate
A number of hints of the project's existence did become public in the 1980s however, when Joe McMoneagle claimed in public to have been employed as a "psychic spy" for some sixteen years before leaving the U.S. Army. During this time he claims to have been used to discover the location of the US embassy employees being held in Iran, while a number of other such viewers were used to locate Moammar Gadhafi and various lost military items.
It appears that throughout this period the CIA and DIA had a number of remote viewers on a contract basis under an umbrella funding agreement known as Project Star Gate. The exact details of the arrangements are somewhat unclear, as expected for a project being run by the intelligence community.
The SRI experiments resulted in a number of promising leads, but at the same time external reviews found significant problems with the testing methodology, some of them serious. Nevertheless the apparent utility of a working remote viewing system was believed to be worth the effort, so the project was moved to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in 1992, where it was hoped that better experimental controls would be in place.
SAIC ran the program until 1994, but apparently called for their own review of the work. In 1995 the program was put under review by a small panel appointed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Conflicting reports were issued by Dr. Jessica Utts, who wrote that the evidence was strong and that future research should focus on how to apply remote viewing, and Dr. Ray Hyman, who wrote that while there were statistical results achieved, it was unclear what the mechanism for this was. After this report, the decision was made to stop funding the program.
Since this time information about the program has gradually been declassified, and a number of review articles and reports have since been published.
Due to the secrecy intrinsic to espionage, it is unknown whether remote viewing is still in use or still being researched within the intelligence community. Many private individuals, companies and non-profit organizations claim to be conducting continued research on remote viewing, although not all of these independent remote viewing projects approach the subject from the perspective of performing controlled studies.
The remote viewing protocol was originally developed under a US government-sponsored program, with an eye toward intelligence-gathering applications for the CIA and military clients. Since then, the protocol has also been tested under and applied to a variety of other applications such as marine archeology (see links to reports below), criminal investigations, and commercial information gathering (industrial espionage).
Joseph McMoneagle , one of the original Project Star Gate remote viewers, wrote in his book "Remote Viewing Secrets" that the remote viewing protocol is not suitable for viewing unverifiable locations because feedback is an essential part of the training process in the remote viewing protocol.
Criticism of SRI's Methods
Criticisms of the remote viewing projects at SRI center on three primary problems: a lack of stringent controls in the experimental procedure, the failure to include negative results, and a lack of verifiable measurements.
The first issue involves the way the experiments themselves were carried out. In one of the early test series a number of random images were selected among as the targets. However it was known to all involved that the images would only be used once, thereby ensuring that the image one day would be different than the last. Critics claim that this skewed the results, because the viewer will never describe the same thing twice, as one viewer mentioned on tape.
Another issue of concern is the subjectivity of the judging procedure. A "judge" was asked to compare the descriptions or drawings to the target and decide if they were a match. Critics claim that this procedure has too much subjectivity because features of many different articles could be considered a match. Puthoff's historical overview of the project includes one such example, where the viewer drew a picture describing a domed building with a lightning rod on top, and this was considered to be a "hit" on the target image of a merry-go-round – presumably because both were round.
One of the specific results that convinced the CIA to continue funding was the description of the Semipalatinsk test site. It appears that only one description out of many produced was a match, which was considered a success. Successes in testing with rare outcomes are not of themselves problematic (lightning striking a building is a fairly rare occurrence, yet we can develop procedures to demonstrate that lightning rods do indeed protect buildings). Yet in actual attempts to apply remote viewing, it is difficult to verify when an attempt is successful.
In order to avoid such obvious problems, the judges were presented with a number of "decoy" images as well. Critics claim that the decoys were often too different from the target image, resulting in a skewing of judging results.
In response to the complaints of reviewers about these types of problems, Puthoff and Targ would change the test procedures in order to correct for them. The prior "tainted" evidence was then discarded, although it continued to be mentioned as positive in later reviews. In the Utts review of the SAIC experiments it was pointed out that the success rate for remote viewing remained statistically unchanged across such changes to the testing procedure.
The SAIC experimental procedures are not subject to most of these complaints. All data was available for review, and the test procedures themselves were considerably better designed. The most significant concerns with the SAIC experiments are the limited number of test runs, and that a single judge was used, the project's own director. This latter point is a fairly serious concern, yet further funding to address this issue was not forthcoming.
Within the parapsychology field, success rates for remote viewing experiments are viewed by some as not being as strong as reported in some other psi experiments, such as the ganzfeld experiments. The ganzfeld series developed out of Rhine's forced-choice card experiments, but with the addition of controlling the environment of the participant by audio and visual sensory deprivation.
The Utts report focused on statistical significance of the results beyond chance, and on the statistical matches between the SAIC experiments and those of other related PSI experiments. Utts wrote that the magnitude of the effect remained consistent across modifications to the experimental design, and that the magnitude of the effect corresponded to other experiments conducted elsewhere. Utts also wrote that the SRI results showed a significance of 1020 to 1. The Utts report claimed that this these two types of statistical evidence are strong evidence of remote viewing demonstrating a real ability.
Hyman's report disputed this conclusion, notably because the comparison requires results from experiments that have generally been discarded as being inaccurate. He noted a continued series of experiments that were offered up as "incontestable proof" of PSI, only to be discarded when problems with the experiment were discovered. Hyman wrote that the SAIC experiments may indeed be demonstrating a real effect, but that they must do so on their own, and he wrote that it is not clear that they are strong enough to do so.
After these reports, funding was discontinued for the project.
Names of note
- Courtney Brown, remove viewer and founder of the Farsight Institute.
- Lyn Buchanan , remote viewer.
- Ed Dames, remote viewer, associated with PSI TECH,Inc.
- Jonina Dourif, remote viewer.
- Edwin May , program member since mid-1970s and STAR GATE program director from 1986 until the close of the program.
- David Morehouse , remote viewer during Stargate program
- Joe McMoneagle , one of the early remote viewers.
- Hal Puthoff , physicist and original program director.
- Paul Smith, remote viewer credited with authoring/editing the original CRV training manual.
- Ingo Swann , artist and remote viewer, also co-developer with Puthoff & company of the original remote viewing protocol(s).
- Russell Targ , physicist and program member.
Remote Viewing Forums:
- Paranormal Forums Paranormal Forums for discussion of all Paranormal related topics including Remote Viewing
Regarding the AIR evaluations:
- Jessica Utts' report "An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning"
- Ray Hyman's (counter-)report "Evaluation of Program on Anomalous Mental Phenomena"
- Jessica Utt's response to Ray Hyman's report "Response to Ray Hyman'S Report of September 11, 1995"
- PSI TECH's Response "PSI TECH's Position On The AIR Report"
- Ed May's commentary on the AIR report "The American Institutes for Research Review of the Department of Defense's STAR GATE Program: A Commentary"
- Ray Hyman's related Skeptical Inquirer article "The Evidence for Psychic Functioning: Claims vs. Reality"
Remote Viewing Proponent links:
- "Professor Ideo" free flash based lectures on Remote Viewing History & Applications
- Skeptic's Dictionary on Remote Viewing
- International Remove Viewing Association
- PSI TECH, Inc. Technical Remote Viewing, founded in 1989 by military intelligence officers, offers remote viewing training services, articles, discussion forums, and project reports.
- Farsight Institute, non-profit research and educational remote viewing organization.
- Cognitive Sciences Laboratory is nominally the private organization that carries on the spirit of the STAR GATE program.
- Remote viewing Forum Discuss remote viewing, out-of-body experiences, and related phenomena.
- Aaron C. Donahue A professed Luciferian who claims to have updated remote viewing to a procedure he calls the Practical Acquisition of Non-Historical Data, or PAN for short. Aaron C. Donahue claims to be able to consistently access future numbers through his new procedure, and posted winning Michigan Lottery numbers on his forum for six days in a row, benefiting many locals in Michigan and shocking even more.
Of historical interest:
- History of Remote Viewing by David Morehouse, former CIA/Military Remote Viewer
- "CIA-Initiated Remote Viewing At Stanford Research Institute", by H. E. Puthoff, Ph.D, the program's Founder and first Director (1972 - 1985) presents the early history of the program, including discussion of some of the first, now declassified, results that drove early interest.
- Ingo Swann's Biomind Superpowers Web Pages contains his personal account of events leading up to his involvement with Hal Puthoff and the program at SRI. Remote Viewing -- The Real Story, found on the same site and written by Ingo, is a very detailed book about the history of Remote Viewing published free on the internet.
- The True History Of Remote Viewing - An article by PSI TECH's President Joni Dourif detailing the history of remote viewing and its entrance into the private sector - includes detailed timeline.
- http://www.firedocs.com/remoteviewing is no longer being updated but contains a number of links and documents, including a copy of the controlled remote viewing training manual.
Papers on remote viewing applied to marine archeology:
- "The Caravel Project: The Location, Description, and Reconstruction of Marine Sites Through Remote Viewing, Including Comparison With Aerial Photography, Geologic Coring, and Electronic Remote Sensing" (PDF)
- "The Discovery of An American Brig: Fieldwork Involving Applied Remote Viewing Including a Comparison With Electronic Remote Sensing" (PDF)
- "Preliminary Survey of the Eastern Harbor, Alexandria Egypt, Including a Comparison of Side Scan Sonar and Remote Viewing" (PDF)
Remote viewing data about extraterrestrial life:
Articles disputing the scientific value of Remote Viewing research:
- Did the U.S. government fund psychic research?
- Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICP) - Remote Viewing: A Skeptic's Notebook
- Search for articles on "Remote Viewing" in the Skeptical Inquirer and CSICP
- The James Randi Educational Foundation offers $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate any psychic phenomenon
- Robert Todd Carroll's Skeptic's Dictionary article on Remote Viewing
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