Acceleration of Knowledge

February 29, 1986

Throughout history we hairless primates have been jumping higher, living longer, and getting smarter every century. From Thai stir-fry to Roman roads, knowledge doubled faster as it drifted West—till now it jumps each year! Space migration? Check. Intelligence increase through yoga, drugs, or machines? You bet. Genetic tinkering? It’s coming. And indefinite lifespans? We’re on the yellow brick road to divinity, to roam the stars forever, to boldly go where no ape has gone before. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. Keep hope alive and party on!



There’s an old Jewish story about a man who liked to play the violin. He had this habit, though—he kept playing the same note over and over. It amused him. Perhaps it gave him a deep ecstasy. But that was his shtick: he played the same note over and over. After several years, his wife finally got to the point where even her wifely patience was exhausted and she said to him, “Max! Max! For god’s sake, Max, other men who play the violin, they don’t always play the same part of the string. They play up and down the string, and they play on all the strings. And they make melodies, and they make counterpoint, they make sonatas, they make forms. Not the same note over and over.” And Max looked up from playing his one note and he said, “They’re looking for the place. I found it.”


I thought of Max last night in Boulder. Last night I had the wonderful compliment of having people marching around the church where I was speaking, protesting against me. It’s a wonderful feeling to think you’re important enough that people will protest against you. I took the leaflet they were giving out, and they claimed that I was a servant of Satan—and that’s a high compliment, too. I mean, that gives you a certain glamorous aura. Don’t you feel you’re getting your money’s worth if you think that maybe you’ve got an agent of the devil who came here just to deceive you? I haven’t felt so good since Mae Brussell—any of you heard of Mae Brussell, or is she strictly a California…? Ah, somebody’s heard of Mae Brussell. She’s the world’s leading authority on conspiracies. And she wrote in Conspiracy Digest that I was an agent of the Rockefeller conspiracy. That’s not quite as good as being an agent of the devil, but it’s pretty good. I wrote in right away to the next issue confessing that it was true and my cellar is full of bars of Rockefeller gold stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I thought that would improve my credit rating. Actually, neither Satan nor the Rockefellers have been very eager to recruit me, and so I’m still pretty much on my own—as far as I know. The CIA has a term, “useful idiot.” Now, that describes somebody who’s working for them and doesn’t know it. And I find it a very useful yoga to stop at least once a day and ask: “Am I a useful idiot?” You never know.


Max, with his one note, reminded me of those chaps protesting in Boulder because they have one explanation of the universe, and it’s the final explanation, and it satisfies them. I call such types Johnny One Note types, after Max and his one note and after the song Johnny One Note, recorded by Judy Garland some years ago. There are many one note theories around. There’s the Marxist theory, which holds that the whole universe was explained when Marx published the last volume of Das Kapital in 1892. There’s the objectivist theory, which holds that everything was explained when Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged in the early 1950s. And then there’s the fundamentalist theory that everything was explained when the King James translation of the Bible was finished. What I am offering tonight is a slightly different perspective, which holds that nothing has been explained yet in full, and that our picture of the universe is constantly changing.


Thailand is responsible for two of the major contributions to civilization. Everybody in an audience like this will know that the first is Thai sticks—I know what kind of audience turns up for my lectures!—and the other was bronze. Thailand happens to be rich in copper and tin, and so they were naturally the people who first smelted copper and tin and produced bronze, and thereby they created the Bronze Age. And what we mockingly or despairingly or satirically refer to as “civilization”—or, as women’s liberationists call it, “patriarchal civilization”—the Thais, after they invented bronze, they also invented the lateen sail and the broad-ribbed ship, and they started sailing all over the Pacific, and across the Indian Ocean, and eventually they brought the Bronze Age to the Middle East. And curiously enough, you’ll find although there’s no clear picture of how this migrated from Thailand, across the Indian Ocean, and then jumped, you find—on the western coast of Africa—you find the Berber people lateen sails just like the one the Thais have been using for the last 6,000 years. And you’ll find those lateen sails used on ships along the Gaelic-speaking area of western Spain and in Breton France, and in western Ireland also, and Connemara, and Clare, and the other western counties of Ireland. Which may explain what William Butler Yeats meant when he said Ireland was part of Asia until the Battle of the Boyne. Then again, sometimes it’s impossible to explain what Yeats meant by anything.


But the spread westward from Thailand of Bronze Age culture is what Alvin Toffler calls the first wave. The Bronze Age culture was based on large-scale agricultural civilization, usually with a god-king at the top. The god-king was identified with the sun in most cases. And we find this pattern of large-scale agricultural civilization with a god-king at the top spread pretty rapidly across the world. From the time the Thais discovered bronze up until about the eighteenth century it was still spreading into other areas of the world. Then came the Industrial Revolution, which is what Toffler calls the second wave. But before I get to that, considering the spread of the first wave, Bronze Age civilization, large-scale agriculture across the world, by 1 AD, the center of this whole process was Rome. That is to say, Rome was the center and that Rome was the biggest empire of all the empires that had grown up from the beginning of the Bronze Age until 1 AD. There had never been an empire of that size up until that date. The Roman roads went damn near everywhere, and all the knowledge of the world found its way back to Rome and was processed there, and then was transferred elsewhere were it was useful to the Roman empire. So Rome was both the mercantile and intellectual center of the world in 1 AD.


And this brings us to the beginning of what I call the jumping Jesus phenomenon. Georges Anderla, a French statistician and economist, did an analysis using information theory of how many scientific facts were known at each period of history and tried to find a pattern in it. He took all the knowledge possessed by the Roman empire in 1 AD and took that as his fundamental unit, and asked how long it took that to double. To make this more vivid and to popularize Anderla’s work, I have called that unit one Jesus, because generally, in science, a basic unit is named after a famous individual—like the volt is named after Volta, the farad is named after Faraday, the ohm is named after Ohm, and so on, and so I call all the knowledge that the human race had accumulated until 1 AD (most of which was being processed through Rome) one Jesus.


Now, how long did it take that to double? It took 1,500 years to double according to Anderla. And by 1500 AD we had two Jesus’ of knowledge in the human intellectual order. At this point, the center had shifted from Rome to northern Italy, to the large banking families like the Medicis, and was centered around places like Florence, and the world had changed quite a bit. Starting from Thailand and moving gradually west to Rome, and north to India and China, knowledge of what the world is made of had gotten as far as knowledge of nine chemical elements. The curious thing is, they didn’t even know they knew nine chemical elements. They knew these elements, but they didn’t know they were elements. They thought there were only four elements. By 1500 AD, they knew about eleven elements, but they still didn’t know they were elements and they were still thinking in terms of four elements.


The pattern of movement of knowledge and wealth from east to west was still continuing. The next doubling occurred by 1750. That only took 250 years. The first doubling took 1,500 years, the second doubling took 250 years. We had four Jesus’ in our intellectual storage by 1750 AD. And by then there was no doubt the intellectual and mercantile center of the world was England—London, specifically, and also the universities of London and Edinburgh, and Trinity College Dublin, and the universities around the British Isles. That’s where all the knowledge was being processed. Everything eventually arrived there, wherever it was being discovered. Most of the discoveries were being made there. The steam engine came out of the British Isles, most of the new elements discovered between 1500 and 1750 were discovered in the British Isles, with a small smattering discovered in Finland and France and so on. Hardly any chemical elements were discovered in southern Europe after 1500 due to the activities of the holy inquisition, I believe. By 1750, the center of knowledge and power had moved to London, and England was a much bigger empire than Rome ever was. England was the first empire in history of which it could literally be said—as it was said—that on this empire the sun never sets.


And knowledge—having doubled in 250 years where previously it had taken 1,500 years to double—after 1750 there came the great upsurge of interest in the doubling of knowledge, the accumulation of knowledge, and the possibility of change. Up until 1750, hardly anybody had thought of change at all except Heraclitus, who said everything flows and you can’t step in the same river twice, and a few other nomic aphorisms like that. But after 1750 there’s a great deal of speculation about the possibilities of change. There was so much speculation about the possibilities of change that change started happening rapidly. Shortly after 1750, there was the American Revolution, followed by the French Revolution, followed by the first Mexican Revolution, followed by the Bolivar Revolutions all over South America, followed by the uprising of the United Irishmen in 1798. And the spirit of revolution was definitely in the air all over the western world. And while these political revolutions were occurring and monarchy was in the process of beginning to collapse, another revolution was happening: the Industrial Revolution ushered in by James Watts’ steam engine, which he created in 1765. A few years after that, Lavoisier discovered the correct definition of an element and scientists got their thoughts clarified. They realized there weren’t four elements but many, and they had a total knowledge of nineteen elements at that point.


By 1900, knowledge had doubled again. This time it only took 150 years. The first doubling took 1,500 years to bring us to two Jesus, the second doubling took 250 years to bring us to four Jesus, the next doubling took 150 years to take us to eight Jesus. And the next doubling only took 50 years, and by 1950 we had 16 Jesus. So, you see, the process was accelerating. Meanwhile, between 1750 and 1900, the tendency was, as knowledge doubled, for the center of knowledge and power to continue to move westward. In 1890, Brooks Adams, one of the first futurists, one of the first philosophers to attempt to think about the future scientifically, noted this westward movement of capital throughout history. He didn’t know about Thailand and the Bronze Age and that, but he noticed that capital from Babylon on had been moving westward: from Babylon to Egypt, to Greece, to Rome, and up to London, and so on. And he perceived, in 1892, just before the next doubling ended in 1900, he perceived that knowledge and power were gradually migrating from London to New York and Boston, and he saw an American empire grow up to replace the English empire—which indeed has happened since then. He saw the shift of capital moving from London to New York, as indeed happened between 1900 and 1950. The British empire had pretty much collapsed by 1950, and the American empire was already in rambunctious existence all over the planet, just as Brooks Adams predicted.


Now, the pattern is, to make it a little clearer: the first doubling took 1,500 years to bring us to 2 Jesus. The second doubling took 250 years to bring us to 4 Jesus. The next doubling took 150 years to bring us to 8. The next doubling took 50 years to bring us to 16. The next doubling took 10 to bring us to 32. The next doubling took 7 years to bring us to 64—that was in 1967. And the next doubling only took 6 years, and by 1973 we had 128 Jesus. So this is a very rapidly jumping function, which is why I call it the jumping Jesus phenomenon. There hasn’t been any really detailed study since Anderla to show how fast knowledge has been doubling since then, but it’s obvious that, if you study the number of patents granted per year, the number of scientific papers published per year, that knowledge is doubling even faster. And with microprocessors and networking and so on it’s doubling so rapidly that some have guessed that it’s doubling every year now. This has never happened before in history, but we’ve been building up to this all along.


To look, again, at Toffler’s model: first there was the spread of agricultural civilization with god-kings on top, which took millenniums to spread across the world from Thailand. And before it had entirely covered the world by 1750, the Industrial Revolution was starting, and that just about spread all the way across the world in only hundreds of years instead of thousands of years. And that was pretty much complete—although it hadn’t reached the whole world, but it’d reached most of the world by 1950. And then, during the next doubling between 1950 and 1960, the Industrial Revolution began to be replaced by what Toffler calls the third wave, which is information civilization, which is what we’re living in now. Now, in the 1980s, it’s getting more and more commonplace to say that we’re living in an information technology rather than a power technology. So we’ve gone from the agricultural revolution (which took millenniums) to the Industrial Revolution (which took centuries) to the information revolution (which is taking place in decades). So there is a definite acceleration in history.


If you look back to earlier stages, you find that it took about 30,000 years to get from the appearance of Homo sapiens to the beginning of the Bronze Age in Thailand. And if you look back to our prototypes or progenitors, you find from the first hominid type creatures in South Africa, the Australopithecenes, took 5 million years to get from the first Australopithecenes to Homo sapiens, and it took 30,000 years to get from Homo sapiens to the Bronze Age, and only a couple of thousand years to get from that to the Industrial Revolution, and only a couple hundred years to get from that to the Information Revolution. Well, if you look at it on a bigger scale, it took approximately four billion years for evolution to get to the point where we had a Bronze Age, and then an Industrial Revolution, and now the computer revolution. If you put all this on a clock, if you take history on this planet as starting at midnight, and you assume the life of the planet is 15 billion years, which is the estimated life of a G-type star, then it is now eight o’clock in the morning and it’s time for us to wake up. Because we’ve pretty much been operating on autopilot up until now. And there are signs of planetary awakening. Domesticated primate psychology remains pretty much the same as it was in the paleolithic, but one sees increasing evidences of mutations.


While civilization has been moving gradually westward and knowledge has been doubling, there have always been conflicts between the more westernmost part that’s rising and the more easterly part which has reached its peak and is ready to decline. This is the usual pattern of the great wars throughout history: they have been between a rising western power and a declining eastern power. And, as a matter of fact, you find this on a mini scale too if you look within American history. The big struggle at the end of the nineteenth century, that involved the western states versus the eastern states, was about free coinage of silver. Did they teach anything about that in universities at all these days? The free silver movement was based on the fact that a lot of silver was found in Colorado, and I think some in New Mexico and a few other states around here, and a lot of the westerners got the idea if we could have free coinage of silver, then we wouldn’t have to borrow from the eastern banks. We could have a silver-based currency, and then we wouldn’t be paying such enormous interest. And so there was a big movement for the free coinage of silver, and the eastern bankers objected to this on the grounds that they wanted to collect the maximum amount of interest, and the only way they could do that is if the currency was based on one metal only—on gold. And they maintained their monopoly on gold. That’s how William Jennings Bryan got to make that famous speech of which everybody, however little they know about nineteenth century history, they’ve heard the closing line of it: “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” You’ve all heard that? He was referring to the gold standard, and the western desire to have a double standard including silver.


That conflict between the western and the eastern United States has accelerated during the twentieth century, and it’s the subject of Carl Oglesby’s book The Yankee and Cowboy War, which traces the conflict between western and eastern interests throughout the twentieth century and applies it to some of the mysterious questions of the twentieth century, such as the Kennedy assassination, in which, under very mysterious circumstances, a representative of the eastern banking powers was abruptly replaced by a representative of the Texan oil interests. Of the ignominious defeat of Richard Nixon after winning the most overwhelming landslide victory in American history until that date in 1972. Within a year and a half, Nixon was out of office in disgrace. Oglesby suggests that this was the Yankee revenge. Nixon was very much a cowboy candidate representing specifically California wealth, and the Yankees decided to dump him. So every single crime Nixon committed became public knowledge. There’s generally a tacit agreement among the powers that be if you don’t expose me, I won’t expose you. But suddenly everybody was eager to leak to the press everything they had on Nixon. And he was pretty thoroughly disgraced and demolished.


This Yankee and cowboy war is probably gradually being replaced as the two forces are going to be driven to combine against the rising threat that’s coming from Japan once again. The last time the threat came from Japan it came in military form. Then the Japanese wrote pacifism in their constitution, and now they represent an economic threat. And there’s this rising anxiety about Japanese efficiency and technology, and why do they do things so much cheaper and quicker and so on. And, in fact, every part of the computer field in which the United States doesn’t lead, the Japanese do lead already, and in some parts the Japanese are leading more and more, and it looks like where America is in the lead, the Japanese are catching up. So it seems this west-to-east thing has gone all the way around the globe in the last 5,000 years since the Bronze Age began.


It’s not only gone all around the globe, but has more and more feedback incorporated into it. By the time the center of power had moved from Thailand to Rome, most of the knowledge from Rome wasn’t getting back to Thailand, let’s say. Or some of it was getting back to China by way of the Silk Road, which went from Rome to north India, and from north India to China, which explains a lot of the similarities between mystical traditions in China and gnosticism in Rome. They were both being passed back and forth through northern India. But a lot of the Roman knowledge wasn’t getting back to Thailand, and by the time of the rise of the great Italian city-states around 1500, the Renaissance, that knowledge was not getting back as far as the near east even.


But as these processes accelerated, the more knowledge that’s accumulated in one place, the faster it gets around the whole world. Like TV. When I started high school there were no TV sets outside of laboratories. By the time I graduated from high school you couldn’t look over any American city without seeing a sea of TV aerials. A whole revolution had occurred in just four years. Something similar has been happening with computers in this decade, and they’ve spread across the whole country with tremendous rapidity. Meanwhile, knowledge—wherever it’s discovered—is traveling over the whole world faster and faster. So the movement of knowledge and power from east to west over the last several thousand years has now become an oscillation in which the knowledge is circling the globe faster and faster very palpably and physically in the form of the satellites up there, which are circling the globe and serving as the communication network of the emerging global brain.


The average mammal is not a caribou. Caribous migrate over thousands of miles every year, but the average mammal looks more like a mouse or a hedgehog. Most mammals are quite small. They live less than ten years and they never travel more than ten miles from the place where they’re born. Most mice never get more than a few miles from where they’re born, most squirrels never go more than a few miles from where they’re born. Most human beings throughout history have lived about thirty years and have never gotten more than ten miles from where they were born. There have always been exceptions. There are Phoenician carvings in Virginia, there’s a record of a Chinese philosopher who visited Athens at the time of Plato, there are those lateen sails that found their way from Thailand to western Ireland. But, by and large, most human beings throughout history haven’t got any further than ten miles from where they were born, and they haven’t lived more than thirty years.


At the time of the French Revolution, average life expectancy in Europe was 27 years. When Engels wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in the middle of the nineteenth century, life expectancy among the working class was still under 40 years. It was 37.5 years. By 1900, life expectancy for the middle classes in the United States was 50 years. It was still lower than that for the working classes. The latest estimate is that, in the western democracies—for all classes, due to welfare and the Dole and social security and so on—for all classes it has averaged out to 72.5 years. So we have been traveling further and further throughout history, and lifespan has been getting longer and longer just as knowledge has been doubling more and more.


The general pattern that emerges as one contemplates this structure in history is the pattern that Timothy Leary, with his great skill for Madison Avenue techniques, has put into the slogan SMI²LE. That means “Space Migration and Intelligence Increase and Life Extension.” We have been traveling further and further, now we’re going into space. So space migration is the obvious next step. And a recent poll in Europe showed that 90% of the children in grammar school in Europe expect to go into space when they grow up. A similar poll in the United States would get the same result. I read recently that there isn’t a single hour of the day of the 24 hours in which there aren’t people looking at Star Trek somewhere on this planet. All you have to do is say, “Beam me down, Scotty,” no matter where you are, and everybody knows what you’re referring to. All you have to do is make this gesture and people say, “Live long and prosper” in whatever language they’re speaking.


A large part of our communication technology is already in space, and the obvious next step is to put our industrial technology into space. For one thing, as Bucky Fuller pointed out, the nearest naturally occurring nuclear engine to us is 93 million miles away. That may give us a rough idea of nature’s system of organizing things. Nuclear energy should be 93 million miles from human beings. So the obvious thing is to put the nuclear plants into space around 93 million miles away. But a great deal of other technology can very profitably be moved into outer space. Robert Heinlein was the first one to suggest putting nuclear plants into space. That was back in the 1940s in a science fiction story called Blowups Happen, which is based on Murphy’s Law—blowups happen, so get them the hell away from us. Gerard O’Neill in the 1960s had his class at Princeton consider the question for the first time in terrestrial history: is the surface of a planet the best place for an advanced technology? And once the question was raised, the students began examining it. And they all came to the same agreement: the more you examine it, the more obvious it is that an advanced technology does not belong on the surface of a planet. It is much more profitable to put it into outer space, and it is much safer to put it into outer space, too. G. Harry Stine of NASA has calculated that there are 10100 industrial processes that can be done cheaper in outer space.


So the communication satellites are out there now because they were the easiest things to put up and the quickest to make a profit. But the rest of technology is going to go into outer space too because it’s much cheaper to do things out there. You have very high-grade vacuum, and you can have any degree of gravity you want depending on how you build your space station. You build a space station to spin in a proper way, you can have normal Earth gravity out at the perimeter, and you can have zero gravity in the middle, and different degrees of gravity in between. And you can do all sorts of processes you can’t do in a gravity well like the Earth, and you can do most processes cheaper and more efficiently. 10100 industrial processes can be done cheaper and more efficiently in space. So technology is migrating into space, and people will be migrating along with it. First technologists, and then teachers—because there’s going to have to be schools for the technologist’s children—and then hospitals, and then doctors and nurses, and then entertainment will move out into space. I hope to be the first writer in residence on the L5 space colony.


As for intelligence increase—throughout history there’s been this general impression that stupidity was an incurable problem. Voltaire sort of summarized all thinking up until his time when he said that the only way to get an inkling of what mathematicians mean by “infinity” is to consider the extent of human stupidity. But that’s because he was considering religious history. If you look at political history you find that the stupidity doesn’t tend to be quite so long-lasting. The general pattern is: religious stupidity exists for millennia, political stupidity exists for centuries, scientific stupidity exists only for generations before it gets cured. So there are different ratios of recovering from stupidity depending on what method you’re using. The theological method sort of guarantees that you can remain stupid indefinitely until a major calamity forces a change. The political method allows you to remain stupid for many generations until you’ve antagonized enough of the world that they come in and sack your cities. And scientific stupidity only lasts until a generation is born bright enough to start asking basic questions again and not just following what the teacher tells them.


The possibility of changing consciousness was discovered in the Orient 2,500 years ago—at least; probably it’s older than that—but techniques were discovered to quiet the mind, pacify the mind, remove emotional compulsions, and these were organized into the science of yoga. As John Lilly says: yoga is the science of the east as science is the yoga of the west. Science is a yoga too. Science is a way of trying to reach an objective level in which your emotional compulsions and prejudices aren’t twisting all the facts to fit in with your favorite reality tunnel. Science and yoga have a lot in common. The scientific worldview grew up in the west between 1500 and 1750 largely due to mystics who were known as hermeticists, and one of the key figures of that period was Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600 for, among other things, teaching the Copernican theory that the Earth was not the center of the universe, but also on charges that he had organized secret societies to conspire to overthrow the Catholic church. And there is some evidence that the secret societies Bruno founded are what have come down to us through various dilutions as Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry.


This hermetic scientific revolution between 1500 and 1750 saw theology as its enemy. And there was no conflict between hermeticism and science. They were both based on experiment—“find out what happens if you do this”—and they were both opposed to the authority of the church. Shortly after 1600, this began to split and the hermetic tradition faded into the background, and we developed for the first time in history a science that had absolutely no connection with anything except pure reason. The hermetic tradition was that there is no such thing as pure reason, you’ve got to first work on your own perceiving apparatus to correct your prejudices, and the scientist is not separate from what the scientist observes, and the general yogic attitude that you are the master who makes the grass green. Western science lost that insight, and from Newton onwards we had the idea that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you follow scientific procedure you’ll find the truth. This began to break down after 1900 due to Sigmund Freud—who pointed out that even scientists are human beings and may have neuroses, and that scientific theories may be elaborate rationalizations for neuroses—and the influence of Karl Marx, who pointed out that no matter what you’re theorizing about, it’s a mirror of your economic status and what your economic goals are. And then anthropology started coming back with reports about alternative reality tunnels, showing that no matter what reality tunnel you live in, the world will organize itself in your perceptions to be compatible with that reality tunnel. So science began to have data to look at science itself critically.


This is what I think really means. I don’t think Leary understands the full meaning of this symbol he created. means “intelligence looking at intelligence.” That’s how intelligence increases: when intelligence looks at intelligence and criticizes intelligence. And so, due to psychoanalysis and anthropology and Marxism and various other shocks, we got to the point where we could look at science and say: science is the product of people. People are doing this and their prejudices are getting into it. And it’s not just enough to say, “I will be objective,” you’ve got to learn to change yourself from the inside out before you can even begin to approximate toward objectivity.


How do you do that? Well, that was a hard one, and it took a while to begin to find answers to that. Wilhelm Reich pointed out that scientists can be so armored that they literally will not perceive what’s in front of them, like used as a motto in several of his books: what is hardest of all? That which seems easiest of all: to see what is in front of your nose. The big change overcame when Albert Hofmann went for a bicycle ride one day after experimenting with ergot derivatives. Ah, I see there’s some people who recognize Saint Albert’s name! Albert Hofmann, after accidentally ingesting LSD, went through a profound experience in 1942 which he did not put into words until 1982. It took him 40 years. Well, he was educated as a classical chemist with a classical scientific background, and assumed that there was such a thing as an objective observer and so on. So it took him 40 years to figure out what LSD meant. In 1982 he wrote an essay on the 40th anniversary of the discovery of LSD in which he says: “The main thing I’ve learned from LSD is that there is no objective reality separate from us. All there are are the realities that our nervous systems construct out of the signals they receive.”


This became obvious to others due to the things that were happening in quantum physics from 1900 on. In the doubling of knowledge between 1900 and 1950, physicists discovered that the atomic world is just not describable in terms of Aristotelian logic. For one thing, you can’t describe anything on the quantum level accurately unless you include the observer in your picture. So quantum physics turned out to be saying exactly the same thing that the psychedelic revolution was saying: that there is no objective reality separate from us, all we know is the reality that we are co-creators of; the reality perceived, conceived, created, put together by our nervous systems. At this point it becomes obvious that intelligence can be raised, consciousness can be altered, nothing is static. All we’ve got to do is learn how to change our nervous systems, and we can go to wider and wider reality tunnels and bigger and bigger levels of perception and so on. And so there was a great deal of drug research, and a lot of people who were getting a lot of radical ideas, and so the government made it illegal—which is the natural thing to do if you’re a politician; the last thing you want is intelligence increase.


So then some others started saying: well, okay, they won’t let us investigate drugs. But now that we know it’s possible to change consciousness, let’s see the other techniques that they will let us investigate. So they started investigating yoga with scientific equipment and discovering what goes on in the various yogic states. And pretty soon they know which type of brain waves are associated with which type of consciousness. And then the next step is to figure out how to change the brain waves. And so we had biofeedback. And then you could accelerate the yogic process by a factor of hundreds. Where it could take seven years of traditional practice and traditional yoga to get to certain states, with biofeedback you could do it in a few weeks. Now we’ve got to the state where we’ve got the pulse star—invented by Mike Hercules in Boulder—which uses biofeedback in reverse, so to speak. You attach pulse star to your head with the electrodes, train it to the brainwave you want, and it adjusts your brain waves to that level. So you can go into deep meditation in two seconds. It doesn’t even take the couple of weeks practice like biofeedback does.


Meanwhile, there were researchers and drugs the government hadn’t forbidden yet, and along came XTC, and psychiatrists all over the country were curing damn near everything with it. And there was wild enthusiasm, and the 1960s started to be repeated all over again, so the government made that illegal, too. Meanwhile, we are learning more and more about how these various techniques work, and different approaches to them. There are flotation tanks in almost every large American city now. On this tour I’ve seen flotation tanks virtually every place I’ve gone. I’m sure there are lots of flotation tanks in Denver right now, am I right? Yeah. And that hasn’t been made illegal yet.


Nobody has made pranayama illegal yet because it would be impossible to enforce. What do you—you just have to read a book on yoga and learn how to breathe through alternative nostrils, and you find you go into an entirely different consciousness state. Then you can go back to your ordinary consciousness, think about that state, then go back into that state and think about your ordinary consciousness, and already in . You’re an intelligence studying intelligence. You’re finding out how your nervous system works.


So with each decade since the 1960s we are moving more and more to the place where we change our nervous systems, change our reality tunnels, and make bigger and bigger reality tunnels. Once you look down your reality tunnel—whether your reality tunnel is Ohio Methodist or New York Jewish or Marin County Hippie or Tokyo Capitalist Zen Buddhist or Iranian Muslim Fundamentalist—once you get to the level where you’re outside your reality tunnel, looking down at it, you can compare reality tunnels, and then you’re on a higher level of intelligence already because you’re no longer conditioned mechanism just following the reality tunnel that was accidentally imprinted or conditioned, and you can start choosing between reality tunnels.


So as human lifespan has been increasing from the beginning, and now we’re learning how to change intelligence too, it should not come as a big shock that there are a lot of researchers saying, “How far can human lifespan be extended?” And nobody knows because the research is just in its infancy. But already there have been spectacular successes with experimental animals. The age of experimental rats has been doubled in one experiment, the age of fish has been tripled in another experiment. But if we had the immunological system at 80 that we have at 20, we might live 200 years, 500 years—nobody knows. There have been predictions by researchers in the field that lifespan can be extended to 500 years, others have predicted to 1000 years. And then an interesting factor enters the equation: if lifespan can be extended to even 140 years, to take a conservative figure; just doubling what it is now—and remember, what it is now is already double what it was before the French Revolution—if it could be extended to 140 years, then everybody who would ordinarily die in 70 years will be around for 140 years, and that means in the case most of us will be around for over 100 years more of scientific investigation into longevity. With 100 years more investigation, who knows what breakthroughs could happen.


Maybe we will learn how to transfer consciousness into silicon. If we can find a way to translate the structure of my brain into silicon chips, then my consciousness would be in the silicon chips. And since silicon is potentially immortal, I would be immortal. Is that science fiction? Well, the atom bomb was science fiction once. I remember, when I was in high school, I remember a lot of experts saying we’d never be able to reach the moon. And I remember other experts saying, “Oh, we can reach the moon, but it will take at least a hundred years.” So if you look at the longevity revolution from either a radical or a conservative perspective—you look at it radically, nobody knows what we might do by the year 2000, since knowledge is accelerating faster all the time. Look at it conservatively, and all that we’re going to do is increase lifespan to maybe twice what it is now. That means we’ll be living through so much more history and so many more breakthroughs that we have no idea how far it can be extended. It is quite thinkable that there are people in this audience right now who will never die. That’s a statement that could never have been made before in history.


So as we are moving off the planet and going into space, and lifespan is extending, and we’re learning how to change our consciousness, we are becoming an entirely different species. But that shouldn’t be too much of a shock. We became an entirely different species in the way we behave, in the way we related to one another and our whole cosmology, when we graduated from being hunters and gatherers to the stage of the first bronze age agricultural civilizations. And we went through an equally astounding metamorphosis when we went from the agricultural age to the industrial age. And we’re already in the process of a tremendous change now as we’re going into the computer age. Nobody quite knows where it’s taking us, except it’s taking us to entirely new dimensions of organization and possibility.


Going back to the first amoeboid creatures in the ocean, and their path up to the amphibians and on to the saurians and onwards to the mammals, it has taken 4.5 billion years to get where we now, but we’re moving faster all the time. The direction of evolution seems very likely to be that life is moving to the position where it will be omnipotent: where life can do anything it wishes to do. And in general you can see that even on the surface of a primitive planet like this. From the time life started here, it has spread itself all over the planet, taking whatever form it has to take to adapt to any condition. Life has gotten to the top of the Himalayas; there are lifeforms up there. Life has gotten to Little America. Look at the sidewalk closely when you’re taking a walk and you see little bits of grass coming up between the cracks. Life has found a way to break through the concrete. Life seems to have a tremendous Dionysian exuberance about it—what Nietzsche called a will to power—and life seems to be aiming at nothing less than the attainment of divinity. We are part of the process of evolution from amoebas to cosmic immortals.


What are cosmic immortals? Cosmic immortals are creatures who live anywhere in the universe they damn well please, travel as fast as they want to, and never die. That’s the idea of a god. A god goes anywhere, never dies, and moves as fast as a god wants to move. That is what we are evolving toward, gradually. Most futurists do not make predictions that outrageous because futurists are trying to become respectable. Those of you who heard me in Boulder last night know that I have no desire to become respectable. I am in a much more dangerous business than that, I am trying to provoke new thoughts. I have just given you an outline of history and a projection forward of where I think it’s going. That is my reality tunnel. That is the way I put the facts together. Anybody here can put the facts together and make a different Gestalt out of them, a different reality tunnel, and make different projections.


As a matter of fact, the Club of Rome is a group of Italian futurists who are very good at examining the trajectories of history and concluding that, in ten years, everything is going to go smash, and the whole civilization will collapse entirely. Since we don’t know what the future is until the future gets at us, and the future only comes at us one day at a time—which gives us a chance to adjust to it; imagine if it arrived a year at a time! Fortunately, we only have to deal with it one day at a time. Since nobody knows what it’s going to be, it seems that it is one of those areas which, in sociology, is known as the area of self-fulfilling prophecy. If people have a definite belief about what the future is going to be, that tends to produce that type of future. On the individual level, if you decide, “I can’t pass the examination,” you won’t study. Why bother studying if you know you can’t pass? So that’ll be a self-fulfilling prophecy: you’ll fail the examination. If you think, “They wouldn’t hire me for a job like that,” you won’t go in for the job interview. On the other hand, somebody who thinks, “I’m just right for that job and I’ll make them realize it,” of course, gets the job. So a great many things are created by self-fulfilling prophecies.


So I think the Club of Rome—by creating this prophecy that the whole of civilization is going to collapse in ten years, and we’re going to be wrecked, and we’ll have no energy, and we’ll be back in the dark ages—they have created a momentum which can very well lead to that conclusion. I think, by the same token, the kind of optimistic future scenario that I’ve been outlining can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a lot of people think, “Yeah! I would like to live indefinitely.” Maybe we’re not ready for immortality yet. Maybe the thought is metaphysically staggering. But if you think, “Yeah, I’d like to live a couple of hundred years. I don’t want to die when I’m only 70. You’re just starting to figure things out.” And you think, “Yeah, I would like to get smarter. And yes, I would like to travel across galaxies like Captain Kirk”—if you get excited by visions like that, and if enough people get excited by visions like that, and if you see far enough ahead of those visions the evolution to cosmic immortality, then that, too, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It may have been innate in evolution from the beginning or it may just’ve been invented by Nietzsche and a few other philosophers since Nietzsche, but it is possible. And the more people who are excited about it and believe in it and put their energy in it, the more likely it is to happen.


I think at this point that I will have a question period. I wish some of the fundamentalists showed up tonight. They could announce that this is Satan that you hear speaking to you. This is obviously an anti-Christian message. It doesn’t say anything about hell, sin, damnation, doom, or anything like that. So I must be serving the dark one. But they’re not here. Is there anybody else who has any interesting objections to raise to this kind of fantasy? Yes?



It seems to me that some of the apparent increase in lifespan is an evolution caused by a reduction in child mortality. What is the actual change in lifespan in people who reach the age of ten—from then on? Because, you know, there was a time when something like six out of ten kids died before they reached the age of five, but that’s no longer [???].


R. A. W.

Yeah, but that is part of the explanation of the average life expectancy increasing. But it’s not the whole explanation, because if you read books about, say, the eighteenth century, you will see that not only were a lot of kids dying very young, but people were dying in their twenties all the time because smallpox came around every couple of years, and that killed off about half the population. Then they’d start to recover and back would come the smallpox again, or another type of plague—cholera or one thing or another. And in the nineteenth century you find the same thing. You find people are getting knocked off in their thirties by the pollution in the rivers of England as poisoning whole towns, and so on. So it’s not just infant mortality. There was high mortality between zero and ten, and between ten and twenty, and between twenty and thirty, and between thirty and forty, and hardly anybody survived beyond forty. Some did. There are always a lucky few with superior genes or extra good luck or something. So you do find cases of 70, 80, 90-year-old people in early epics, but you don’t find them at the same rate. Even in recent years we find the number of people over a hundred in England in 1976 was 300. In 1986 it’s 3,000. And you wouldn’t find earlier in history people like George Burns doing comedy acts at the age of 80 and so on. So it’s more than just the decline in infant mortality. There’s been a decline in death at all ages.

Next question?



Do you see [???] impact of the pendulum swing of conservatism and liberalism [???] historically come and gone one way or another. How does that affect your vision of the future?


R. A. W.

Well, I think these pendulum swings are kind of local and short-lived. If you look at the pattern that I’ve been talking about—the doubling of knowledge—if you look at history from 1750 to the present, you got these pendulum swings of liberalism and conservatism, but the overall pattern has been one of increasing lifespan, increasing literacy—throughout the western world and then throughout the third world, too, in the last couple of decades—an increasing optimism through most parts of the population. Surveys show that Americans have very little faith in their government these days. And people will only ask that question in polls say, “Well, everybody is cynical and disillusioned.” But then, if you ask people what they think about their own lives, it turns out in polls over and over that people are more optimistic than they’ve ever been at any period of taking polls in the past. More people are more confident about their own ability to solve their own problems and make a good life for themselves.


So I think if you look from 1750 to the present, all these local conservative backswings are only a minor part of the melody. The general tendency is like Beethoven’s Ninth. It’s moving higher and higher and louder and louder and faster and faster. And each conservative backswing is less conservative than the previous conservative backswing. Ronald Reagan is not nearly as conservative as the conservatives we had in the 1930s. He has never attempted to abolish social security, he has never attempted to return to pure isolationism. Just read the polemics written by Republican conservatives in the 1930s and compare them with Ronald Reagan’s type of conservatism. Nobody really wants to go back to the conservatism of the past. It really is dead.

Next question?



What do you think this [???] spirit that people on the quest for power [???] brought so much of the destructive tendencies into humanity and so much of the violence into the world? Do you believe that there is that destructive tendency in human nature, or that it’s just a matter of choice?


R. A. W.

We’re bringing in the Dionysian idea from Nietzsche. The way Nietzsche uses Dionysian it means “ecstatic,” as distinguished from Apollonian, which is “rational.” And if you read Nietzsche carefully, what he’s basically trying to describe in those poetic metaphors are what we nowadays think of as linear, left brain thinking (which is the Apollonian) and right brain holistic thinking (which is the Dionysian). And I think if you look at history as a whole you find that both of them are subject to perversion, especially when they become ruling class ideologies. So you find some really nasty Apollonian type civilizations and some really nasty Dionysian type civilizations, and you find some very good civilization of both of those types, too. So I don’t think you can draw a line and say the Dionysian is good and the Apollonian is bad, or the Apollonian is good and the Dionysian is bad. These seem to be part of a dialectic, both of which are necessary for our evolution as I see it. Is that quite what you were asking? Oh good.

Next question?



[???] information age, and I’m curious: what’s life after the information age like? And maybe you can talk about the genetic and quantum explosions, and certain results.


R. A. W.

Well, yeah. What comes after the information age? That’s the kind of question that’s perplexed me a lot in the last ten years. When I start projecting forward the scientific breakthroughs that I feel fairly confident about, when I reach about the year 2004, my mind goes blank. I can’t imagine what happens beyond a certain point. Things are moving so fast that it gets harder and harder. You reach a point where it seems that all the utopian fantasies of the past are going to come true—that is, assuming we don’t screw things up and really wreck the planet first. And what happens after that, this is the kind of question I keep wondering about. Obviously, one of the things that’s going to happen is that we’re going to have genetic engineering, whether conservatives object to it or not. It’s an interesting field for research, the possibilities are enormous. I think one thing that might happen is that, if it turns out that we can not extend human lifespan beyond a human point—let’s say we can double it to 140, triple it, raise it to 400, but it can’t go beyond that—and everybody finds out definitely there’s no gimmicks, there’s no ways of getting around it, 400 years is human lifespan, that’s all we can have. Then the next thing will be: well, let’s genetically engineer a new type of human being who can live longer than that. And that will be our gift to our posterity: to give them an indefinitely long lifespan if ours has to remain limited. And that’s the kind of genetic engineering experiments I’m sure are going to be done.


And in quantum physics—I have a very strong hunch based on conversations with physicists and teaching seminars with physicists in various places—we are very soon going to learn how to access the zero point energy.1 And the zero point energy is derived from Heisenberg’s equations, and it seems that when we find a way to access the zero point energy we will have so damn much energy that everything that’s happened in previous history will seem picky by comparison. One physicist I know, named Jack Sarfatti, has calculated that when we access the zero point energy we will be able to extract from one cubic centimeter—tiny little bit—of pure vacuum, we’ll be able to extract from that enough energy to run all the factories that now exist for the next fifteen trillion trillion years. Now, that’s a hell of a lot of energy. And if you’ve got two cubic centimeters, you’ve got twice as much energy as that. And we’ve got millions of cubic centimeters to work with. So I think we’re approaching the level where we’ll have so much energy that all the cries about an energy shortage of the 1970s will seem like a comedy in retrospect.


Not only that, but leaving aside quantum matters, Bucky Fuller calculated in the 1970s the known energies that we can access—not including zero point energy in quantum mechanics—known energies that we can access, if you add them all up, it turns out that we’re now accessing less than one fourth of one hundredth of one percent of all of those energies. 99.9999975% of all the available energy on this planet is not being used at present. Mostly because the people who have the economic clout can’t see a way to make a profit out of accessing those energies. Karl Hess has a solar-powered house in Virginia, but the monopolies keep putting ads in the papers and magazines telling us we can’t have solar power yet, it’ll take forty years more of research. The reason they’re doing that is it will take forty years more research for them to figure out how to put a meter between the sun and us, so they can charge us for it. And so most of the energy available is not being used yet. It will be used when the petroleum starts running out and people are really desperate.

Yes, your question?



I just wanted to comment on the Dionysian thing. It seems to me that warfare has had a great impact on our jobs since [???].


R. A. W.

Yeah, that’s what’s known among mystics as a dark saying. It’s kind of uncomfortable to think about those interconnections. I touched on that briefly when I pointed out after the doubling of knowledge in 1750 we had all those revolutions: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and all the subsequent revolutions. Those things brought in a great new age of democracy, or as the Marxists would say, bourgeois democracy. But they brought in the Bill of Rights and a lot of civil liberties; traditions I find very wonderful and I’m very glad we got them. If you look at what the world was like before we had those traditions, you wouldn’t want to go back there. And yet, those revolutions all involved bloodshed. They all involved people killing one another. This is the dark side of history, and all I can say—I haven’t resolved that in my head philosophically yet. It’s a perpetual paradox to me, and that’s why there’s so much irony in my writings. The only thing I can say is what George Burns said as god in God II, when the little girl asks him why there are so many bad things in the world. He says, “Well, I still haven’t figured out a way to make something with only one side.” Which is sort of the Taoist outlook.




I have a question. I know you’ve written about political assassinations in this country. I wonder whether, for you, it’s more a device for selling books, or what is the significance [???] average person [???]?


R. A. W.

A device for selling books. Like all writers, I am eager to sell my books. But whenever people say, “Do you do this just to sell books?” I get this weird feeling that, Jesus, I wish I knew how to sell books. I mean, if I really knew how to sell books I’d be a lot richer than I am. No, I don’t do anything to sell books. I hope my books will sell, but while I’m writing the books I’m carried along by other processes that involve the two sides of the brain working together and the conscious and the unconscious, and I never know what’s going to come out until it’s finished. That’s what’s known as the creative process. If you knew what you were doing, it wouldn’t be creative, it would just be rote work.


One of the reasons I write about conspiracies so much is because I am interested in different levels of thinking, and I have observed that many people don’t know the difference between an assertion and an argument. And so I’ve written my books using conspiracy theories and other gimmicks to make clear the difference between an assertion and an argument. So that, if you accept things as assertions and you turn the page, you should find a little bit later they’re just assertions; that there’s no evidence for them whatsoever. I would like the readers of my books to come out—if they read enough of them—with a clear idea of what’s an assertion and what’s an argument. And then, beyond that, if they can see the difference between a legal argument and a philosophical argument they will have gone a little further. And if they can see the difference between a scientific argument and a philosophical argument they will have gone a little further. And then, when they can distinguish between a scientific proof, a philosophical proof, a legal proof, and a bland assertion like “God told me to tell you,” then they will have achieved a certain increase in intelligence and I will feel proud of my work.


And that’s what I’m trying to do in bringing up controversial subjects, is teach people to look at controversial subjects in a clear way. Professional conspiracy buffs, they put together ten statements on a page. One of them may have some validity, the others are pure assertion. And they get away with this because most people don’t know how to tell an assertion from an argument. Every lawyer knows this. You get people in court and you try to restrict them to plain facts, and they think the judge and the lawyers are conspiring against them because they can’t assert all their prejudices into the record like they’re accustomed to doing in ordinary conversation. Not that the legal system is a model of clarity, but most people aren’t even equipped to deal with that. If they try to deal with scientific questions they’d be even more aghast. Most people just have no concept of how foggy their own thinking is and how much emotionalism and prejudice is leading them around all the time.


And I do find it appalling. A lot of conspiracy buffs take advantage of that. I lived through the McCarthy era and one of my friends was, in the 1960s, accused of being involved in the Kennedy assassination, and he went crazy because of that. And I’m a very firm believer in that part of the Old Testament which says thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. And I have a real repugnance for people who make wild and reckless charges. So that’s why I keep coming back to conspiracy theories.

Next question?



[???] medicine and how, in the past, doctors have tried to make us well, and we’ve waited around for them to do that. In the future I think we will just change our own lives and start approaching our own health and let doctors just go do their own thing.


R. A. W.

Well, my first comment on that is, as I said earlier: scientists are human beings, too. And I think one of the most important things that’s happening at present is scientists are learning that they’re human beings and are learning to see more clearly how their prejudices can deceive them, too. It doesn’t just happen to lay people. And I think a classic example of that is the fact that homeopathic medicine in this country has virtually been extinguished.2 You can hardly find homeopathic physicians. People who go to homeopathic physicians are regarded as eccentric or desperate or something like that. And yet, in England, homeopathic medicine is just as respectable as allopathic medicine, the kind of medicine we have here. Why is it in one country you have one type of medicine—allopathic—and in England you’ve got a choice, you can either use allopathic or homeopathic, and it’s not considered weird?


This happens to be a historical accident. It happened because the royal family happened to believe in homeopathic medicine, so the allopathic doctors could not conspire to make that look like a crank movement and drive it underground as they did with homeopathic medicine here. And the same thing is happening—you know, for years we’ve believed the Orient was backwards compared to us. So nobody studied Chinese medicine. Now, acupuncture and many other types of Chinese medicine are becoming better known. So I think as far as the paradigm changing, the change has already started to happen and it’s going to happen faster. People are getting more open-minded and more willing to try alternatives, and that’s going to force the medical profession itself to become more open-minded, or they’re going to lose more and more clients. More and more people tend to go to herbalists or body workers or postural integration therapists or try alternatives, and quite often it makes a lot of sense.


On the other hand, I am a bitter opponent of either/or thinking and easy dichotomies—if A is right, B must be wrong. I don’t like that kind of thinking at all. I think there’s a great deal of value in orthodox American medicine. I think people who never go to an M.D. may be running serious risks. I’m in favor of trying everything and see what works best. I think that’s really the emerging paradigm: is open-mindedness instead of saying either this or that. We used to believe in this, now we won’t believe any of it. We’ll try the exact opposite. The universe doesn’t seem to work that way. Generally, the truth turns out to be not either A or B, but something that transcends both A and B and includes them. I think Hegel noticed that before me, actually. That’s the dialectic.

Next question? Yes?



Back to the immortality thing and medicine in general. At the risk of sounding like a Marxist, do you think that these life extension techniques are being made available to the common people or [???]?


R. A. W.

I don’t see anything with wrong with sounding like a Marxist. I often sound like a Marxist myself. My attitude is: use every reality tunnel where it’s useful. I find Marxism very useful in analyzing a lot of phenomena. I find Freudianism very useful, too. But I use whatever model seems best for each case. I find most cases I understand a lot more if I look at it through four models instead of just through one. And I generally use the Marxist model as one of my four for thinking of most things.


But your question is what I think Marx would’ve called vulgar Marxism—pardon me. Marx did coin that phrase himself. There is an assumption in there that they will keep something away from us. That is based on the idea that they are smarter than us. I don’t accept that. I regard myself and my friends as the real power elite. I don’t think anybody is smarter than us or going to get anywhere faster than us. And so I don’t worry about those mighty figures who are tougher and smarter and shrewder and who are going to keep everything to themselves, because I just think I happen to know the smartest scientists on the planet. And I’m going to hear about life extension before most people do, and I’m going to spread the word as fast as I can.


Meanwhile, I think that field will turn out to be very much like automobiles or computers or most other things in modern technology. Henry Ford was the first one to discover you make a hell of a lot more by making cheap cars and selling them to everybody than you do by making expensive cars and selling them only to millionaires. And that’s why there are so many cheap computers around now, because that knowledge has spread beyond the automobile industry. As soon as life extension technology is achieved in a laboratory, the next thing they’ll do is find out how cheap they can sell it. Because you make a lot more by selling to eight billion people on the planet than you make by selling it to twenty billionaires. So I’m not really worried about that scenario.




I have some problem with any [???] of that at all, in fact [???].


R. A. W.

Yes, I agree absolutely. I think we should think of the human race as one family. I just happen to think that my particular section is the smartest part of the family, but that’s….




[???] what you said about political stupidity, and about the information age that’s coming up: can any type of political structure or power [???] survive the upcoming information explosion?


R. A. W.

I don’t think so. I think they’re all going to collapse. I don’t know what’s going to replace them; I’m still working on that problem. But it seems to me every existing political system and every existing political theory is based on assumptions that are… well, some of them go back 2,000 years, some of them go back 6,000 years, some of them go back to when America was an agricultural nation before the invention of the automobile. There are hardly any political theories that are contemporary with 1986. The people who are trying to think of a political theory contemporary with 1986, like Marilyn Ferguson and F. M. Esfandiary, come up with wild scenarios which I don’t think are going to be anything like what will emerge.


I think what will emerge will be a synergetic product that astonishes all of us. But it will be much more libertarian than anything we’ve had in the past. For two reasons: people are getting more literate all over the world—no, more than two reasons. Literacy is spreading faster and faster, there are more and more university graduates everywhere. You know, in the United States, 4% were university graduates in 1900, now it’s around 60%. The same thing is happening in the rest of the world at a slower rate. Literacy is spreading into all the parts of the third world where everybody was illiterate 20 years ago. You got increasing literacy. So we’re getting more and more literacy, more and more education, more and more communication, and at the same time these Jeffersonian eighteenth-century ideas are getting around more and more, and the consciousness revolution, modern psychology, the function, learning how to change your own nervous system, is getting around more and more. So you’re getting more and more people who demand the right to choose, and demand options and choices, and demand not to be given orders all the time. And so I think the authoritarian structures will find it harder and harder to govern the people of the future. They just won’t know how to control the population.


The point where government breaks down, the only alternative to chaos is intelligent negotiation. And if you look up the entry under my name in who’s who—where, nowadays, they allow you to add a philosophical comment after your biography—my philosophical comment is: “Let us all study the art of negotiation.” I think that’s the most important art to learn for the future. Because less and less will be decided by force, more and more will be decided by negotiation. We should all learn to be good negotiators.

Ah, next question?



Speaking of us and them, what do see [???] keep them from blowing us up?


R. A. W.

Well, I think what has kept them—if we must talk that way—what has kept them from blowing us up is John von Neumann. John von Neumann designed the first programmable computer, and then he invented mathematical game theory, which he then showed could be applied to war games. I think the reason we’re here tonight, the reason there’s life on Earth 41 years after Hiroshima, is because both sides in the Cold War keep running their favorite scenarios through their computers. Can we beat them with this technique? And the computers, which are not politically prejudiced or partisan, play out the war game and say: no, you can’t beat them with that technique. With that technique you’ll get trashed, too. So then they go back to the drawing board and calculate for another five years: how can we get the jump on them? And they feed this to the computers, and the computers say: no, that way you will not win either. That way you will be killed along with them. And that’s why we’re still here. I think that’s what’s keeping us alive.


The more they analyze war games with scientific techniques, the more they realize what Einstein and Bertrand Russell and all twelve intelligent people on the planet realized in 1945, which is that there are no winners in a nuclear war. I think that message will eventually get through, and I even suspect that it is beginning to get through. I think some of the recent negotiations at Geneva show a slight sense that they’re not faking so much, that they are trying to learn how to negotiate with each other instead of just boff each other—maybe. Maybe I’m being over-optimistic. I’m often accused of that.

Next question?



Do you have any thoughts on the Hopi prophecies?


R. A. W.

The Hopi prophecies? No, I don’t know—



[???] disrupt our basic order by taking [???] return them to the moon. And then the other one [???] the sky and across the oceans as well.


R. A. W.

I don’t know anything about the Hopi prophecies. I’m not even very good at Nostradamus. I read Nostradamus and I can’t make head or tail out of it, and I can’t tell whether he’s right or wrong. And that type of thing seems to fall into the area of assertion that I was talking about before. It has nothing to do with argument—legal, philosophical, scientific, or any type of argument I recognize. It’s just assertion. An assertion can come true. If I assert I am going to leave here and have a drink very soon, I can make that assertion come true, but that’s not an argument. An assertion can come true, but nobody knows until it does come true. I may decide not to leave here and have a drink. I may decide to leave here and have a cup of coffee. Assertions you can’t say anything about. It’s a question of take it or leave it. You can’t prove them or disprove them. So I don’t know. I’ll see—



[???] protesting [???]


R. A. W.

I don’t know. I asked them last night: would they please come to the Denver lecture too, and bring all their friends? I said: if you can get a bigger demonstration, I get more publicity and sell more books and I’d be very grateful to you. And I think that may have discouraged them. I think their goal is not to help me sell books, so they decided to boycott me instead. That’s the trouble with being honest, you see: you always end up screwing yourself that way. I should’ve told them: please don’t come to Denver! I’m terrified. If you expose me, I’ll lose all my fans. Then they would’ve got all their friends together and they would’ve had a big enough demonstration to get on television, and, well…

Next question? Yes, back there.



How do you answer those people who say that maybe it’s premature for us to spend so much on space exploration when we really haven’t learned how to [???]? Is there a [???] more and more species going extinct [???] really haven’t learned how to live on this planet [???].


R. A. W.

I think that’s based on a false dichotomy. I mean, we’ve already got part of our technology in outer space right now. And the idea that leaving the planet means leaving the planet is oversimplified. How many people are going to leave the planet perpetually? I think in the next 40 years a lot of people will be living and working in space part time, but they’ll probably return to the planet. The idea that—it’s like saying: why leave Europe and go to the United States on a lecture tour? Shouldn’t you solve the problems of Europe first? I do everything I can to solve the problems of Europe wherever they ask me to lecture over there. But I don’t feel I’m deserting Europe when I spend a few weeks visiting the United States. I don’t think Europe and the United States are that far separate. They’re part of one system. And I don’t think Earth is that separate from the rest of the solar system. It’s part of one system. And the idea that leaving Earth means abandoning Earth—actually, leaving Earth to use interplanetary technology will benefit Earth tremendously by bringing us cheaper power. In Colorado you’ve got all the sunlight you need for solar power. But in a place like Ireland, solar power is totally a lost cause there because it’s damp and rainy most of the year. But Ireland can have as much solar power as Colorado if it’s beamed down from outer space.


I really think that the surface of a planet is not the place for a growing technology. Technology gets increasingly risky and it should be moved away from human beings. If we’ve got to have it on this planet—which I don’t think we do—but if we did have to keep technology on this planet, I think there should be laws that the people who own the factories have to live within a half a block of the factories. I think if everybody who owns shares in atomic energy plants had to live in a circle around the atomic energy plants, then they might be a lot more careful. But meanwhile I think it’s much safer to move heavy technology off the planet entirely. And that would give the planet the chance to become one great big nature park.


  1. Curator’s note: Zero point energy (a real quantum mechanical phenomenon) currently has no valid theoretical application as a source of energy, as its extraction would require leaving the harvested vacuum in a state of negative energy.

Robert Anton Wilson

Document Options
Find out more