With all the recent reports about the NSA intercepting our emails and Twitter messages, it's worth noting that the government only recently got out of research into spying without all the messy electrical connections and tiresome court orders. Forget hooking into Big Data, all you needed was some dude sitting in a room in Fort Meade, Md. projecting his "astral self" anywhere on Earth and reporting back.
Spooked by reports that the USSR and China were conducting experiments into ESP (extra-sensory perception) for military intelligence, the Department of Defense (and later the CIA) blew $20 million of we-the-people's money from 1975 to 1995 investigating "remote viewing." The project, optimistically named "Stargate," was a bust (of course). If I throw enough darts at a dart board, one or two will eventually land in the bull's-eye, no matter how poor a player I am. So it was with Stargate: a very occasional kinda-sorta hit for hundreds of misses. Retrospective analysis has done nothing to boost the lukewarm results.
Remote viewing is a cross between telepathy and clairvoyance. If it worked, someone with so-called "psi" powers could have their "doppelgangers" (double-selves) zip over to, say, the Russian submarine base in Murmansk to check on what those godless commies were up to. I suppose if you believe in those tabloid stories of folks floating above gurneys and watching doctors resuscitate their stopped hearts, then viewing submarines thousands of miles away isn't too much of a stretch. Consider, though: If your eyes are back down in your head, what are you using to view the hospital drama below? For that matter, when you die — really die — and your essential soul leaves your body (as most Americans believe — it's called "dualism"), can your soul see? For what it's worth, the great 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas thought not: He opined that a soul absent a body can't see, hear, feel, smell or taste.
One rather mundane objection to disconnected souls, doppelgangers or astral selves having the power of sight is this: Why can't blind people see? Why can't they simply use the same mechanism employed by those sighted psi/scam-experts paid to spy on the USSR? Shutting down Project Stargate in 1995 was a tacit admission that sight depends on working eyes, functioning optic nerves and undamaged occipital lobes (where sight impressions are processed) in the brain. Despite a never-ending media stream of anecdotal evidence that those wayward astral souls of ours can see (and, apparently, have a gay old time while our bodies are sleeping, anesthetized or just plain dead), it ain't so.
But tell you what, this is easily testable. Someone claiming that their psychic soul, or astral body — whatever — can remotely view, has only to call the phone number written on the slat of wood on top of our bathroom medicine cupboard (no cheating!) to prove their case. I'll put up real money — not $20 million, but the price of a Humboldt Mud at Old Town Coffee — to test your powers.
Operators are standing by.
Barry Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org) considers the money he spent on Lasik eye surgery to correct myopia his best investment in remote viewing.