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History of Remote Viewing

Many people, over the ages, have reported seeing in their mind events that occur at a distant place or time. This ability has often been referred to as clairvoyance (from the French for “clear vision”). Some people claimed the ability to do this at will, while for others it happened unexpectedly or in a dream or trance. In the 1900s several scientists studied clairvoyance in exceptionally talented individuals, and in the 1930s J.B.Rhine at Duke University began to study clairvoyance in people without any unusual history of paranormal phenomena. 

In the 1960s experiments in “out-of-body” perception were conducted by the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City. One of the subjects of these experiments, Ingo Swann, suggested changes to the research protocols. These changes were adopted and led to successful attempts to remotely perceive the weather in faraway cities.

In the early 1970s the engineer and parapsychologist Harold Puthoff put together a group at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), including Ingo Swann and physicist Russell Targ, where they conducted research to investigate and refine the experimental protocols they called “remote viewing”. Within a few years their experiments were showing that remote viewing could consistently and repeatedly achieve positive results.

The success of Puthoff’s team soon caught the interest of the CIA, who worked with SRI in 1978 to secretly develop a government program for utilizing remote viewing in the service of national intelligence. This program went through many iterations, passing from the CIA to the Department of Defense and back again. In 1995 the program, at that time called Project Stargate, was terminated and declassified, and the CIA released many documents relating to the government’s use of remote viewing. 

A variety of different remote viewing protocols have been developed over the years, but they tend to include these elements: the subject sets an intention to remote view a particular target, that is hidden from them. They note, sketch, or communicate via interview whatever impressions they receive during a remote viewing session. One or more judges then compare the transcripts of those impressions to several candidate targets, without knowing which one is the actual target, and determine which candidate the impressions most closely match. After the best match has been chosen, the correct target is revealed, presented as feedback to the remote viewer, and it is determined whether the correct target was the best match to the remote viewer’s impressions.

One variation of the remote viewing protocol, originally called coordinate remote viewing but later changed to controlled remote viewing (CRV), presents the remote viewer with a set of numbers, called coordinates, as the prompt for what target to view. This protocol, developed by SRI in 1980, was found to be useful for national security operations, where the goal was often to spy on a location in a foreign country. It has since found many other applications.

Another variation, called associative remote viewing (ARV), is useful for predicting one among several possible future outcomes. Each possible outcome is associated with one of several candidate target images. The remote viewer then attempts to receive impressions of the target that they will be shown in the future. Judge(s) determine which of the candidate targets best matches the received impressions, and this results in a prediction of the specific future outcome associated with that candidate target. Once the future outcome takes place, the candidate associated with the outcome that occurred is chosen as the actual target, and presented to the viewer as feedback. Harold Puthoff used ARV in 1982 in an experiment to predict the silver futures market, and successfully turned a sizable profit by making investments based on the resulting predictions. Christopher Carson Smith and several researchers at the University of Colorado published results in 2013 describing an experiment in which 10 students in a college class used ARV to predict the movement of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. They got seven out of seven predictions correct, and earned a significant sum of money by investing in stock options based on those predictions.

In 2011 Greg Kolodziejzyk completed a 13 year experiment in which he used a modified ARV protocol to predict various futures markets and make investments based on those predictions. Kolodziejzyk’s modifications to the ARV protocol allowed him to conduct the experiment entirely on his own. Rather than having a separate judge decide which candidate target best matches the received impressions, Kolodziejzyk wrote a computer program that would show him the correct target along with a second randomly chosen image, so that he could choose the best match himself before the correct match was revealed to him in the feedback stage. He used confidence scores rather than a simple binary choice and found that this produced more accurate results. Finally, rather than the usual method of running a trial on multiple participants, he would run multiple short trials himself to make each individual prediction. Over the 13 year span of the experiment, 60% of the trades he made based on his ARV predictions were profitable, earning him roughly $145,000.

Over the decades many researchers and other individuals have produced positive and repeatable results, leaving them convinced that remote viewing is a real phenomenon with great potential. As is the case with many phenomena that can be tricky to reproduce reliably and that lack a theoretical foundation within the prevailing scientific paradigms, remote viewing is controversial and many scientists dismiss it out of hand as pseudoscience. This will likely continue to be the case until ways are found to put it to regular practical use, and it becomes a part of common everyday life.