This is an interview Adam gave recently, that asked many of the common questions about the app, the science aspect, and the purpose.
Why did you organize this project?
Basically, Entangled is supposed to be a fun exploration into the nature of consciousness and reality. I'm not trying to prove the science or convince anyone. I just think this research is cool, and wanted to build an app based on it. Millions of people care about the subject, so my hope is that the app gives them something fun to play with, and that maybe we'll learn something new by the data we collect.
Who would this directly benefit and how?
Millions of people are interested in consciousness and how it relates to our understanding of how the universe works. This app should benefit those people, because it gives them a chance to participate a big crowdsourced exploration into the possibility that their own mind is connected to everyone and everything (at least at a very small scale!) If this is connection is real, in theory this is an example of a sort of "consciousness technology," that works by harnessing that "connection-to-everythingness." Developers could build video games or other apps that account for consciousness effects as a variable in the experience. Artists could make big installation projects that use this app's global data stream (I can imagine a glowing light sculpture that changes colors based on what the real-time 'global consciousness' output).
The mind is still a mystery to science. How will this app development help in furthering our knowledge of the mind?
Exactly, the mind is still a mystery. Some mainstream ideas about consciousness suggest that the mind is like a universal thing that emerges from all complex systems. In principle, if this project shows that mind can nudge complex systems in some small way, it could stimulate other research into the parameters of how mind works within other complex systems.
How do RNGs work?
Early research into how the mind might interact with complex systems focused on using random number generators. There are different ways to build RNGs, but the key thing is that they are based on sampling noise in the physical world. Some RNGs are based on electron tunneling, which is a quantum effect that produces unpredictable numbers. In the Entangled app, we're sampling insignificant bits from hardware in the phone, such as the accelerometer, and doing some post-processing to make sure there is no bias. We found this results in a really good random number stream.
RNG devices can quantify the influence of the mind on its immediate environment, right? So, can it distinguish between different impacts of different people? Can it also calculate the various impact people have during various times? Have any experiments been done already in regards to finding out the different potentials of people?
It's more accurate to say that RNGs let you explore correlations between mental things and the random numbers. These correlations are measured statistically; if there's a statistically significant correlation, you can say there's evidence of a relationship. But this doesn't imply causality. Of course sometimes randomness produces correlations that are simply chance. But if you repeat the experiments, with mental things being the only variables, and you keep finding significant correlations, it's pretty safe to say there's a relationship--even if it's not directly causal. (We don't have a theory for how the mind could affect randomness, and so without specific things to test, we don't know if there's a direct or indirect causal relationship.
Regarding different people having different effects, this is really key. The effects are inconsistent. People are inherently variable creatures, and so they don't always produce significant effects, or any effects at all. This makes replication really hard. This is true of mainstream psychology research as well: test subjects are people, and people are variable, and this complicates attempts at getting really robust results. But more often than not, studies seem to indicate that consciousness in general does have this ordering effect on randomness, however small.
Why have we delayed this inquiry into the nature of mind till now? Has anyone previously made any significant progress into the research of mind and its impact?
I'm not a scientist, so I can only speculate. But I think it's because most scientists are concerned with asking questions in their own field, not in the field of consciousness. Consciousness as a subject of study is relatively new, and is still kind of distinct from pure neuroscience or psychology or physics. As these disciplines converge, you're getting more people who are starting to look at their interconnection. Science is a process. A few hundred years ago it was heretical to say anything about the world that the church didn't agree with. It just takes time for knowledge to accumulate, and for the political climate to shift to ask bigger questions. Also, scientists are competing for grant money, which in one way or another is connected to industry. It hasn't been financially practical to do consciousness research until recently.
How are the reactions from the users till now?
We don't have any users yet, but the response from people has been nothing short of moving. People care so much about the possibilities addressed by this project, and are very impatient to get the app!
Are there any related technological studies being done with this app?
To my knowledge this is the first. I'm working on other applications, but they'll come out afterward.
Based on your research, do you believe that the impact our minds can have on the environment and/or global consciousness can be increased or decreased? How can a person increase his/her impact? And, how can this benefit them?
I've never personally conducted research in this area. The Global Consciousness Project is the closest example. That involves a few dozen random number generators spread around the globe, and looking for statistical mean shifts that correlate to events that polarize world attention (hurricanes, 9/11, etc). There seems to be some strong evidence, but it's unclear if its consciousness just affecting the RNGs themselves, or if it's also affecting the general environment. Unfortunately I can't say if there's any way that a person could increase her/his impact. But a lot of people are curious about this idea. For example, meditation can focus a person's attention span and general awareness. Could that register in the app? Who knows... maybe that's a question someone can explore in the future.