CategoryHatch 23

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 5: Global Business Network

Global Business Network (GBN) is a consulting firm that grew out of Shell‘s Planning Group, Stanford Research Institute, and Stewart Brand and the community based around his “Whole Earth” businesses. In other words, it’s an unlikely alliance of oil industry insiders, mad scientists, and hippie visionaries. They specialize in “scenario planning.”

Schwartz has also studied Tibetan Buddhism and worked closely with Willis Harman, a key figure in the transpersonal psychology movement in San Francisco. Before accepting a post at Shell’s Planning Group, he worked at SRI International, the famed Menlo Park, California, research outfit that came up with the widely used psychographic measuring system known as VALS (for “values and life styles”). SRI also developed the computer mouse. Schwartz’s is a tame résumé by the standards of GBN.

That quote’s from a long Wired article on GBN. It was written by GBN member Joel Garreau, who notes:

This article on GBN was commissioned by a magazine whose executive editor is a member of GBN. It is running in a magazine which mentions a GBN member in almost every issue. Four GBNers have already been on its cover. And, as I mentioned at the beginning, it was written by a journalist who is a member of GBN.

Douglas Rushkoff has described Wired as a newsletter for GBN:

It’s the promotional arm of the Global Business Network. They’re a group of advisors who are pretty much the same as the masthead of Wired. They hire themselves out at $10-$15,000 an hour and when someone gets to join the GBN, their face appears on the front of the magazine and they’re touted as the new great media theorist. When a company hires the GBN and follows their advice, their director magically appears on the front cover.

(This was in 1997, before Conde Nast acquired Wired in 1998, and The Monitor Group acquired GBN in 2000)

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 4: Project MKULTRA and other government experiments

Most of the real life DHARMA initiatives we cover here are, like the DHARMA Initiative, private organizations. But the high weirdness that the CIA’s Project MKULTRA got into is too important to ignore. From Wikipedia’s entry on MKULTRA:

Project MK-ULTRA, or MKULTRA, was the code name for a covert CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. The program began in the early 1950s, continuing at least through the late 1960s, and it used United States citizens as its test subjects. The published evidence indicates that Project MK-ULTRA involved the surreptitious use of many types of drugs, as well as other methodology, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.

Considering John’s experience with hallucinogenic drugs on the Island, and persistent hallucinations on the part of many of the characters, there’s a strong possibility that DHARMA conducted psychedelic experiments on the Island.

It’s also worth noting that the Hostiles/Others are engaged in some form of mind control themselves, as witnessed in Room 23.

Project MKULTRA was not the US Government’s first foray into mad science. Another infamous example is the Tuskegee Study:

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (also known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Public Health Service Syphilis Study, or the Tuskegee Experiment) was a clinical study, conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service. 399 poor, and mostly illiterate, African American sharecroppers were studied to observe the natural progression of the disease if left untreated.

The study became controversial, and eventually led to major changes in how patients are protected in clinical studies. Individuals enrolled in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study were not required to give informed consent and were not informed of their diagnosis; instead they were told they had “bad blood” and could receive free medical treatment, rides to the clinic, meals and burial insurance in case of death in return for participating.

Not to mention government backed Human Radiation Experiments:

During and after the end of World War II, scientists working on the Manhattan Project and other nuclear weapons research projects conducted studies of the effects of plutonium on laboratory animals and human subjects. In the case of human subjects, this involved injecting solutions containing (typically) five micrograms of plutonium into hospital patients who were thought either to be terminally ill or to have a life expectancy of less than ten years due either to age or chronic disease condition. The injections were made without the informed consent of those patients.

In her book, The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War, Eileen Welsome, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Albuquerque Tribune, revealed the extent of the experiments conducted on unwitting participants. At the Fernald school in Massachusetts, an institution for “feeble-minded” boys, 73 disabled children were fed oatmeal containing radioactive calcium and other radioisotopes. The only purpose of the experiment was to give Quaker Oats, the company behind the testing, a commercial advantage over Cream of Wheat in an advertising campaign. Immediately after World War II, 829 pregnant mothers in Tennessee received what they were told were “vitamin drinks” that would improve the health of their babies, but were, in fact, mixtures containing radioactive iron, to determine how fast the radioisotope crossed into the placenta. Other incidents included an eighteen-year-old woman at an upstate New York hospital, expecting to be treated for a pituitary gland disorder, who was injected with plutonium. Such experiments are now considered to be a serious breach of medical ethics.

Do these remind you of the weirdness surrounding “the sickness” on the Island?

It would be comforting to think that these sorts of things don’t happen anymore, or at least not at the order of the US government at tax payer expense. But the events at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo make it hard to believe that this particular American nightmare is over.

Barack Obama signed an executive order to close down Gitmo and end extraordinary rendition. But there’s always potential for abusive tactics by government organizations either in secret or through “satellite” organizations – private organizations comprised of former government agents engaged in various law enforcement and espionage.

LOST acknowledges government sponsored torture, and the role of private organizations through the role Kelvin takes in encouraging Sayid to torture prisoners, and the fact that Kelvin and Mikhail are former military personnel now employed by private groups.

We’ll take a look at government satellite organizations in a future installment.

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 3: Esalen Institute and Physics Consciousness Research Group

Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf

From left to right, Jack Sarfatti, Saul Paul Sirag, Nick Herbert, and Fred Alan Wolf lower right in 1974

From the Wikipedia entry on the Esalen Institute:

Esalen Institute is a center in Big Sur, California, in the United States, for humanistic alternative education and a nonprofit organization devoted to multidisciplinary studies ordinarily neglected or unfavoured by traditional academia. Esalen offers more than 500 public workshops a year in addition to invitational conferences, residential work-study programs, research initiatives, and internships. Part think-tank for the emerging world culture, part college and lab for transformative practices, and part restorative retreat, Esalen is dedicated to exploring work in the humanities and sciences that furthers the full realization of what Aldous Huxley called the “human potential”.

Esalen Institute was founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, and soon became known for its blend of East/West philosophies, experiential/didactic workshops, and a steady influx of philosophers, psychologists, artists, and religious thinkers.

One of the various projects of the Esalen Institute was the Physics Consciousness Research Group, founded to study time travel, ESP, consciousness after death, and other fringe subjects. Various people have made the claim that Physics Consciousness Research Group was the inspiration for the movie Ghostbusters. Jack Sarfatti, one of the founders of the Physics Consciousness Research Group, is a physicist and archetypal “mad scientist” – in fact, he claims to be the inspiration for both from Back to the Future and Egon Spangler from Ghostbusters.

MP3 Interview with Sarfatti on the R.U. Sirius Show.

Something of a memoir by Sarfatti that covers Physics Consciousness Research Group and its influence on Hollywood.

Update: How could I have forgotten Alex Burns’s classic article on Sarfatti?

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 2: Findhorn Foundation

findhorn ecovillage

From Wikipedia’s entry on the Findhorn Foundation:

The Findhorn Foundation is a Scottish charitable trust registered in 1972, formed by the spiritual community at the Findhorn Ecovillage, one of the largest of the communes in Britain, has been home to thousands of residents from more than 40 countries. The Foundation runs various educational programmes for the Findhorn community; it also houses about 40 community businesses like the Findhorn Press, and an alternative medicine centre.

But it’s a bit weirder than that:

The Findhorn garden grew from a rich compost and it is apt that Findhorn spirituality should also sprout from its own steamy mix, a fecund blend of positive thinking, psychism, esotericism, and — less often acknowledged — evangelical Christianity. The twentieth century may have given us the term “personal transformation,” but the same purpose was an item on the agenda for nineteenth-century Christians. Among them was John George Govan.

Read all about it at

(Thanks to Trevor Blake for the heads up on this one!)

More LOST physics in Popular Mechanics

casimer effect

Above: Casimer effect illustration from Wikipedia.

Physicist and time-travel guru Michio Kaku told Popular Mechanics last year that some scientists believe time travel through holes in space and time, known as wormholes, might be possible, but there are problems that need to be conquered. First, there’s the matter of energy—massive amounts would be needed to create a black hole, which could function as a portal to another point in space and time. But it would be a one-way trip; black holes aren’t stable enough to stay open on their own. Creating a wormhole, a stable portal through space and time that would allow return trips, would require inconceivable amounts of energy—inconceivable, that is, unless you’re on an island that can make paraplegics walk, harbors a monster of smoke and can disappear off the face of the Earth. Physicists have created tiny amounts of energy in the laboratory using the Casimir Effect—quantum fluctuations that can create energy in a vacuum—but what has been generated in the lab isn’t enough to keep a wormhole open, Kaku says. (We first learned about the Casimir Effect in the Orchid Station orientation video in Season Four’s “No Place Like Home.”)Chang warns a Dharma worker who is drilling into the earth in an attempt to access a buried wheel (the same wheel that Ben uses to move the island some 30-odd years later) that under no circumstances should workers building the Orchid Station set off charges near the pocket of exotic matter during the construction process. When asked what would happen, Chang says only, “God help us all.”

Exotic matter is hypothetical, and physicists such as Kaku know “almost nothing” about what its properties could be. Such matter would have “formed when the Earth was young, and then floated into outer space,” Kaku says, “and therefore there’s none left on Earth.” However, it may have been possible for a pocket of the matter to become accidentally trapped underground. Physicists theorize that exotic matter could have antigravitational properties (so it would fall up) or it would have negative energy (absorbing energy around it, possibly making it implosive). And if it were to have antigravitational properties, it wouldn’t want to stay on Earth either; instead, it would rocket into space—violently. “It would be quite dangerous to people who encounter it,” says Kaku.

Full Story: Popular Mechanics

See also: Popular Mechanics on the science of LOST

What sort of “exotic material” would it take to punch through our reality into the television universe?

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 1: SRI (Stanford Research Institute)

dharma initiative

This is the first of a series of posts examining the a number of potential real life influences on the conception of the Dharma Initiative.

SRI International (previously known as Stanford Research Institute) is the clearest influence on the DHARMA Initiative (though DARPA is closer in name. Incidentally, SRI has been known to work for DARPA). SRI is a non-profit research institute working in a broad range of fields including, according to Wikipedia: “communications and networks, computing, economic development and science and technology policy, education, energy and the environment, engineering systems, pharmaceuticals and health sciences, homeland security and national defense, materials and structures, and robotics.”

changing images of man

Things got weird for SRI during the 60s and 70s, when it was engaged in parapsychology and LSD research. They hired L. Ron Hubbard, tested Uri Geller’s claims, and experimented with remote viewing.

They also compiled a report called The Changing Images of Man, contracted and funded by The Charles F. Kettering Foundation (the real life equivalent of Alvar Hanso?). The states purpose of Changing Images of Man:

First, we attempted to identify and assess the plausibility of a truly vast number of future possibilities for society. We next followed a method of analysis that determined which sequences of possible futures (that is, which “alternate future histories”) appeared to be the most plausible in light of human history and to most usefully serve the needs of policy research and development. Lastly, we derived a variety of policy implications, some of which dealt with how best to continue this type of inquiry.

The document allegedly comes to some creepy, fascist conclusions (I’ve not read it), and has been fodder for conspiracy theorists for years.

More info:

SRI International on Wikipedia

Changing Images of Man PDF

Scientists on Acid: The Story Behind “Changing Images of Man”

Get Familiar with Willis Harman.

Quick thought on last night’s episodes – the time machine and the Invisibles?

The thing that stuck out from last night’s episode for me was the opening sequence: it reminds me of the time machine project from the Invisibles. For the unfamiliar: in the Invisibles, there was an occult corporate conspiracy (headed up by an Asian scientist, natch) building a time machine with, IIRC, help from information being received from the future.

I’ve mentioned the consciousness time travel bit from The Invisibles before

To be honest, I never quite figured out the narrative of the Invisibles there at the end, but I get the impression it’s supposed to be a game of some sort. Ben and Widmore are apparently playing some sort of game. Hmm.

LOST – overview of my current theories

Tonight’s the big night! In advance of tonight’s debut I thought I’d do a brief outline of what I’m thinking:

It’s every story in one

I first noticed this when trying to explain the appeal of the show. LOST is not just a survival drama – it’s also a medical drama, a crime show, a cop show, a sitcom, a sci-fi series, a Korean gangster series, and so much more. It just keeps growing in scope as to what genres it includes.

But it doesn’t stop at including all genres. Take a look through Lostpedia for a few theories about LOST being based on other stories or myths: The Tempest, Lost Continent (Atlantis, etc.), The Wizard of Oz, Gates of Hades, etc. Other possibilities include Shambhala.

Numerous literary works are referenced and many of them seem to have parallels with the series.

Then there are pop cultural sources such as Watchmen, The Stand, and, my favorite, The Prisoner.

So my theory is that LOST is an attempt to integrate as many stories as possible into one.

Time travel

I suspect time travel is responsible for most of the paranormal/supernatural phenomena that have occurred – Alpert’s apparent non-aging, the whispers, Walt appearing in places he shouldn’t be, appearances by the dead, moving the Island, etc. The “synchronicities” that occur regularly could be explained by time travels deliberately manipulating certain events.

Some things aren’t quite explained by this though – how can the whole island be physically moved while usually time travel is consciousness only? How does Walt do the bird killing thing? What the hell are numbers? How does the island heal the sick? Time travel might not be the grand unifying theory, but I’m guessing it will explain a lot.

Plenty of unanswered questions remain. Can’t wait for the debut!

LOST Theory: The Island is the Village from the Prisoner (spoilers)

This was a brief, badly written, post I made at Lost Theories dot com some time back. The site seems to be defunct now, so I’m posting this here:

The Prisoner was a British TV series that aired in 1967. It took place in a mysterious location called “The Village.” The location of the Village was never pinned down conclusively, it seems to have either been somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, or perhaps in England – a single gas tank’s drive from London.

The Village is apparently destroyed in the last episode. During this destruction, the Rover(s) – strange egg shaped robots that act as guards of the Village – are seen melting into smoke. Is this the Smoke Monster?

The Village was administered by a group of strange, paranoid individuals doing some sort of research – usually assumed to be espionage related, but the last episode casts doubt on this. It seems they may be more interested in psychological or sociological research than espionage. They do a lot of work with brainwashing and mind control. Could this be the Dharma Initiative?

The Village administered by someone called “Number 2.” Every episode has a new Number 2. The nature and identity of “Number 1” is never made clear. Could Ben be the current Number 2, with Hanso (or someone else) being Number 1?

Since I wrote this, it’s become clear that Jacob is Number 1, and John Locke is the new Number 2.

Also: “In the ABC TV series, a group of survivors is trapped on a mysterious island. In the second season, they open a hatch that leads to a large bunker. A cache of food inside is labelled in an identical Albertus font to that used in The Prisoner.” Source: The Prisoner references in popular culture entry on Wikipedia

More Info

Watch every episode of the Prisoner online for free (US only?)

The Prisoner Wikipedia entry

More background: Transrealism

Transrealism (science fiction) is a literary mode that mixes the techniques of incorporating fantastic elements used in science fiction with the techniques of describing immediate perceptions from naturalistic realism. While combining the strengths of the two approaches, it is largely a reaction to their perceived weaknesses. Transrealism addresses the escapism and disconnect with reality of science fiction by providing for superior characterization through autobiographical features and simulation of the author’s acquaintances. It addresses the tiredness and boundaries of realism by using fantastic elements to create new metaphors for psychological change and to incorporate the author’s perception of a higher reality in which life is embedded. One possible source for this higher reality is the increasingly strange models of the universe put forward in theoretical astrophysics.

Transrealism has its historic antecedents in cyberpunk and Philip K. Dick, who can be considered a proto-transrealist author. Its main proponent and prominent figure is science fiction author Rudy Rucker. Rucker coined the term “transrealism” after seeing Dick’s A Scanner Darkly described as “transcendental autobiography,” and expounded the principles of transrealism in a short essay titled “A Transrealist Manifesto” in 1983. Rucker applied many of these principles in his short stories and novels, notably White Light and Saucer Wisdom. Damien Broderick has identified some other authors that have at some time utilized transrealist tropes to include Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, John Barth, J.G. Ballard, John Calvin Batchelor, Jonathon Carroll, Karen Joy Fowler, Lisa Goldstein, James Morrow, Thomas Pynchon, Joanna Russ and James Tiptree Jr.

Wikipedia: Transrealism

Rudy Rucker’s Transrealism Manifesto (PDF)

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