Posts on Boing Boing - Jacques F. Vallee

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By Jacques Vallee

Post no.1: Waterboarding's curious corollaries
Jacques Vallee at 8:25 AM Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009

                                   When it was revealed that the U.S. resorted to torture
                                   to extract information from prisoners, many people my
                                   age must have had a very somber thought for the
                                   thousands of young Americans who had given their
                                   lives on the beaches of Normandy in a brave effort to
                                   rid the world of governments that engaged in such
                                   shameful practices. Two other thoughts flashed to
                                   mind: the stupidity of giving up the high moral ground
                                   at a time when the U.S. had earned so much goodwill
                                   thanks to its stand on democracy and human rights;
                                   and the pointlessness of such interrogations, often
                                   stated by our military experts, since the victims will
                                   generally admit to anything in order to stop the pain.

                                 My friend, French Résistance leader Jacques Bergier,
who was tortured multiple times by the Gestapo, made the ludicrous "confession" that his
network planned to invade Corsica. In reality they were looking for heavy water and for
Werner von Braun's rocket base.

As a child of World War Two who remembers its limitless horrors, my revulsion at the
practices of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib was so great that it took me a while to realize
the more positive implications: if our henchmen used waterboarding, a practice so
primitive it placed us in the same hateful historical imagery as the caves of the Inquisition
and the cellars of the Nazi, this can only mean that all the fancy interrogation drugs
developed in classified labs in the 60s and 70s have failed: there is no truth serum. We
should be relieved about that.

We already knew that LSD, once hyped as the ultimate key to the
mind, did little more than propel you into colorful delusions. But evil
doctors had other tricks and claimed to be working in secret on even
better, kinder biotech ways to crack open the human soul and read it
like a book. Using everything from neurotoxin derivatives to functional
MRIs, the State would soon overcome personality defenses, in the
interest of our collective safety. It would finally control not only our

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 1
deeds but our thoughts as well, thus achieving law and order on a grand scale.

Evidently the scheme hasn't quite worked out as predicted: If we could simply slip a little
green pill to the bad guys to find out their plans, we wouldn't have to resort to messy
medieval practices that don't work. So let's go back to the legal methods of interrogation
recommended by the professionals. And let's thank waterboarding for the realization that
our intimate thoughts, prayers and dreams, flaky though they may be, will remain safe
from chemical violation a little while longer.

Post No.2: Polanski and Kubrick: Two occult tales
Jacques Vallee at 12:11 PM Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009

In our age of rational science the occult has never been more in demand: Angels and
demons are popular, the Da Vinci code and lost symbols fascinate audiences worldwide
and Hollywood is eager to turn out more movies with a paranormal theme. So why is it

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                Page 2
that so many of these stories seem flat, and fail to reach the level of insight into hidden
structures of the world true esoteric adventures
are supposed to promise?

Perhaps the answer has to do with the failure of
gifted directors to come to grips with the enormity
of the unknown issues of human destiny, or to
pose the fundamental questions their esoteric
subject would demand. We go away charmed by
artistic visions, dazzled by the pageantry of
cardinals in red capes and titillated by women in
black garters but the Illuminati only scare us
because of the blood they spill, not the existential issues they should transcend. They
behave like any other gang of thugs, even if they utter their rough curses in Latin rather
than street slang, cockney or modern Italian.

The circumstances that made this point clear to me arose when I watched again two
movies within a few days, namely Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and Roman Polanski's The
Ninth Gate.
I was struck by the suspicious similarities and the enormous differences between them.
In earlier viewings both had thrilled me with the superb photography, the great acting,
and the expansive landscapes. A second experience made me wonder about the themes
themselves: the contrast was striking. The story line of Eyes wide shut turns out to be not
only unbelievable but downright silly. It could be summed up as "Handsome young
millionaire doctor tries to get laid in New York for three days and fails!" In the process he
has joined a fake black mass and deciphered a few facile occult clues but there is no
point to any of it. I do understand that Kubrick, like Umberto Eco in Foucault's Pendulum,
was attempting to say something profound about magic and eroticism but he only
produced clichés, vague references to tired grimoires and gratuitous gropings: those
black garter belts again.

The Polanski movie, in contrast, is dangerous and captivating from the very first frame. It
combines a profound understanding of hermeticism with the breathless beauty of a quest
for infinity. It completes it with the exquisite aesthetics of an adept who knows what
should be exposed and what should remain hidden. Polanski has recognized the power
and genuineness of his cause, his story, his landscapes, while Kubrick only exemplifies
the well-trained academic intellectual who scrutinizes the magical from the outside and
just doesn't get it, flashing the conventional symbols before us like so many obligatory
props. Occultism is not science-fiction. The splendid photography doesn't fill the
emotional gap.

It was striking to me that both movies took the protagonists to very similar situations and
to the same places - the region of Pontoise in fact, so charged for me in magical
memories. Should we suspect that the scripts circulated from desk to desk in Hollywood,

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 3
as is so often the case, and that both stories emerged from a bit of plagiarism? Let's not
go that far: perhaps it was simply a case of lucky occult coincidence.

Post No.3: In Search of Alien Glyphs (or are they
microwave blasters?)
Jacques Vallee at 11:12 AM Tuesday, Mar 23, 2010


In Sept. 1991, I published in a New Age magazine my own hypothesis about the Crop
Circles phenomenon. I speculated they involved a military aerial device (not a space-
based instrument) for generating such designs using focused microwave beams, such as
a "maser." At the time nobody wanted to hear that the beautiful pictures in English corn
fields might be crafted by a technical team inside some lab, bouncing signals from a

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                Page 4
hovering platform and using individual corn stalks as simple pixels to calibrate a lethal
device. So my paper was met with dead silence.

More recently, however, New Scientist has run an article titled "Microwaves could defuse
bombs from afar" (April 18, 2009 issue). It begins: "The next weapon in the US army's
arsenal could be a laser-guided microwave blaster designed to destroy explosives. The
weapon, called the Multimode Directed Energy Armament System, uses a high-power
laser to ionize the air, creating a plasma channel that acts as a waveguide for the stream
of microwaves."

These things are typically revealed 30 years after they are tested, which fits well with the
heyday of the crop circle frenzy.

It is interesting--and sobering--that nobody picked up on the New Scientist article either.
The New Age folks were too busy deciphering the Alien Glyphs... while the scientific
community had been hoodwinked by a few cleverly revealed and widely publicized
hoaxes, and had long dismissed the whole thing.

New Scientist went on:

The device could destroy the electronic fuse of an explosive device or missile, such as a
roadside bomb, or immobilize a vehicle by disabling its ignition system.... Further work on
the system could also allow it to be used against people, delivering electric shocks. The
weapon's range will depend on the laser-generated channel. Previously such channels
have been limited to tens of meters, but (the Army) believes it may be possible to extend
this to a kilometer or more.

This is consistent with the hypothesis I had presented, of beams from a low-observable
dirigible (such as the object an English friend of mine, an Oxford physics professor, saw
from his glider in England, which was a perfectly-reflecting cylinder) using corn fields as
a convenient calibration target. Why this isn't obvious to the paranormal research
community is a complete puzzle to me.

The development is hidden in plain sight, which is the best way to keep something
secret, and it is camouflaged sociologically by clever use of misdirection (actual hoaxes,
later "revealed" to the world press) and the public's continuing belief in first-order alien

Is there a lesson for us in here somewhere?

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 5
Post no. 4: Crop Circles, Part Deux: Alien Glyphs, Human
Myths, Blogging Bliss
Jacques Vallee at 8:47 PM Thursday, Apr 8, 2010

                                                  My previous post about crop circles could
                                                  be considered, among other things, as a
                                                  social science test of the role of belief
                                                  systems in the manipulation of memes and
                                                  factual data. One of the meta-questions that
                                                  interest me has to do with the spontaneous
                                                  rejection of new or unpopular ideas, even in
                                                  the supposedly open, free and
                                                  consciousness-enhancing environment of
                                                  the web.

It seems that what was "forbidden science" in academia is also forbidden in
cyberspace.The specific hypothesis offered--that crop circles are the result of a U.K.
defense electronics development project--only elicited 19 responses discussing the facts
or arguing for or against the idea itself. Among the other 40 responses while the thread
was open, 15 asserted their authors' strongly-held pre-existing belief (the circles MUST
be made by Aliens or by hoaxers), 14 simply expressed a flat rejection with no
arguments, and fully 11 responses can only be described as cyber-bullying: personal
insults, whose authors did not even bother to refer to the subject of the post. What does
that say for the ability of new web-based media to support intelligent debate on
controversial scientific issues, censored or strongly discouraged in the scientific

The kindest response was typically expressed as "this has to be a joke."

So let me take things a bit further and explain why the hypothesis is not a joke but a
logical result from observation and from the process of asking the right questions.

If we begin with questions like "Could this be done by Aliens?" or "What is the message
of the Glyphs?" as most people have done we can only get into endless arguments
based on personal bias or belief. But what are the relevant questions?

Early in the history of English crop circles, a French lab listed three critical issues:

(1) does the phenomenon change over time and if so, in what way?

(2) what exactly happens to the plants when they are flattened?

(3) is there something special about the sites?

 This led to a formal program of field collection (investigators with precise instructions

       Jacques Vallee                       Posts on BoingBoing                   Page 6
sent to gather samples) and the results were presented at various conferences, notably
at a meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration in Denver (photo below) and the
following year at Stanford University (on August 8, 1990) where I introduced a
presentation by Jean-Jacques Velasco, a researcher with CNES. The data he offered
was as conveniently ignored as it was straightforward:

(1) the phenomenon began with single circles that English and U.S. weather scientists
first tried to explain as atmospheric vortices. Soon there were multiple circles in various
geometric combinations, and in following years the designs became increasingly
complex, leading to the idea that we were witnessing a classic, step-by-step program of
technology development--not an atmospheric anomaly but not some sort of paranormal
effect either.

(2) Given that SOME of the patterns were obviously man-made hoaxes, it was possible
to compare the effect on the plants in genuine versus bogus patterns. Under the
microscope the results were clear: if you push a board across a wheat field to flatten it,
you will break the stalks between nodes because the nodes are thicker and stronger. But
in the unexplained, complex patterns the nodes themselves were exploded, often
keeping the fibers intact. Conclusion: something was coupling energy into the plants in
the form of heat (as one of the respondents to my first post actually stated). Therefore
the idea of a beam weapon is indeed one of the scenarios to consider.

(3) The crop circles are close to ancient megalithic sites, which excites the curiosity of
New Age tourists from America, but they are even closer to the most highly
classified military electronics labs in Britain. In fact the roads to some of the fields run
between two high fences behind which defense companies are doing research, and
Army helicopters routinely patrol the area.

Answering these three basic questions does not tell us what the beam consists of, or
why it is being developed. It does support the notion that the crop circles are a
technological development designed to calibrate a novel type of focused energy weapon,
since the resolution can be elegantly measured on the ground within the thickness of a
single stalk of wheat. While the tests could presumably be conducted in remote areas,
there must be some distance constraint that dictates that initial experiments have to be
close to the emitting labs.

I can take no credit for any of this: several groups were involved in the same research as
the French lab and their findings were similarly published many years ago, including
microscope photographs of the plants with exploded nodes. Labs in the U.S.
(Department of Agriculture, M.I.T. etc.) repeated the tests with the same results. Yet
public opinion and scientific opinion ignored the new evidence and continued to reject
any notion that disturbed their comfortable, pre-conceived beliefs.

       Jacques Vallee                       Posts on BoingBoing                   Page 7
Atmospheric physicist Dr. Joachim Kuettner of University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
discussing the Crop circle problem with Dr. Jacques Vallee and Jean-Jacques Velasco of Centre
National d'Etudes Spatiales at a meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration in 1989 in Denver.

This does leave several issues unanswered: Who are the hoaxers and what is their exact
role in the charade? How does the technology work to actually make the designs? Could
it be directed from space or simply from an aerial platform? And why would anyone
develop such a beam in the first place?

I don't claim to have complete answers, but my own hypothesis is that the beams are
produced from a hovering, low observable device. I will discuss these points in my next
post. Regarding the last question -- "why would anyone develop such a beam?" -- I leave
you with yet another intriguing article from New Scientist (issue of 23 July 2009, article by
David Hambling):

Microwave weapon will rain pain from the sky

The Pentagon's enthusiasm for non-lethal crowd-control weapons appears to have
stepped up a gear with its decision to develop a microwave pain-infliction system that
can be fired from an aircraft.

"The device is an extension of its controversial Active Denial System, which uses
microwaves to heat the surface of the skin, creating a painful sensation without burning
that strongly motivates the target to flee. The ADS was unveiled in 2001, but it has not
been deployed owing to legal issues and safety fears.

But of course, one can think of many other interesting applications, in the lethal category.


        Jacques Vallee                          Posts on BoingBoing                       Page 8
Post no. 5: Of Flattened Flora and Expulsion Cavities:
The crop circle controversy continues
Jacques Vallee at 11:21 AM Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010


above: Greenpeace's GM Crop Circle from

In an earlier post I reviewed some possible explanations for the crop circle phenomenon,
and I noted the various theories left several issues unanswered: Who are the hoaxers
and what is their exact role in the charade? If a technology is involved, how does it work
to actually make the designs? Could it be directed from space or simply from an aerial
platform? And why would anyone develop such a beam in the first place? What seemed
to me like simple questions raised a surprisingly emotional and occasionally venomous
storm of comments on this blog and on other, more specialized, lists. Since we have
obviously hit a nerve it may be interesting to drill a bit further.

While New Age believers and skeptics feel passionate about the issue, the educated
public and the scientific and technical community have firmly pushed it out of their mind,
convinced that all the circles were hoaxes. Even the people who have studied the circles
or commented on them may argue for or against their paranormal nature, the possible
role of Aliens or the idea that the designs hide an experiment in military electronics, but

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                 Page 9
there is no disagreement about the fact that most of the designs have been made by

Among these fakers are two men, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley whose "revelations"
were picked up by the international press with great eagerness (front-page treatment in
major newspapers, interviews on CNN and BBC, etc.) when they stated they had fooled
believers in saucer landings since 1978 with their technique for flattening crops with a
wooden board and a piece of string.

As researcher Patrick Gross writes,
"These early crop circles were round,
because flying saucers were circular, as
"everybody knows", in people's
imagination if not in reality." His analysis
of the phenomenon can be found on this
page, where he articulates the
proposition that ALL circles are the result
of hoaxers, some of whom are actually
artists. Mr. Gross provides links to many
other useful references.

I once met several of these artists at a conference in Switzerland, where they were
presenting their techniques and the resulting data. When I asked them, "How dare you
fool people this way?" they answered that art in general was about fooling people to
create a sense of awe, beauty or simply a brief, healthy disconnect with ordinary reality.
One of them pointed out that "When you look at the Mona Lisa you think you look at a
woman, but you have been fooled: there is no woman there; someone just applied some
paint to a rectangular piece of canvas. Well, we do the same thing, except that our
canvas happens to be a cornfield."

When you put it that way it is perfectly all right for teams of artists to run through the
fields at night and produce things like the spider, the bicycle or more elaborate geometric
designs. People like Jim Schnabel have participated in the game and there are even
international competitions in circle making, with recognition for the most complex
productions. No wonder people are convinced that all the circles are made for fun by a
team of humans crushing the corn for kicks when the subject comes up in discussions
among scientists or businessmen today. The difficult question is, "does this explain ALL
the circles, or only the relatively simple ones?" The artists I spoke to in Switzerland
confessed that some of the extraordinary designs were beyond their ability to produce
them. While the initial "weather phenomenon" theory of Terence Meaden and others has
not survived, there are still people who firmly believe the complex designs are made by
Aliens and some who state they are a warning from Gaia. Among the technical
community there are also those who pursue the idea first expressed by Dr. Jean-Pierre

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                Page 10
Petit, Jean-Jacques Velasco and others, looking to military electronics as the key to the

                                              My own feeling about the New Age
                                              interpretations is frankly negative. Why
                                              assume that Aliens are at work here, when
                                              the designs show universally human
                                              symbols? Even the Mandelbrot set, one of
                                              the most perfect displays, is a
                                              representation of a human concept. There
                                              is nothing new or scientifically profound in
                                              any of this. We are not being taught
                                              anything. Similarly, the Gaia hypothesis
                                              doesn't work for me. When the Earth
                                              teaches us something it is usually brutal
                                              and very explicit, like the volcano in Iceland,
                                              which leaves little to the imagination.

Which brings us back to the beam weapon hypothesis. Until recently it seemed rather
far-fetched, which is why neither Velasco's presentations nor my early articles made any
impact. Now that disclosures about actual beam weapons are available, including
devices acting from the sky and beams capable of harming humans and stopping
engines, we have to revisit the issue and look a bit more seriously at the hard facts left
unexplained by the hoax explanation.

The first piece of interesting data has to do with systematic differences between those
circles where plants are broken by mechanical action and those where some form of
energy has exploded the nodes in the stalks. A detailed study of so-called "expulsion
cavities" in corn with exploded nodes is found in the report where the authors note:
"During the 1990s multiple specific and distinctive plant abnormalities were repeatedly
documented in several hundred different crop formations which had occurred in various
European countries as well as in the States and Canada. Extensive laboratory
examination of thousands of these crop circle plants and their controls by American
biophysicist W. C. Levengood established the presence of consistent changes in the
circle plants which were not present in the control plants (plants taken at varying
distances outside the crop formations, but in the same fields) -- changes which control
studies revealed were not caused by simple mechanical flattening of the plants (with
planks, boards, cement rollers or human feet)."

For detailed discussion of earlier plant (and subsequently soil) anomalies documented
between 1990-2002, see here and here: That particular line of analysis gets increasingly
complex and the controversy is likely to continue for a long time, but other data tends to
support the idea that military research is involved.

       Jacques Vallee                    Posts on BoingBoing                   Page 11
I have mentioned before that I interviewed a reliable witness who described to me a
rather extraordinary device hovering above the fields in an area where circles were
commonly found. This man is a professor of physics who is also an avid glider pilot. On
that particular occasion he was happily taking advantage of some thermals above the
English countryside, admiring the landscape, when he was surprised to see his aircraft
reflected in something like a perfect mirror hanging vertically in mid-air. Being of a logical
turn of mind he decided to verify the image was not a hallucination, and then he tried to
determine the shape of the object by making several turns around it. The thing was
cylindrical and covered with a perfectly reflective surface.

While some of my theoretical physics friends continue to argue that a beam capable of
causing crop circles could be activated from space, it seems much more likely to me that
a low-observable, optically stealthy, hovering platform would be more practical in
situations like a battlefield or an urban guerilla flashpoint. Admittedly we are dealing with
hypotheticals here, but this would explain the proximity of the circles to classified
facilities: the controllers of the device would want to minimize chances that it would
wander off and perhaps crash, resulting in premature exposure.

A third argument needs to be mentioned, in answer to the obvious question, "Why would
anyone want to develop a beam weapon, and why would it have to come from above?"
Part of the answer has already been given in the two disclosures I have quoted before
from New Scientist. However the requirements for extremely sophisticated beams go
well beyond the applications mentioned in the magazine. In the complex, dangerous
range of threats we face today one may need to destroy targets with devices that can
create very concentrated areas of extremely high temperature without blowing up
whatever building or facility is targeted. Bombing a biological warfare lab, for example, is
not a good idea if the result is to disperse a dangerous microbial agent. One could also
think of beams that would be used to control the trajectory of a ball of plasma (possibly
created by a small atomic explosion) targeted at objects in the atmosphere, in space or
on the ground. All such applications would require a long period of development and
testing, and would probably be designed as multi-country experiments.

Indeed, during the eighties and nineties there were discreet exchanges of expertise
among government agencies concerned with the UFO phenomenon in the U.S., France
and Great Britain (and perhaps others). One of the French experts detached to work on
this topic with American Intelligence is said to be visible on one of the crop circle videos,
mingling among New Age enthusiasts and civilian researchers. Interestingly, much of the
classified research conducted in these three countries (while any official interest in UFOs
was denied in public statements) was done by microwave experts, including medical
researchers specializing in the effect of radiation on living tissue.

From the point of view of rational analysis the weight of evidence is still on the side of the
skeptics who assure us that all crop circles are made by artists and lovable, jolly old men
like Doug and Dave. But there are facts that don't quite fit, and the alternatives are worth

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 12
considering. They lead into very disturbing areas, not all of which have to do with
physics. In a concluding (fourth) post, I plan to come back to the initial issue raised by
the crop circle problem, which is that of the construction and manipulation of belief

Post no. 6: Of Crop Circles, meme wars and web-based
Jacques Vallee at 8:17 AM Monday, Jun 21, 2010

Based on the three earlier posts I have made on this subject, an objective reader might
be justified to conclude either that crop circles are the product of hoaxes or the result of
experimental military developments. In both cases he or she would also have to admit
that they represent a masterful project in social engineering.

If they are hoaxes, the authors have succeeded in capturing the attention of the world in
a way that few works of art even achieve. Their productions are surrounded with mystery
and the breathless suggestion of Alien contact or ancient druidic magic. The designs
even hint at a cosmic signal about the future of our species.

If they are military experiments hidden in plain sight, then the social manipulation of
information that serves as camouflage is a remarkable achievement. It shows that the
most open form of public communication in the world, namely the web, can be used as a
device to hide the reality of a massive technological effort and to distort the debate about

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 13
the tools it uses and the goals it pursues. Those of us interested in the evolution and
future of the Internet should take notice.

Most of the discussion about the circles in books, magazines and websites has been
devoted to the physical methods that may be used to generate them: from wooden
boards, rakes and brooms to beams from hovering platforms (my personal choice) or
even orbiting satellites. Sadly, the social engineering aspect, which represents an equally
great achievement, has rarely been mentioned. For me that aspect is the most
fascinating part of the crop circle phenomenon, and I submit that the dialogue we have
seen on Boing Boing illustrates it well. What we have here is a remarkable example of
misdirection around a stunning experiment that remains in full view of a wide public that
consistently fails to ask the right questions and keeps re-asserting
bogus answers.

The unveiling of the "Doug and Dave" hoax itself was a notable
example of media promotion. The two British retirees enjoyed
front-page articles in the international press and special
placement on prime time on world TV programs, a treatment
usually reserved for major world events or announcements
supported by heavy, professionally-managed advertising budgets.
Their "revelation" had an immediate, irreversible effect of locking
the concept of crop circles as a hoax in the mind of a very large
public, most notably the academic and 'intellectual' community.

As we saw in the responses to my previous posts it is
extraordinarily difficult to dislodge such a certainty and re-open
the minds of people to alternate views once they have
satisfactorily locked onto such an easy, convenient explanation.
The presentation of new facts (such as the node explosion that lies beyond the technical
capability of our friends Doug and Dave, or the recent announcement that the military
had, in fact, deployed beam weapons fired from above) makes no difference in the
debate because people just ignore it As we saw, most of the responses to my earlier
posts simply re-asserted an existing position (sometimes with considerable aggression)
rather than debating the relevance of new data.

This goes well beyond crop circles. For those of us who have followed the development
of networks for many years the lessons are sobering. The web is becoming the medium
of choice for disinformation and misinformation, including official efforts to inject new
"memes" into the culture. Although I remain an optimist about the web as a medium for
free exchanges of data and faster communication of high value, it is also a potential tool
for propaganda, false rumors intentionally planted and for a range of techniques
designed to alter or filter social reality.

       Jacques Vallee                    Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 14
                      This intentional distortion has certainly become a fact of life among
                      ufologists. It seems that every month or so some website claims to
                      have received data from a hidden source, often a "highly-placed"
                      defense or intelligence person, about UFO crashes, live Aliens,
                      secret missions to Mars or contact with hush-hush cosmic locations
                      such as Ummo, Serpo and other wonderful places. The curious thing
                      is that, in cases when it has been possible to reverse-engineer these
                      links, they were often found to originate within the intelligence
                      community or people close to it. The purpose may be to divert
                      attention from real projects, to confuse an adversary or even to
                      release new ideas to test society's reactions. In such situations the
                      community of UFO believers is used only as a convenient resonating
                      chamber: Since the content can never be checked or the origin
                      verified, there is absolutely nothing a researcher can do with the
alleged information: photos of bizarre drones that could be digital fakes (or simply the
spines of an umbrella thrown up into the air), blurry glows flying over Mexico, official-
looking minutes of U.N. meetings that never happened, actual Presidential papers where
a few words have been substituted to suggest official contact with Aliens, or pictures of
monsters in the woods. These websites attract plenty of attention and a lot of users who
in turn amplify the signal with their own fantasies. The process is reminiscent of flypaper:
you deploy a device that will make would-be researchers stick to your concept and spend
a lot of time discussing and amplifying it instead of going after real data.

The main result is to disturb, drown or negate genuine research into paranormal
phenomena, but the intent may well go beyond this effect. Web social patterns have
become a strategic global tool. Like the crop circles themselves, they can now be used to
alter the public's perception of the present and the future. Mastering such a tool is well
worth a few bent stalks of corn.

       Jacques Vallee                    Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 15
Post no.7: Stating the Obvious (item 1):
If you don't have a house you don't need no sofa
Jacques Vallee at 11:40 AM Friday, Jul 30, 2010

above: "empty home on Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis" by Andrew Ciscel via CC

OK, so I'm not an economist. But as a venture investor in early-stage medical and
technology companies I read the usual financial articles that come across my screen and
I see the same statistics everybody is seeing. I listen to Obama and I watch the TV
shows where pundits argue with Congressmen about the wisdom of this or that particular
tax or stimulus measure to restart our sick economy. I have nothing to say about this, no
statistics of my own and no fancy theory, so instead of taking sides in this particular
debate I keep looking for the things that are missing.

What is missing is this: Over two million American families have now lost their homes;
foreclosure figures are at an all-time high. Several million new families will be thrown into
the street over the next year, no matter what happens to taxes or the stimulus. This is a
given. Yet, among Washington and Wall Street experts this disaster is only reflected in
the form of statistical figures they mix up and datamine alongside many other figures,
where the numbers lose their special, tragic character.

       Jacques Vallee                        Posts on BoingBoing                Page 16
It's not a very newsworthy disaster, either, so after a while it even fades from TV news:
no dramatic shots of oil gushing up from a broken well or birds coated with black tar. No
sense of urgency here, just a big spreading tragedy. The experts only know that the
banks are off the hook: they have been given tons of new money to help with mortgages.
The fact that this money sits unused and that many banks have not even appointed
managers to deal with desperate homeowners does not come to their attention. My Bank
of America branch won't even talk to you about mortgages - they send you to a faceless
office downtown where nobody knows you.

In such complex situations, it is healthy for somebody to just state the obvious before
trying to develop cute, complicated theories. You don't look smart by stating the obvious:
Duh! Everybody knows that. You won't get invited on the CNBC morning show. You
knew what I'm going to say all along but perhaps you hadn't thought it through.

So here is an obvious statement: if you have just lost your house you are not likely to go
buy a new TV set for a while. If you just moved your family into a cheap motel, you
probably don't think about ordering new drapes for the living room; and if you also lost
your job (as thousands of people continue to do every day) and now live in your car in
some urban park, you won't be shopping for refrigerators, sofas and camcorders for a
long, long time to come.

Since nobody can find you because you don't have an address any more, the
statisticians won't be asking for your opinion about the economy, which may explain the
puzzling discrepancies in the mysterious tables called "consumer sentiment," a figure
that is now at a five-month low. This "obvious" fact may also account for the lack of any
serious recovery; or the probability that the economy will not be very robust for a while,
no matter how "stimulating" the climate gets in Washington around election time; it may
explain the chill over the Chinese industry, which makes all the refrigerators, the sofas,
the TVs, the drapes and the camcorders you used to buy when you had a house to put
them in; and the uncertainty in Europe, which makes the machines China needs to make
TVs, camcorders, drapes and sofas. So that uncertainty travels around the planet in
opposite direction to the Earth's rotation and comes back to hit us from the east, because
we used to supply lots of goods and services to Europe to make the machines, etc.

No wonder Mr. Bernanke finds that things are "unusually uncertain." At least he still has
his sofa.

       Jacques Vallee                    Posts on BoingBoing                 Page 17
Post no.8: Stating The Obvious (item 2):
I, Product
Jacques Vallee at 8:53 AM Wednesday, Oct 20, 2010


                                       You may think of yourself as a user of Google,
                                       Facebook or Amazon, but you are actually their

                                       Sure, Google will provide you with search results,
                                       but they are not in the search business; they are in
                                       the advertising business. Their profits come from
                                       marketing firms that buy your behavior.

                                       Similarly, Amazon is not in the book business,
                                       although they will send you the books you've
                                       ordered. They are in the personal information

The assets of modern web-based companies are the intimate profiles of those who "use"
them, like you and me. Time to forget the nice pronouncements like "Do no evil" that
accompany the wholesale destruction of privacy now taking place on the web, or rather
within the walled gardens that companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are erecting
around us on the web. Compared to them, the Chinese censors re-inventing their Great
Wall are a bunch of sissies.

Any smart CEO would kill to have a product like you that doesn't cost anything and keeps
renewing itself indefinitely so it can be sold and resold and resold to many different

Well, who cares? Look at what we've gained: We now have access to unprecedented
new riches. Movies and songs by the thousands; new "friends" by the hundreds; timely
pieces of data by the millions. Our lives have become richer, more intelligent, more

The world moves on. You may have had privacy rights as a customer or a user but what
makes you think you should retain those rights now that you're just a product?

The privacy we once thought was so vital: where we live, who we vote for, what we eat,
what God we believe in, who we go to bed with, turns out to have been a myth, an
unimportant detail in our lives. Whoever wrote the Constitution in an effort to protect it (a
fact now disputed by some legal experts) was sorely out to touch with technology and
ignorant of life's true values.

Or was he?

       Jacques Vallee                      Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 18
What does it mean to live in a world where the behavior of an entire population can be
accurately mapped from minute to minute? A world where Procter & Gamble knows
exactly what kind of toothpaste I use (and when I can be expected to run out) but also a
world where government planners and politicians can subscribe to data flows from
datamining experts to engineer finely-tuned programs of mass manipulation? A world
where whole new social, political or religious "memes" can be injected into the culture to
mold it into new forms?

People used to be up in arms when local authorities put fluoride into the water supply to
strengthen kids' teeth but very few object to intelligence agencies experimenting with
massive social engineering intrusions into the flow of ideas on social networks.

On a personal basis, do we really want our lives to be conditioned by an information
environment that seems to expand to infinity but actually closes in around us? It closes in
because we can only buy songs and "apps" from the censored files of iTunes; because
all our relationships with the people we love or engage in business have been posted
online for our convenience; because the very smart phone we now carry everywhere is
busy filing ads filtered by sophisticated agencies to reflect our tastes; because our bank
has shared our financial data with all its "affiliates:" thousands of insurance, real estate,
brokerage and media firms. Like good magicians, they have mastered the art of

Have you ever tried to "opt out" of that system to find out what lies beyond its

In this new world our illusion of freedom is intact but our privacy has been sold out from
under us. My phone is already reporting my position to its masters and to anyone who
buys the information from them. It will soon "augment my reality" by leading me to
restaurants matching my tastes at attractively discounted prices--restaurants where I will
meet my "friends" to discuss the ideas we all believe in. How reassuring! How warm and
cuddly! How convenient! Everybody knows where you are and what you're thinking

I tweet, therefore I am.

Uncertainty has been mastered, volatility reduced, complexity minimized. Isn't that a
benefit of advanced technology? Isn't that what business should be all about? Forget
1984 and Brave New World. The men who wrote those books were dangerously naïve
and not as prescient as we once believed. Instead of Big Brother looking after us, we're
immersed in a dizzily delightful system that cares so much about us that it anticipates our
every pleasure, like a giant planetary-class Vegas, an immense, inexhaustible Disney
World. All we have to do is to preserve the illusion that we, "the users," have the power:
in that ignorance, we can live happily ever after.

       Jacques Vallee                     Posts on BoingBoing                  Page 19

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