Printed: 2019-12-06

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies





IEET Link: https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/goertzel20130420

Statement on the Recent TED/Psi/Consciousness Controversy

Ben Goertzel


http://wp.goertzel.org/?p=495


http://wp.goertzel.org/?p=495

April 20, 2013

There has been a minor kerfuffle recently regarding the TED franchise’s decision to remove from their main video site, TEDx conference talks given by scientists promoting psi research and the exploration of non-reductionistic approaches to consciousness.

Due to my role in the recently-formed Society for Consciousness Studies, I was asked to contribute a statement to a Huffington Post article on the topic, and I did so; but for some reason (perhaps a simple oversight or clerical mishap) my statement was not included in the article….   So, I am posting the statement I wrote for that article here, in case anyone is interested.


I have spoken on my AI and bioinformatics work at multiple TEDx events, and up till now I’ve had nothing but praise for the wonderful work of the TED organization.

For this reason, I was rather disappointed to observe the recent actions on the part of the TED administration, removing TEDx conference talk videos by Rupert Sheldrake, Russell Targ and others, due to criticisms by certain self-appointed “skeptics” and accusations of “pseudoscience.” Apparently the issue is that their work touches on psi phenomena, commonly known as the “paranormal.”

In my own view, as a scientist with 25 years professional experience in multiple scientific disciplines, the work of these individuals is absolutely not pseudoscience, and would be better characterized as “frontier science.”   Yes, their work  is controversial and in some respects speculative.  But it is based on carefully gathered experimental data, analyzed thoroughly by thoughtful and educated people.  It might prove wrong in the end, but it’s not pseudoscience.

It is noteworthy that the “skeptics” who have prevailed upon the TED administration to call these scientists’ work pseudoscience, consistently refuse to engage in any detail with the actual data gathered by these scientists, or others working on psi and other frontier aspects of mind-matter interaction.

I wonder if the TED administration is aware that  there is a substantial community of serious scientists — including many, like myself, who have contributed to TED events — who

1) disagree with the evaluation of the work of Sheldrake, Targ etc. as pseudoscience, and believe the removal of their videos was a suboptimal decision

2) believe it would be to the benefit of TED and the world at large, if wide-ranging scientific explorations into the nature of consciousness and its relation to the world, were among the permitted topics at TED conferences

My respectful request to the TED administration is that they rescind their decision, and open their minds and their conferences to scientists exploring the relationship between mind and matter.  The scientific data regarding psi is complex and, confusing — I know, because I have looked at it thoroughly myself.  But I believe there is very likely something valuable there, amidst all the confusion.  And I submit that providing an arena for the discussion and debate of controversial, tricky issues with potentially dramatic impact, is very much in the spirit of TED.


Ben Goertzel Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, and founder and CEO of two computer science firms Novamente and Biomind, and of the non-profit Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (agiri.org).

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