The Scent of Illness and Death: The smell of fungi eating rotting humans

The Scent of Illness and Death: The smell of fungi eating rotting humans

Fungi or molds are the true ouroboros of nature.

After all, fungi eat illness and death, and in doing so, create new life.

I find the concept of fungi controlling the cycle of destruction and creation highly intriguing. I often ponder the biological processes that govern these laws of nature and their filamental connections to human beings.

In my capacity as a certified mold inspector and remediator based in the United States, I am well-versed in identifying mold (fungal) infestations in homes. These infestations often manifest as a specific odor reminiscent of decaying construction materials.

Repeated exposure to this distinctive scent has honed my detection skills over the span of a decade, allowing me to identify it with almost flawless accuracy.

The other day, it occurred to me: Wouldn’t humans with fungal infections or diseases produce a similar scent of decay or rot?

A brief online investigation confirmed my hypothesis!

Many studies have shown that humans demonstrate a proficient capacity to recognize and respond suitably to scent signals indicating danger such as certain chemicals resulting from biological decay processes to evoke avoidance (Rozin et al. 2000). Researchers have found that certain volatile compounds or smell hazards can be divided into two categories based on the human emotions associated with microbial threats (e.g., organic decay, vomit or feces) and nonmicrobial hazards (e.g., predators, fire, degraded air, and poisons).

For example, the smell of smoke would elicit fear that a fire is nearby and you need to move away or flee the area, while the smell of rotting garbage or moldy drywall will cause a disgusting emotion as the person inhales these VOCs. The reason is studies have shown that each class of threats is associated with a different underlying emotion such as disgust or fear/panic, which could indicate the level of threat.

This powerful smell detection system in animals and humans serves as an evolutionary defense mechanism deeply ingrained in our subconscious minds over millennia. The scents of decay, emanating as volatile compounds, serve as environmental cues for all living beings, including microorganisms, animals, and humans.

When we inhale, these odor molecules travel through the nasal passages and reach the olfactory epithelium, where they bind to the receptor proteins. This triggers a series of chemical signals that are sent to the brain, specifically the olfactory bulb, which processes and interprets the information to identify the scent.

While some scents signal the presence of food, others indicate potential threats such as predators, pathogens, fires, or even kin relationships.

Researchers have found that many individuals have reported experiencing a distinct change in their sense of smell when they or a loved one falls ill. This phenomenon is not merely coincidental; rather, it is rooted in the intricate connections between our olfactory system and our overall health.

I know this smell all too well.

When I was a young teen serving out my community service sentence in a senior citizen home, I could vividly remember this distinct smell as I walked down the lonely concrete halls.

This smell was not pleasant. It was a mixture of urine, feces, and rotting flesh.

As I served out my 30-day sentence, I felt every time I walked into that facility that I was walking on a narrow ridge between the shadow of the valley of death and life.

The next time I came across this unique scent again was in the ICU room of a hospital when my father had almost died from alcoholism at 52.

As I watched the nurses pump the shit out of his blood as he lay there incapacitated and near death because his liver gave out, that strange smell hit my nostrils bringing back memories of the nursing home.

Again, I realized where I was.

But this time I was a visitor witnessing my father’s life being dragged into the valley of death. As if they had, the legions received a notice of his impending doom coming to feast on his barely living carcass.

Today as I look back, I’m much more educated about human biology, health, disease, and death. As it relates to the scent of death, I have found an interesting correlation that explains this phenomenon.

What I found is that scent can be a powerful indicator of understanding the science of illness and death.


Our sense of smell, also known as olfaction, is a powerful and often underappreciated sense that plays a crucial role to detect and differentiate between a vast array of scents, from the pleasant aroma of freshly baked cookies to the pungent odor of rotten eggs and even infectious diseases.

Clinicians have long recognized that most infections produce distinctive odors associated with a particular disease. In fact, each disease has a specific smell that is almost always associated with a rotten or decaying scent as if we are slowly being eaten alive, which appears to be the case.

In the human body, microbial organisms generate a variety of volatile substances, and different smelly compounds like alcohols, aliphatic acids, and terpenes. Research into the emission of VOCs resulting from microbial activity in bodily fluids and organs, which are then released through breath, urine, feces, and sweat traces back to the early 1800s.

The reason is that beyond exhaling air, your breath contains volatile compounds (VOCs) originating from various bodily organs that act as environmental signals (magnets) to nearby predators, pathogens, and kin.

If we have a fungal disease in one of our organs, they will emit these VOCs through our breath, sweat, skin, urine, feces, and vaginal secretions. But our blood is the most important source for these pheromone signals in the form of bodily odors.

For example, it’s common to experience morning breath, particularly if you’ve slept with your mouth open. However, bad breath or halitosis can also be a sign of underlying health issues such as gum disease, respiratory infections, or even digestive problems.

Persistent bad breath that doesn’t improve with regular oral hygiene measures like brushing and mouthwash could indicate an underlying issue such as infections in the sinuses, throat, or lungs, requiring medical attention from a healthcare professional.

When we smell these odors of other people, they are called pheremones which are small volatile organic molecules that animals and humans use to communicate. Pheromones are clinically defined as “substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species, in which they release a specific reaction, for example, a definite behavior or a developmental process”.

Pheromones play a critical role in signaling and choreographing interactions between fungi mating partners during sexual reproduction.

Meaning, that certain smells give off a magnetic cue for fungi within the human body that they should start having lots of sex and reproduce more offspring, which would require that the increased fungal population needs more food to feast upon.

My theory is that this increased fungal load creates fermentation within our blood and organs which morphs this symbiotic relationship into a parasitic one leading to illness, disease, and eventually death. These illnesses caused by fermentation create a unique rot or decaying odor that we have the innate ability to detect.

Interestingly, I have found that research has revealed that certain illnesses can alter a person’s body odor, making them emit distinct pheromone scents that can be detected by others, even at a subconscious level. This ability to detect sickness through pheromones may have evolved as a survival mechanism, allowing us to avoid contact with individuals who are ill and reducing the risk of spreading disease within a community.

For example, researchers have found that certain infections like tuberculosis can create a unique odor in the patient’s sweat and even metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria can result in a musty odor in the individual’s breath or skin. A fruity or rotten apple-like odor might indicate poorly controlled diabetes.

In some cases, organ failure can contribute to bad breath. Kidney failure, for instance, may produce an ammonia or urine-like odor, while serious liver disease can result in musty or garlic-like breath.

Another notable example is the use of scent analysis to detect early signs of certain types of cancer through breath samples. By analyzing the volatile organic compounds present in exhaled breath, researchers have been able to identify specific scent markers associated with different types of cancer, enabling early detection and intervention.


Our olfactory senses have the remarkable ability to detect subtle changes in the body’s chemistry, even after passing. The unique scents that accompany different stages of decomposition can provide valuable insights into the time of passing and the processes at play within the body.

Before death, the human body undergoes a fascinating series of changes that can be detected through various senses, including smell. When a person is diseased or near death, the breakdown of cells and tissues initiates a complex biochemical process that releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the surrounding environment. These VOCs are responsible for the unique pre and post-mortem scent that evolves.

Initially, the absence of vital functions such as circulation and respiration leads to a lack of oxygen supply to cells, resulting in anaerobic metabolism and the production of compounds like putrescine and cadaverine. These compounds contribute to the characteristic early-stage scent of death, often described as sweet and sickly.

As time progresses, microbial activity intensifies, causing further decomposition and the release of additional VOCs such as skatole and indole. These compounds give rise to the distinctive foul odor associated with the beginning stages of decomposition.

When a living organism ceases to function, a complex series of biological processes begin to unfold, leading to the breakdown of tissues and the release of various gasses and compounds.

The stages of decomposition can be broadly categorized into fresh, putrefaction, decay, and dry remains.

During the fresh stage, the body undergoes immediate changes such as algor mortis (cooling of the body), rigor mortis (stiffening of muscles), and livor mortis (discoloration of the skin due to pooling of blood). As the process progresses into putrefaction, bacteria within the body begin to break down tissues, releasing volatile organic compounds that contribute to the characteristic odors associated with decomposition.

Moving into the decay stage, the body continues to break down, leading to the formation of adipocere (a waxy substance) and further release of gasses such as methane and hydrogen sulfide. Finally, the remains enter the dry stage, characterized by the mummification of tissues and a reduction in odor production.

Studies have shown that as the body undergoes the process of decomposition, distinct scents are released that can provide valuable insights into the timeline of when an individual passed away.

One notable case study involved analyzing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during decomposition. Researchers found that specific compounds, such as putrescine and cadaverine, increased in concentration over time, creating a unique scent profile associated with different stages of decomposition.

Health factors also play a crucial role in influencing post-mortem scent. Various health conditions and medications can impact the decomposition process and alter the odor profile after death. For example, individuals with certain illnesses may produce distinct chemical compounds during decomposition, leading to unique and identifiable post-mortem scents.

Researchers found that dying cells might signal their demise to nearby living cells by releasing specific metabolites, potentially orchestrating physiological responses to stress. Through mass spectrometry analysis of intracellular and extracellular metabolomes, they identified five metabolites involved in the process.

Additionally, they found adenosine triphosphate, previously known for its role in immune cell recruitment, to be upregulated after apoptosis induction. Importantly, the release of these metabolites was reduced when cells were treated with a pan-caspase inhibitor, suggesting that apoptotic cells actively release biologically relevant metabolites.

The authors explored whether metabolites released by dying cells were just incidental or reflect the cell’s activity before death. They found that spermidine levels were notably high in all models tested.

Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine that is present in various foods such as soybeans, wheat germ, and aged cheeses. In mammalian cells, spermidine is produced from putrescine, which is derived from ornithine, or through the oxidative breakdown of spermine.

It can also be taken up from the extracellular environment or expelled from the cell, potentially through membrane transporters akin to those found in yeast and bacteria, or through endocytosis/exocytosis mechanisms.

Spermidine is produced from putrescine.

A word that means “becoming putrid or rotting.”

This is the decomposition of carbon matter.

The scent of death.

Putrescine is found in all organisms and plants.

Its role is well documented to play a role in stress responses in plants and its absence is associated with an increase in both parasite and fungal populations in plants. It is what causes bad breath and vaginosis. Putrescine is found in semen and some microalgae, together with spermine and spermidine.

The intestinal microbiota represents the main source of spermidine synthesis within our body.

Studies of mice found that the concentration of spermidine in the gut lumen could be upregulated through oral administration of probiotics and the amino acid arginine, resulting in suppressed inflammation and improved longevity in old mice.

Due to its role in putrification, elevated putrescine has also been proposed as a biochemical marker for determining how long a corpse has been decomposing and also premortem diseases such as cancer. Scientifically speaking as it relates to humans, putrefying tissue of dead bodies breaks down our cells and proteins which undergo anaerobic splitting by bacteria and fungi creating a pungent scent that is emitted by putrescine.

Research on animals shows that it can function as a powerful chemosensory signal that prompts the perceiver to leave or avoid the area and that humans can identify threats via chemosignals. This unique scent has been studied to activate what is known as a “chemosensory warning signal” within humans activating threat management responses (e.g., heightened alertness, fight-or-flight responses).

The significance of scent in this realm cannot be understated, as it opens up a new dimension in forensic science that can lead to more accurate diagnosis, estimations, and conclusions in pre and post-mortem investigations.

Advancements in technology are paving the way for more accurate and efficient methods of determining illness, disease, and death based on scent analysis.

One promising development is the use of electronic nose devices, which are designed to mimic the human sense of smell and can detect and analyze volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during decomposition. These devices have the potential to provide rapid and objective assessments of post-mortem scent profiles, aiding forensic investigators in determining the time of passing with greater precision.

Additionally, research is underway to explore the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze complex scent data patterns and identify specific biomarkers associated with different stages of decomposition.


Understanding the intricate relationship between the science of the scent of illness and death can pave the way for advancements in the diagnosis and prognosis of people infected by fungi.

Our olfactory system can serve as a powerful tool in identifying early signs of infectious disease, human decay, and organ rotting found in various diseases.

As we’ve explored in this article, clinicians have long recognized and several studies prove that many infections produce distinctive odors associated with particular diseases.

The sense of smell, often overlooked in healthcare settings today, will play a significant role in detecting and monitoring illnesses in the future.

By harnessing the power of our sense of smell, healthcare professionals can potentially improve early detection, treatment outcomes, and overall patient care.

The implications for humanity could be profound.


The scent of disease: volatile organic compounds of the human body related to disease and disorder – Oxford Academic

PUBMED: Humans can detect axillary odor cues of an acute respiratory infection in others

Pheromones and their effect on women’s mood and sexuality – PUBMED

Spermidine: a physiological autophagy inducer acting as an anti-aging vitamin in humans?

The smell of death: evidence that putrescine elicits threat management mechanisms

An Initial Evaluation of the Functions of Human Olfaction

Phillip K. Dick: The Black Iron Prison of the Empire that Never Ended

Phillip K. Dick: The Black Iron Prison of the Empire that Never Ended

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“So long as the root of wickedness is hidden, it is strong. But when it is recognized, it is dissolved. When it is revealed, it perishes…. It is powerful because we have not recognized it.” – The Gospel of Phillip (Gnostic Text)

One of Phillip K. Dick’s most famous Gnostic theories was that of the Black Iron Prison (BIP), which he described as an invisible complex life form (organism) that was a criminal virus and self-perpetuating.

Its human representatives were the fake people and inauthentic human beings who were its unwitting slaves. They were the army for the Roman Empire, which he claimed never ended, they just went underground.

Think of the Black Iron Prison as a synonymous term to the Matrix to describe our world and the hidden realities which govern it as it exists today. Dick shares through his novels and his own personal story about being a prisoner trapped within it.

According to Dick, those people who do not believe in this world are the victims of its illusions and the people who believe in it are its victims.

Both are slaves but neither is free.

Both must endure its suffering without hope of release or reprieve, because there is no escape from this world.

We are all trapped – unable to break free from the hidden chains of our own enslavement because we have been conditioned to believe we live in freedom.

Dick writes, “We are in a kind of prison but do not know it. The Black Iron Prison is a vast complex life form (organism) which protects itself by inducing a negative hallucination of it.”

He says,  “The criminal virus controls by occluding (putting us in a sort of half sleep)…. The occlusion is self-perpetuating; it makes us unaware of it.”

As if this “living organism” is a immortal in that it perpetually self-generates until we manage to break its spell.

Dick writes, “the very occlusion itself prevents us from assessing, overcoming or ever being aware of the occlusion.”

This self generating organism has the ability to insert itself into our thoughts without us ever knowing it is there. A type of mind virus or parasite creating thought-disorder.

Dick says, “There is some kind of ubiquitous thinking dysfunction which goes unnoticed especially by the persons themselves, and this is the horrifying part of it: somehow the self-monitoring circuit in the person is fooled by the very dysfunction it is supposed to monitor.”

When we have fallen under its spell or its control, we are completely unaware and appear to be normal, but we often have the sense that we are no longer ourselves.

It’s as if we have been highjacked by something alien to ourselves as it exploits the hidden aspects that control our reality such as the neuro circuits of our brain, our gastrointestinal tracts, and our central nervous systems.

All the while, we are asleep to the fact that this organism that constitutes that Black Iron Prison has commandeered our very bodies and brains by exploiting the unconscious systems of our minds making us all its unwitting slaves.

It’s goal is to use us humans as its host to not only harvest our energy and our thoughts, which this living organism feeds upon, but to use its victims to control the planet making us a type of android or zombie slave for its cause.

Dick says that it warps us into micro-extensions of itself. This is why it and its slaves are so dangerous.

He writes; “This is the dread thing it does: extending its android thinking more and more extensively. It exerts a dreadful and subtle power, and more and more people fall into its field, by means of which it grows.”

In fact, Dick claims there is collusion between us and the Black Iron Prison and “we’re sources of psychic/psychological energy to it: we help power it.”

It is interesting that he describes that the more people who fall under its field, it makes humans a micro-extensions of itself by which it gains power and grows larger.

There are some key traits and human characteristics that he points out are signs that a person is no longer themselves and has fallen under the control of this organism that becomes a defacto prison guard for our souls.

For Dick, “Android or robot like thinking,” i.e., group-think or sheeple like behavior (with no creativity),” is one of the main qualities proving that the immune system and mind has been officially highjacked making us its slave.

He had said, “This is a sinister life form indeed. First it takes power over us, reducing us to slaves, and then it causes us to forget our former state, and be unable to see or to think straight, and not to know we can’t see or think straight, and finally it becomes invisible to us by reason of what it has done to us. We cannot even monitor our own deformity, our own impairment.”

Dick continues, “It is as if the immune system has failed to detect an invader, a pathogen (shades of William Burroughs: a criminal virus!). Yes, the human brain has been invaded, and once invaded, is occluded to the invasion and the damage resulting from the invasion; it has now become an instrument for the pathogen: it winds up serving as its slave, and thus the ‘heavy metal speck’ [i.e., the BIP] is replicated (spread through linear and lateral time, and through space).”

He says, “We may not be what we seem even to ourselves.

“A usurper is on the throne.”

A spiritual coup d’état upon its unwitting victim and even nations who become its unwitting puppets.

Dick rants;

“We’re a fucking goddam “Biosphere” ruled by an entity who—like a hypnotist—can make us not only quack like a duck on que, but imagine, to boot, that we wanted to quack.”

He describes the mind that has been captured as having a mental illness that is dead and becomes fossilized:

“This section died. It became fossilized, and merely repeats itself. This is scary; it is like mental illness: ‘one day nothing new ever entered his mind—and the last thought just recirculated endlessly.’ Thus death rules here…The BIP is the form of this death, its embodiment—of what is wrong, here.”


According to Dick, the Black Iron Prison was not just a living parasitical organism that could commandeer our minds and bodies to make us its puppets, it also had also managed to weave its filamental web into a totalitarian world government ruled by an elite consisting of powerful corporations and individuals who have enslaved most of humanity for thousands of years.

The Black Iron Prison was first coined by Dick in his 1974 essay “The Android and the Human” and was developed further in his novel VALIS (1981).

In 1974, he wrote about how our lives were controlled by technology:

“You know what I mean when I say that we have become slaves to machines? We look at them as our masters, but they are more than that: they are our gods.”

In Dick’s novel VALIS, the protagonist experiences a series of events that lead him to believe that he has been trapped in an alternate reality created by an entity known as VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System).

He later learns from VALIS itself that his perceptions are accurate — that he has indeed been imprisoned inside what appears to be our own universe but is actually a simulation created by a higher intelligence for unknown purposes.

VALIS told him that the world was in fact a kind of prison for humanity, with its population divided into four classes: slaves (who work), soldiers (who protect), priests (who control) and rulers (who decide).

The rulers live in opulence while everyone else lives in squalor. They send out light signals to keep their subjects docile so they won’t revolt against their oppression.

It is referred to as “the Empire”, with its emblem being an eagle holding lightning bolts in its claws.

He says that humans are unable to comprehend the universe because they are trapped inside their own minds, which he calls “a kind of straitjacket or force field.”

In his novel VALIS, where Phil’s alter ego Horselover Fat (known as Phil) has an encounter with God who shows him visions from his own past life.

These visions show Phil how his present life and reality are actually an illusion created by an evil demiurge that wants to keep humans enslaved by their own ignorance and fear.

This demiurge creates a world that appears real but isn’t real at all – it’s just another form of control over us.

Philip K. Dick wrote;

“Once, in a cheap science fiction novel, Fat had come across a perfect description of the Black Iron Prison, but set in the far future.

So if you superimposed the past (ancient Rome) over the present (California in the twentieth century) and superimposed the far future world of The Android Cried Me a River over that, you got the Empire, as the supra- or trans-temporal constant.

Everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it.”

In an interview with Laura Huxley in 1974 he said: “The Empire (Roman) never ended”; we are living in a kind of continuation of the worst of the Roman Empire, a Black Iron Prison.

In other interviews, he described an oppressive society where people were controlled by machines. He believed that technological advances had created huge corporations which were run for profit rather than for people’s benefit. This made it difficult for ordinary people to make their voices heard when things went wrong.

The History of the Black Iron Prison

The Black Iron Prison is a concept that has been around for quite some time and has been used by many different people throughout history to describe different aspects of the human condition.

For example, there is the ancient concept of the archons, who are deities or evil spirits in Gnosticism, who rule the material world. They are called “archons” because they have dominion over us. They rule over us, they control our lives, they keep us ignorant, and they prevent access to the divine knowledge that is within all of us.

The term archon is derived from the ancient Greek ἄρχων (arkhōn), a ruler, leader, chief (cf. Latin rēx “king”). The word was used to refer to political leaders or governors in general in Ancient Greece.

Like Dick, the Gnostics believed that we could escape from their prison by overcoming these archons through secret knowledge or Gnosis revealed by Jesus Christ or other enlightened beings.

In the New Testament, God’s enemies, who are called principalities and powers when the Apostle Paul in his epistles uses “archon” in a transcendental context (Ephesians 2:2 and Colossians 2:15 are two examples).

Paul alludes to the Black Iron Prison when he describes his world as one filled with suffering and pain, saying that we are all “in bondage to decay.” (Romans 8:19) and that we are “prisoners of hope” (Romans 8:24).

In Buddhism there is a similar idea known as samsara, or reincarnation. The Buddha taught that we are trapped in an endless cycle of suffering because we cling to false ideas about reality.

George Gurdjieff once said, “Before you can escape from prison, you must first realize that you are in prison”.

In modern times, we have the infamous radio show host Alex Jones with his “Prison Planet” and the war for your mind, Info Wars.

How do we escape the Black Iron Prison?

According to Phillip K. Dick, “To see it is to see the ailment, the complex which warps all other thoughts to it.”

He claims that when “we begin to see what formerly was concealed to us, or from us, and the shock is great, since we have, all our lives, been trading (doing business) with evil.”

Dick believed that lies and anything fake or false was how this living organism was using its slaves – inauthentic humans to carry out its mission in creating fictitious realities to keep us distracted from the true evil that lurks beneath our skin and all around us.

Dick wrote; “the bombardment of pseudorealities begins to produce inauthentic humans very quickly [in his words ‘spurious humans’]. He says, “it has grown vine-like into our information media; it is an information life form.”

He continues, “Fake realities will produce fake humans. Or, fake humans will produce fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves.”

He compares this to the figure of Satan, who is “the liar.”

Dick believed that an authentic human, “cannot be compelled to be what they are not.” He elaborates, “The power of spurious realities battering at us today—these deliberately manufactured fakes never penetrate to the heart of true human beings.”

Did Phillip K. Dick Escape the Black Iron Prison?

For Phillip K. Dick, the Black Iron Prison is eternal and ubiquitous. It has been around for thousands of years, and it will be around for thousands more.

It is the controlling force behind all governments, religions, and systems of authority on Earth. The Black Iron Prison is a system designed to keep us from knowing our true nature as divine beings who can create our own reality through thought.

The reason why we don’t know about this system is that it operates on an unconscious level — it’s designed to work below our conscious perception so that we don’t notice it operating in our lives.

One of its prisoners was Phillip K. Dick.

A man whose mind will be forever known as one of the best science fiction writers who ever lived.

However, while in prison, his body in chains suffered from his eternal incarceration with a dangerous drug addiction, depression, and schizophrenia. After several neurological problems during the 1970s that resulted in brief hospitalizations, Dick began experiencing extreme paranoia and hallucinations.

He suffered from a heart attack in 1976, which led him to believe that his life would soon end; as such, he instructed his wife not to revive him after death if there were any problems with resuscitation attempts on him later down the line.

In 1982, Dick was found unconscious on the floor of his Santa Ana, California home, having suffered a stroke. On February 25, 1982, he suffered another stroke in the hospital, which led to brain death.

At only age 53 on March 2, 1982, Philip’s family pulled the plug on the Black Iron Prison and disconnected him from life support.

He died four months before the release of Blade Runner, the film based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

In the end, Dick decided to make his final escape from the Empire or did he?

Was it Dick who pulled the plug on his brain via stroke or the very Black Iron Prison sending one last shock to take him out for his METH addiction that plagued him all his life.

A kind of crypto death penalty for transgressions against the unseen.

I will leave you with one of his prophetic quotes to ponder if he was a genius, Gnostic, madman, or all of the above.

“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore.

Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.” (Philip K. Dick)

In typical Dicktopian prophetic fashion, he was right…

One thing is for sure, the Black Iron Prison certainly likes its Gnostic prophets.

No matter how mad the unauthentic world may think they are.


Solar Lottery, 1955.
A Handful of Darkness (short stories), 1955.
The World Jones Made, 1956.
The Man Who Japed, 1956.
Eye in the Sky, 1957.
The Cosmic Puppets, 1957.
The Variable Man (5 short novels), 1957.
Time Out of Joint, 1959.
Dr. Futurity, 1960.
Vulcan’s Hammer, 1960.
The Man in the High Castle, 1962.
The Game-Players of Titan, 1963.
Martian Time-Slip, 1964.
The Simulacra, 1964.
Clans of the Alplhane Moon, 1964.
The Penultimate Truth, 1964.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, 1965.
Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got A long after the Bomb, 1965.
Now Wait for Last Year, 1966.
The Crack in Space, 1966.
The Unteleported Man, 1966.
Counter-Clock World, 1967.
The Zap Gun, 1967.
The Ganymede Takeover (with Ray Nelson), 1967.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968.
The Preserving Machine (short stories), 1969.
Galactic Pot-Healer, 1969.
Ubik, 1969.
Our Friends from Frolix 8, 1970.
A Maze of Death, 1971.
We Can Build You, 1972.
The Book of Philip K. Dick (short stories), 1973.
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, 1974.
Confessions of a Crap Artist, 1975.
A Scanner Darkly, forthcoming.
Deus Irae (with Roger Zelazny), forthcoming.

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect: Why we cannot always trust the media and news

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect: Why we cannot always trust the media and news

The prevalence of fake news, biased reporting, and sensationalism has created an environment where it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction.

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is a fascinating phenomenon that sheds light on the way our brains process information and the inherent biases that can cloud our judgment.

Coined by the acclaimed late author and filmmaker Michael Crichton (1942-2008), this effect refers to the tendency of individuals to mistrust the accuracy and reliability of news and information in areas they are not familiar with, while simultaneously accepting and trusting news in areas they are knowledgeable about.

Here is an excerpt from a talk by Michael Crichton and I quote;

“Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply a greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues.”

Chrichton says, “Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.

I’d point out that it does not operate in other arenas of life.

In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say.

In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper.

When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t.

Chrichton said, “The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.”

At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive. Why would we doubt information in one domain but not in another?

The answer lies in our cognitive abilities and the vast amount of information we encounter on a daily basis. Our brains are efficient machines that constantly filter and process information to make sense of the world around us.

However, this filtering process is not foolproof, and biases can seep in.

When it comes to subjects we are knowledgeable about, we have a mental framework or schema that helps us evaluate information critically. We can identify logical fallacies, inconsistencies, or biases in the news because we have a solid foundation of understanding.

This leads to a healthy skepticism and a higher level of scrutiny.

On the other hand, when we encounter news in unfamiliar areas, we lack the same level of expertise and schema to evaluate its accuracy.

Our brains tend to rely on heuristics, mental shortcuts that help us make quick judgments. We may be more susceptible to cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias or the availability heuristic, which can cloud our judgment and lead us to accept information without critical evaluation.


The media plays a significant role in shaping public opinion and influencing our perception of the world. However, it is important to be aware of the techniques used in the media that can manipulate our perception.

One common technique is selective reporting, where certain facts or information are intentionally omitted to create a biased narrative. This can be done by cherry-picking quotes, using out-of-context soundbites, or focusing on a single perspective while ignoring others.

By presenting a skewed version of events, the media can sway public opinion in a particular direction.

Another technique is sensationalism, which involves exaggerating or sensationalizing stories to grab attention. This can be done through the use of dramatic headlines, provocative images, or emotionally charged language.

Sensationalism can distort the true significance of an event and create a heightened sense of fear or urgency.

Confirmation bias is also prevalent in the media, where journalists and news outlets tend to favor information that confirms their preexisting beliefs or assumptions.

This can lead to a one-sided presentation of facts and limit the audience’s understanding of complex issues.

Furthermore, the media often relies on framing to shape how a story is presented. By emphasizing certain aspects or using specific language, they can influence how the audience perceives the subject matter.

For example, a story framed as a “war on drugs” will evoke different emotions and reactions compared to a story framed as a “public health crisis.”

Lastly, the media can utilize the power of repetition to reinforce certain narratives or ideas.

By consistently presenting information in a certain way, it can become ingrained in our minds and shape our perception of reality, even if it may not be entirely accurate.

Understanding these techniques can help us approach news consumption with a critical eye. By being aware of the potential manipulation tactics used in the media, we can seek out alternative sources, fact-check information, and form a more well-rounded and informed perspective.


The media plays a critical role in shaping public opinion.

It has the power to influence how we perceive events, issues, and even individuals. As consumers of news, we often rely on media outlets to provide us with accurate and unbiased information. However, it is essential to recognize that the media is not immune to bias or errors.

One aspect that contributes to the shaping of public opinion is the selection and presentation of news stories. Editors and journalists have the responsibility of deciding which stories to cover and how to present them. This selection process can be influenced by various factors, including editorial bias, corporate interests, and the pursuit of higher ratings or readership.


The impact of biased reporting and cherry-picked information

Biased reporting and cherry-picked information have a significant impact on our perception of the news and our ability to trust it. It is unfortunate that in today’s media landscape, sensationalism and the pursuit of ratings often take precedence over objective reporting.

When news outlets present information in a biased manner, it skews our understanding of events and issues.

Whether it is through selective reporting, omitting crucial facts, or presenting information out of context, biased reporting can manipulate public opinion and reinforce existing biases. This can lead to a distorted view of reality, where certain perspectives are amplified while others are marginalized or ignored.

Cherry-picking information is another tactic that erodes trust in the news. By selectively choosing facts and data that support a particular narrative or agenda, media outlets can shape public opinion in a desired direction.

This can be done by emphasizing certain statistics or anecdotes while downplaying or disregarding contradictory evidence. The result is a distorted representation of the truth, leaving readers and viewers with a skewed understanding of the issues at hand.

The impact of biased reporting and cherry-picked information goes beyond just shaping public opinion. It can also have real-world consequences. When people are misled or misinformed, it becomes challenging to make informed decisions or engage in constructive dialogue. It breeds polarization, distrust, and further widens the gaps between different groups in society.


Another factor to consider is the framing of news stories. The way a story is presented can significantly impact how it is perceived by the audience. The choice of words, images, and the overall tone can shape our understanding and interpretation of the events being reported.


Furthermore, the media often relies on expert opinions and sources for their stories. While experts can provide valuable insights, it is crucial to question their credibility and potential biases. Not all experts have the same level of knowledge or objectivity, and their views can be influenced by personal or professional affiliations.


Confirmation bias plays a significant role in how we consume news and can contribute to the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. This cognitive bias refers to our tendency to seek out and believe information that confirms our preexisting beliefs while dismissing or discounting information that contradicts them.

When it comes to consuming news, confirmation bias can lead us to selectively choose sources that align with our perspectives and ideologies. We are more likely to trust and accept information that reinforces our existing beliefs, while being skeptical or dismissive of information that challenges them. This bias can create an echo chamber effect, where we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and sources that reinforce our worldview.

In the era of social media and personalized news algorithms, confirmation bias can be amplified. Algorithms are designed to show us content that aligns with our interests and preferences, creating a bubble of information that reinforces our existing beliefs. This can lead to a distorted perception of reality, as we are shielded from diverse perspectives and alternative viewpoints.

It is important to be aware of our own confirmation bias when consuming news. By actively seeking out diverse perspectives and challenging our own beliefs, we can mitigate the effects of confirmation bias and gain a more balanced understanding of the world. Engaging with sources that present different viewpoints and fact-checking information before accepting it as truth can help us navigate the complex landscape of news consumption.

Ultimately, understanding the role of confirmation bias in consuming news is crucial in combating the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect and fostering a more informed and critical mindset.


Essentially, the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect refers to our tendency to believe the news in areas we are not knowledgeable about, despite recognizing the inaccuracies and biases in the news stories we are intimately familiar with.

This bias can lead us to fall victim to misinformation and propaganda, perpetuating false narratives and distorting our understanding of the world.

To combat this effect, we must nurture our critical thinking skills. It involves questioning the information presented to us, evaluating the credibility and sources, and seeking multiple perspectives to form a well-rounded understanding. By being skeptical and curious, we can avoid blindly accepting everything we encounter in the media.

Moreover, media literacy plays a significant role in navigating the vast landscape of news sources. It encompasses the ability to analyze and evaluate media messages, understand the techniques used to shape narratives, and discern reliable sources from unreliable ones. Developing media literacy empowers us to make informed judgments and enables us to differentiate between fact and opinion.

Educational institutions, community organizations, and individuals themselves have a responsibility to promote critical thinking and media literacy. Teaching these skills equips individuals with the tools necessary to navigate the complex media landscape and make informed decisions.


The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect highlights the importance of being aware of our cognitive biases and the limitations of our own knowledge. It reminds us that we cannot blindly trust everything we read or hear, regardless of the source.

By understanding misinformation and its effect on the human mind, we can become more discerning consumers of news, actively seeking multiple perspectives, fact-checking information, and being open to updating our beliefs based on new evidence.

By engaging in respectful conversations, we can challenge our own assumptions, learn from others’ perspectives, and refine our own understanding of complex issues. We can actively seek out diverse perspectives, question the information presented, and form our own well-informed opinions.

In an age where misinformation abounds, these skills are essential in ensuring that we can trust the news and make sense of the world around us.

Ultimately, being informed or knowledgable of news means developing a critical mindset and adopting certain strategies to evaluate the information presented to us with a healthy dose of skepticism and engage in critical thinking.

Only then can we we combat the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect to navigate the complex landscape of news and information, making informed decisions and forming well-rounded opinions.


A talk by Michael Crichton (R.I.P., 2008) International Leadership Forum, La Jolla 26 April 2002

Click to access WhySpeculate.pdf

Michael Crichton’s Speech on the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

Michael Crichton’s Speech on the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

A talk given by the late Michael Crichton (1942-2008) called, “Why Speculate,” on April 26, 2002 at the International Leadership Forum in La Jolla, CA.

“There are two times in a man’s life when he should not
speculate: when he can’t afford it and when he can.” — Mark Twain

My topic for today is the prevalence of speculation in media.

What does it mean? Why has it become so ubiquitous? Should we
do something about it? If so, what? And why? Should we care at
all? Isn’t speculation valuable? Isn’t it natural? And so on.

I will join this speculative trend and speculate about why there
is so much speculation. In keeping with the trend, I will try
to express my views without any factual support, simply providing
you with a series of bald assertions.

This is not my natural style, and it’s going to be a challenge
for me, but I will do my best. Some of you may see that I have
written out my talk, which is already a contradiction of principle.
To keep within the spirit of our time, it should really be off
the top of my head.

Before we begin, I’d like to clarify a definition. By the media
I mean movies, television, Internet, books, newspapers and
magazines. Again, in keeping with the general trend of speculation,
let’s not make too many fine distinctions.

First we might begin by asking, to what degree has the media
turned to pure speculation? Someone could do a study of this and
present facts, but nobody has. I certainly won’t. There’s no
reason to bother. The requirement that you demonstrate a factual
basis for your claim vanished long ago. It went out with the
universal praise for Susan Faludi’s book Backlash, which won the
National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction in
1991, and which presented hundreds of pages of quasi-statistical
assertions based on a premise that was never demonstrated and
that was almost certainly false.

But that’s old news. I merely refer to it now to set standards.

Today, of course everybody knows that “Hardball,” “Rivera Live”
and similar shows are nothing but a steady stream of guesses
about the future. The Sunday morning talk shows are pure
speculation. They have to be. Everybody knows there’s no news
on Sunday.

But television is entertainment. Let’s look at the so-called
serious media. For example, here is The New York Times for March
6, the day Dick Farson told me I was giving this talk. The column
one story for that day concerns Bush’s tariffs on imported steel.
Now we read: Mr. Bush’s action “is likely to send the price of
steel up sharply, perhaps as much as ten percent…” American
consumers “will ultimately bear” higher prices. America’s allies
“would almost certainly challenge” the decision. Their legal
case “could take years to litigate in Geneva, is likely to hinge”
on thus and such.

Also note the vague and hidden speculation. The Allies’ challenge
would be “setting the stage for a major trade fight with many
of the same countries Mr. Bush is trying to hold together in the
fractious coalition against terrorism.” In other words, the story
speculates that tariffs may rebound against the fight against

By now, under the Faludi Standard I have firmly established that
media are hopelessly riddled with speculation, and we can go on
to consider its ramifications.

You may read this tariff story and think, what’s the big deal?
The story’s not bad. Isn’t it reasonable to talk about effects
of current events in this way? I answer, absolutely not. Such
speculation is a complete waste of time. It’s useless. It’s
bullshit on the front page of the Times.

The reason why it is useless, of course, is that nobody knows
what the future holds.

Do we all agree that nobody knows what the future holds? Or do
I have to prove it to you? I ask this because there are some
well-studied media effects which suggest that simply appearing
in media provides credibility. There was a well-known series of
excellent studies by Stanford researchers that have shown, for
example, that children take media literally. If you show them a
bag of popcorn on a television set and ask them what will happen
if you turn the TV upside down, the children say the popcorn
will fall out of the bag. This result would be amusing if it
were confined to children. But the studies show that no one is
exempt. All human beings are subject to this media effect,
including those of us who think we are self-aware and hip and

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved.
You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann
Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once
discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous
name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect,
than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You
open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well.
In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the
article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding
of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong
it actually presents the story backward — reversing cause and
effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s
full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple
errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or
international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper
was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you
just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not
operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody
consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount
everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of
falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one
part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we
believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to
read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly
isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

So one problem with speculation is that it piggybacks on the
Gell-Mann effect of unwarranted credibility, making the speculation
look more useful than it is.

Another issue concerns the sheer volume of speculation. Sheer
volume comes to imply a value which is specious. I call this the
There-Must-Be-A-Pony effect, from the old joke in which a kid
comes down Christmas morning, finds the room filled with horseshit,
and claps his hands with delight. His astonished parents ask:
why are you so happy? He says, with this much horseshit, there
must be a pony.

Because we are confronted by speculation at every turn, in print,
on video, on the net, in conversation, we may eventually conclude
that it must have value. But it doesn’t. Because no matter how
many people are speculating, no matter how familiar their faces,
how good their makeup and how well they are lit, no matter how
many weeks they appear before us in person or in columns, it
remains true that none of them knows what the future holds.

Some people secretly believe that the future can be known. They
imagine two groups of people that can know the future, and
therefore should be listened to. The first is pundits. Since
they expound on the future all the time, they must know what
they are talking about. Do they? “Brill’s Content” used to track
the pundit’s guesses, and while one or another had an occasional
winning streak, over the long haul they did no better than chance.
This is what you would expect. Because nobody knows the future.

I want to mention in passing that punditry has undergone a subtle
change over the years. In the old days, commentators such as
Eric Sevareid spent most of their time putting events in a
context, giving a point of view about what had already happened.
Telling what they thought was important or irrelevant in the
events that had already taken place. This is of course a legitimate
function of expertise in every area of human knowledge.

But over the years the punditic thrust has shifted away from
discussing what has happened, to discussing what may happen. And
here the pundits have no benefit of expertise at all. Worse,
they may, like the Sunday politicians, attempt to advance one
or another agenda by predicting its imminent arrival or demise.
This is politicking, not predicting.

The second group that some people imagine may know the future
are specialists of various kinds. They don’t, either. As a
limiting case, I remind you there is a new kind of specialist
occupation — I refuse to call it a discipline, or a field of
study — called futurism. The notion here is that there is a way
to study trends and know what the future holds. That would indeed
be valuable, if it were possible. But it isn’t possible. Futurists
don’t know any more about the future than you or I. Read their
magazines from a couple of years ago and you’ll see an endless
parade of error.

Expertise is no shield against failure to see ahead. That’s why
it was Thomas Watson, head of IBM, who predicted the world only
needed 4 or 5 computers. That is about as wrong a prediction as
it is possible to make, by a man who had every reason to be
informed about what he was talking about. Not only did he fail
to anticipate a trend, or a technology, he failed to understand
the myriad uses to which a general purpose machine might be put.
Similarly, Paul Erlich, a brilliant academic who has devoted his
entire life to ecological issues, has been wrong in nearly all
his major predictions.

He was wrong about diminishing resources, he was wrong about the
population explosion, and he was wrong that we would lose 50%
of all species by the year 2000. He devoted his life to intensely
felt issues, yet he has been spectacularly wrong.

All right, you may say, you’ll accept that the future can’t be
known, in the way I am talking. But what about more immediate
matters, such as the effects of pending legislation? Surely it
is important to talk about what will happen if certain legislation
passes. Well, no, it isn’t. Nobody knows what is going to happen
when the legislation passes. I give you two examples, one from
the left and one from the right.

The first is the Clinton welfare reform, harshly criticized by
his own left wing for caving in to the Republican agenda. The
left’s predictions were for vast human suffering, shivering cold,
child abuse, terrible outcomes. What happened? None of these
things. Child abuse declined. In fact, as government reforms go,
its been a success; but Mother Jones still predicts dire effects
just ahead.

This failure to predict the effects of a program was mirrored
by the hysterical cries from the Republican right over raising
the minimum wage. Chaos and dark days would surely follow as
businesses closed their doors and the country was plunged into
needless recession. But what was the actual effect? Basically,
nothing. Who discusses it now? Nobody. What will happen if there
is an attempt to raise the minimum wage again? The same dire
predictions all over again. Have we learned anything? No.

But my point is, for pending legislation as with everything else,
nobody knows the future.

The same thing is true concerning the effect of elections and
appointments. What will be the effect of electing a certain
president, or a supreme court justice? Nobody knows. Some of you
are old enough to remember Art Buchwald’s famous column from the
days of the Johnson Administration. Buchwald wrote a “Thank God
we don’t have Barry Goldwater” essay, recalling how everyone
feared Goldwater would get us into a major war. So we elected
Johnson, who promptly committed 200,000 troops to Vietnam. That’s
what happens when you choose the dove-ish candidate. You get a
war. Or, you elect the intellectually brilliant Jimmy Carter,
and watch as he ends up personally deciding who gets to use the
White House tennis courts. Or you elect Richard Nixon because
he can pull the plug on Vietnam, and he continues to fight for
years. And then opens China.

Similarly, the history of the Supreme Court appointments is a
litany of error in predicting how justices will vote once on the
court. They don’t all surprise us, but a lot of them do.

So, in terms of imminent events, can we predict anything at all?
No. You need only look at what was said days before the Berlin
Wall came down, to see nobody can predict even a few hours ahead.
People said all sorts of silly things about the Communist empire
just hours before its collapse. I can’t quote them, because that
would mean I had looked them up and had facts at hand, and I
have promised you not to do that. But take my word for it, you
can find silly statements 24 hours in advance.


Now, this is not new information. It was Mark Twain who said,
“I’ve seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never
came to pass.”

And much of what politicians say is not so much a prediction as
an attempt to make it come true. It’s argument disguised as
analysis. But it doesn’t really persuade anybody. Because most
people can see through it.

If speculation is worthless, why is there so much of it? Is it
because people want it? I don’t think so. I myself speculate
that media has turned to speculation for media’s own reasons.
So now let’s consider the advantages of speculation from a media

1. It’s incredibly cheap. Talk is cheap. And speculation shows
are the cheapest thing you can put on television, They’re
almost as cheap as running a test pattern. Speculation
requires no research, no big staff. Minimal set. Just get
the talking host, book the talking guests — of which there
is no shortage — and you’re done! Instant show. No reporters
in different cities around the world, no film crews on
location. No deadlines, no footage to edit, no editors…nothing!
Just talk. Cheap.

2. You can’t lose. Even though the speculation is correct only
by chance, which means you are wrong at least 50% of the
time, nobody remembers and therefore nobody cares. You are
never accountable. The audience does not remember yesterday,
let alone last week, or last month. Media exists in the
eternal now, this minute, this crisis, this talking head,
this column, this speculation.

One of the clearest proofs of this is the Currents of Death
controversy. It originated with the New Yorker, which has been
a gushing fountainhead of erroneous scientific speculation for
fifty years. But my point is this: many of the people who ten
years ago were frantic to measure dangerous electromagnetic
radiation in their houses now spend thousands of dollars buying
magnets to attach to their wrists and ankles, because of the
putative healthful effects of magnetic fields. These people don’t
remember these are the same magnetic fields they formerly wanted
to avoid. And since they don’t remember, as a speculator on
media, you can’t lose.

Let me expand on this idea that you can’t lose. It’s not confined
to the media. Most areas of intellectual life have discovered
the virtues of speculation, and have embraced them wildly. In
academia, speculation is usually dignified as theory. It’s
fascinating that even though the intellectual stance of the pomo
deconstructionist era is against theory, particularly overarching
theory, in reality what every academic wants to express is theory.

This is in part aping science, but it’s also an escape hatch.
Your close textual reading of Jane Austen could well be found
wrong, and could be shown to be wrong by a more knowledgeable
antagonist. But your theory of radical feminization and authoritarian
revolt in the work of Jane Austen is untouchable. Your view of
the origins of the First World War could be debated by other
authorities more meticulous than you. But your New Historicist
essay, which might include your own fantasy about what it would
be like if you were a soldier during the first war… well,
that’s just unarguable.

A wonderful area for speculative academic work is the unknowable.
These days religious subjects are in disfavor, but there are
still plenty of good topics. The nature of consciousness, the
workings of the brain, the origin of aggression, the origin of
language, the origin of life on earth, SETI and life on other
worlds… this is all great stuff. Wonderful stuff. You can
argue it interminably. But it can’t be contradicted, because
nobody knows the answer to any of these topics — and probably,
nobody ever will.

But that’s not the only strategy one can employ. Because the
media-educated public ignores and forgets past claims, these
days even authors who present hard data are undamaged when the
data is proven wrong. One of the most consistently wrong thinkers
of recent years, Carol Gilligan of Harvard, once MS Magazine’s
Scientist of the Year, has had to retract (or modify) much of
what she has ever written. Yet her reputation as a profound
thinker and important investigator continues undiminished. You
don’t have to be right, any more. Nobody remembers.

Then there is the speculative work of anthropologists like Helen
Fisher, who claim to tell us about the origins of love or of
infidelity or cooperation by reference to other societies, animal
behavior, and the fossil record. How can she be wrong? It’s
untestable, unprovable, just so stories.

And lest anyone imagine things are different in the hard sciences,
consider string theory, for nearly twenty years now the dominant
physical theory. More than one generation of physicists has
labored over string theory. But — if I understand it correctly,
and I may not — string theory cannot be tested or proven or
disproven. Although some physicists are distressed by the argument
that an untestable theory is nevertheless scientific, who is
going to object, really? Face it, an untestable theory is ideal!
Your career is secure!

In short, the understanding that so long as you speculate, you
can’t lose is widespread. And it is perfect for the information
age, which promises a cornucopia of knowledge, but delivers a
cornucopia of snake oil.

Now, nowhere is it written that the media need be accurate, or
useful. They haven’t been for most or recorded history. So, now
they’re speculating… so what? What is wrong with it?

1. Tendency to excess. The fact that it’s only talk makes drama
and spectacle unlikely — unless the talk becomes heated and
excessive. So it becomes excessive. Not every show features
the Crossfire-style food fight, but it is a tendency on all

2. “Crisisization” of everything possible. Most speculation is
not compelling because most events are not compelling–Gosh,
I wonder what will happen to the German Mark? Are they going
to get their labor problems under control? This promotes the
well-known media need for a crisis. Crisis in the German
mark! Uh-oh! Look out! Crises unite the country, draw viewers
in large numbers, and give something to speculate about.
Without a crisis, the talk soon degenerates into debate about
whether the refs should have used instant replay on that
last football game. So there is a tendency to hype urgency
and importance and be-there-now when such reactions are
really not appropriate. Witness the interminable scroll at
the bottom of the screen about the Queen Mother’s funeral.
Whatever the Queen mother’s story may be, it is not a crisis.
I even watched a scroll of my own divorce roll by for a
couple of days on CNN. It’s sort of flattering, even though
they got it wrong. But my divorce is surely not vital breaking

3. Superficiality as a norm. Gotta go fast. Hit the high points.
Speculation adds to the superficiality. That’s it, don’t you

4. Endless presentation of uncertainty and conflict may interfere
with resolution of issues. There is some evidence that the
television food fights not only don’t represent the views
of most people — who are not so polarized — but they may
tend to make resolution of actual disputes more difficult
in the real world. At the very least, these food fights
obscure the recognition that disputes are resolved every
day. Compromise is much easier from relatively central
positions than it is from extreme and hostile, conflicting
positions: Greenpeace Spikers vs the Logging Industry.

5. The interminable chains of speculation paves the way to
litigation about breast implants, hysteria over Y2K and
global warming, articles in The New Yorker about currents
of death, and a variety of other results that are not, by
any thoughtful view, good things to happen. There comes to
be a perception — convenient to the media — that nothing
is, in the end, knowable for sure. When in fact, that’s not

Let me point to a demonstrable bad effect of the assumption that
nothing is really knowable. Whole word reading was introduced
by the education schools of the country without, to my knowledge,
any testing of the efficacy of the new method. It was simply put
in place. Generations of teachers were indoctrinated in its
methods. As a result, the US has one of the highest illiteracy
rates in the industrialized world. The assumption that nothing
can be known with certainty does have terrible consequences.

As GK Chesterton said (in a somewhat different context), “If you
believe in nothing you’ll believe in anything.” That’s what we
see today. People believe in anything.

But just in terms of the general emotional tenor of life, I often
think people are nervous, jittery in this media climate of what
if, what if, maybe, perhaps, could be — when there is simply
no reason to feel nervous. Like a bearded nut in robes on the
sidewalk proclaiming the end of the world is near, the media is
just doing what makes it feel good, not reporting hard facts.
We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk,
shouting out false fears. It’s not sensible to listen to it.

We need to start remembering that everybody who said that Y2K
wasn’t a real problem was either shouted down, or kept off the
air. The same thing is true now of issues like species extinction
and global warming. You never hear anyone say it’s not a crisis.
I won’t go into it, because it might lead to the use of facts,
but I’ll just mention two reports I speculate you haven’t heard
about. The first is the report in Science magazine January 18
2001 (Oops! a fact) that contrary to prior studies, the Antarctic
ice pack is increasing, not decreasing, and that this increase
means we are finally seeing an end to the shrinking of the pack
that has been going on for thousands of years, ever since the
Holocene era. I don’t know which is more surprising, the statement
that it’s increasing, or the statement that its shrinkage has
preceded global warming by thousands of years.

The second study is a National Academy of Sciences report on the
economic effects to the US economy of the last El Nino warming
event of 1997. That warming produced a net benefit of 15 billion
dollars to the economy. That’s taking into account 1.5 billion
loss in California from rain, which was offset by decreased fuel
bills for a milder winter, and a longer growing season. Net
result 15 billion in increased productivity.

The other thing I will mention to you is that during the last
100 years, while the average temperature on the globe has increased
just .3 C, the magnetic field of the earth declined by 10%. This
is a much larger effect than global warming and potentially far
more serious to life on this planet. Our magnetic field is what
keeps the atmosphere in place. It is what deflects lethal radiation
from space. A reduction of the earth’s magnetic field by ten
percent is extremely worrisome.

But who is worried? Nobody. Who is raising a call to action?
Nobody. Why not? Because there is nothing to be done. How this
may relate to global warming I leave for you to speculate on
your own time.

Personally, I think we need to start turning away from media,
and the data shows that we are, at least from television news.
I find that whenever I lack exposure to media I am much happier,
and my life feels fresher.

In closing, I’d remind you that while there are some things we
cannot know for sure, there are many things that can be resolved,
and indeed are resolved. Not by speculation, however. By careful
investigation, by rigorous statistical analysis. Since we’re
awash in this contemporary ocean of speculation, we forget that
things can be known with certainty, and that we need not live
in a fearful world of interminable unsupported opinion. But the
gulf that separates hard fact from speculation is by now so
unfamiliar that most people can’t comprehend it. I can perhaps
make it clear by this story:

On a plane to Europe, I am seated next to a guy who is very
unhappy. Turns out he is a doctor who has been engaged in a
two-year double blind study of drug efficacy for the FDA, and
it may be tossed out the window. Now a double-blind study means
there are four separate research teams, each having no contact
with any other team — preferably, they’re at different universities,
in different parts of the country. The first team defines the
study and makes up the medications, the real meds and the controls.
The second team administers the medications to the patients. The
third team comes in at the end and independently assesses the
effect of the medications on each patient. The fourth team takes
the data and does a statistical analysis. The cost of this kind
of study, as you might imagine, is millions of dollars. And the
teams must never meet.

My guy is unhappy because months after the study is over, he in
the waiting room of Frankfurt airport and he strikes up a
conversation with another man in the lounge, and they discover
— to their horror — that they are both involved in the study.
My guy was on the team that administered the meds. The other guy
is on the team doing the statistics. There isn’t any reason why
one should influence the other at this late date, but nevertheless
the protocol requires that team members never meet. So now my
guy is waiting to hear if the FDA will throw out the entire
study, because of this chance meeting in Frankfurt airport.

Those are the lengths you have to go to if you want to be certain
that your information is correct. But when I tell people this
story, they just stare at me incomprehendingly. They find it
absurd. They don’t think it’s necessary to do all that. They
think it’s overkill. They live in the world of MSNBC and The New
York Times. And they’ve forgotten what real, reliable information
is, and the lengths you have to go to get it. It’s so much harder
than just speculating.

And on that point, I have to agree with them.

Thank you very much.

The Memory Stealers: How fungi (molds) steal a person’s memories

The Memory Stealers: How fungi (molds) steal a person’s memories

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills, ultimately causing an inability to perform even simple tasks. It also causes a significant slowdown in a person’s brainwave frequency activity to the point they could be medically described as living in a permanent sleep-like state.

In addition, people with this disease experience atrophy of the brain, which simply means that it is decaying or wasting away. (1) Hence, the old adage, use it or lose it applies to not only brain function, but whether you will have use of your mind, cognition, and memories as you age.


The same thing occurs to your muscles which is medically described as the wasting (thinning) or loss of muscle tissue. The main cause of atrophy is lack of physical activity or disuse (physiologic) of muscles occurs when you don’t use them enough.

As it related to atrophy of the brain, this is what I contend is one of the main causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease worldwide. I believe this wasting away is the result of not actively using your brain on a regular basis to process and learn new information.

The resulting effects of this atrophy allow our microbiome and in particular, fungi to commandeer our cells, neurons, and central nervous system via our gastrointestinal tracts to induce a loss of consciousness or a sleep-like waking state.

As if we have biological laws programmed into our genes that supersede all human-made legal systems and structures that determine our fates. One of these ancient legal codes for not using our brains is to have them slowly eaten from within and wiped clean of all memories attained in this life.

What better and more sinister way than to have the very microbes within our body, blood, and organs be the very legislators of all life?

As it is related to dementia and Alzheimer’s, it is the fungi working within their central nervous system and brains that is turning off certain normal autonomous functions to make them sleep while they are awake in a covert biological attempt to control their minds as it steals their memories.

For example, a 2012 study found that fungal pathogens within the gut microbiota, which are normally well tolerated, may disseminate via the circulation to other sites including the brain leading to a systemic fungal infection, resulting in significant pathology and mortality (Brown et al., 2012).

Several studies have shown that the autopsied brains of Alzheimer’s patients reveal that they are infected with often multiple types of fungi (molds).

Fungal infections have also been widely observed in their blood vessels, which may explain why people who have Alzheimer’s also suffer from vascular pathology.

This is interesting given the fact that it appears to be a memory stealer and brain eater. It makes sense then that fungi may be the culprit responsible for this mind-decaying disease.

But this knowledge has been known by scientists for well over one hundred years.

In 1910, Czech psychiatrist, and an expert on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Oskar Fischer, proposed that these diseases were caused by foreign bodies in the brain, most likely fungi, which provoked inflammation and amyloid plaques (see Eikelenboom et al., 2006; Goedert, 2009; Mar 2009 conference news).

In his 1907 paper, Alzheimer described the presence of plaques and tangles in one case of presenile dementia, whereas Fischer described neuritic plaques in 12 cases of senile dementia. These were landmark findings in the history of research in dementia because they delineated the clinicopathological entity that is now known as Alzheimer’s disease.

in 2014, compelling evidence for the existence of fungal proteins in brain samples from Alzheimer’s disease patients. The study titled, “Fungal infection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” stated “a variety of fungal species in these samples, dependent on the patient and the tissue tested.

DNA sequencing demonstrated that several fungal species could be found in brain samples. Together, these results show that fungal macromolecules can be detected in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. To our knowledge, these findings represent the first evidence that fungal infection is detectable in brain samples from Alzheimer’s disease patients.” (2)

A 2015 study titled, “Different Brain Regions are Infected with Fungi in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD),” showed the possibility that AD is a fungal disease, or that fungal infection is a risk factor for the disease. The researchers provided evidence in the study that tissue from the central nervous system (CNS) of AD patients contained fungal cells and hyphae.

According to the researchers, “Different brain regions including external frontal cortex, cerebellar hemisphere, entorhinal cortex/hippocampus and choroid plexus contain fungal material, which is absent in brain tissue from control individuals. Analysis of brain sections from ten additional AD patients reveals that all are infected with fungi.

Eleven patients (plus three additional CP samples) were described in this study, as well as in four patients previously analyzed, there is clear evidence for fungal cells inside neurons or extracellularly.

Therefore, 100% of the AD patients analyzed thus far by our laboratory presented fungal cells and fungal material in brain sections.

Moreover, fungal macromolecules (polysaccharides, proteins and DNA) have been found in blood serum from AD patients, and fungal proteins and DNA were detected by proteomic analyses and PCR, respectively, from frozen tissue of AD brain.

Collectively, our findings provide compelling evidence for the existence of fungal infection in the CNS from AD patients, but not in control individuals. (3)

A 2003 study titled, “How a Slime Mold Came to the Aid of Alzheimer’s Research,” details how a structure called a “Hirano body” found in a slime mold is present in increased amounts in Alzheimer’s patients.

It is mostly present in the brain’s major site of learning and memory, the hippocampus.

The study reports, “What causes neurodegenerative diseases like the most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s which is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning, is still largely unknown, but something destroys nerve cells in the brain over a period of time as victims gradually lose their minds.”

Numerous studies suggest that the accumulation of beta-amyloid peptides (betaAP) plays a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. It is well established that betaAP has a wide range of toxic effects on neurons and we can connect their production in the human body to fungi.

The amyloid-beta precursor protein is an important example. It is a large membrane protein that normally plays an essential role in neural growth and repair. However, later in life, a corrupted form can destroy nerve cells, leading to the loss of thought and memory.

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown how the disease is strongly correlated with the overproduction and accumulation of amyloid-β peptide, which begins destroying synapses before it clumps into plaques that lead to nerve cell death.

A 2009 study found that the amyloid-β peptide induced depolarization of skeletal muscle plasma membranes can significantly disturb the functioning of skeletal muscles and therefore contribute to motor dysfunction observed in Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders associated with βAP accumulation.

Depolarization causes the rapid change in membrane potential from a negative to a positive state. The process of depolarization begins with a stimulus like fungi.

Brainwave activity is related to oscillatory activity at different frequencies ranging from 2–4 Hz (delta), 4–8 Hz (theta), 8–13 Hz (alpha), 13–30 Hz (beta), and >30 Hz (gamma). These frequencies transmit certain physiological information on the brain’s functional state during wake and sleep cycles.

The EEG findings of patients with Alzheimer’s disease show a slowing of alpha activity and an increase in slow-frequency activity

A few studies have shown a significant increase in delta and theta power in conjunction with a decrease in alpha and beta power over a period of two years from diagnosis of dementia. In another study, significant increases in delta and theta were found with a decrease in beta, alpha, and mean frequency.

The awakened state is medically described as being in the alpha frequency, which is mainly related to a person’s global attentional readiness. Alpha rhythms represent the dominant resting oscillations of an awakened human brain and have been linked to intelligent quotient, memory, and cognition. (5)


1. Electroencephalographic Rhythms in Alzheimer’s Disease

2. PubMed: Fungal infection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

3. PubMed: Different Brain Regions are Infected with Fungi in Alzheimer’s Disease

4. PubMed: Different Brain Regions are Infected with Fungi in Alzheimer’s Disease


Phillip K. Dick’s Mold of Yancy: A nation of clones controlled and molded by one mind

Phillip K. Dick’s Mold of Yancy: A nation of clones controlled and molded by one mind

The Mold of Yancy by Phillip K. Dick is a science fiction story written in 1954 about mind control and subliminal messages, a cautionary tale of molding society. It later was adapted into his novel, The Penultimate Truth.

The story follows the life of Colony Callisto, a young woman who is the epitome of a model citizen of what looks like the perfect society that has emerged from the ashes of an off-Earth war on the planet, Jupiter. Her grandfather, John Edward Yancy, is the leader of the colony.

To the outside world, they live in what appears to be an idyllic society, but beneath the plastic façade lies a hidden world of secrets and deception.

It is a really totalitarian society that controls the populaces’ every thought and move through politics and the media.

Yancy, the colony’s leader, is a popular figure who uses his virtual persona to control all aspects of life for the colony’s inhabitants. ‘

Through broadcast shows and advertisements, Yancy dictates what the people of the colony should eat for breakfast, what music they should listen to, and even what political views they should hold.

The citizens seem to mold their thinking and behaviors exactly to whatever Yancy says, even though they seem to think their acting on their own accord.

He has the ability to speak on almost any subject by saying what people want to hear without really saying anything at all is what gives him power.

If Yancy delivered opinions on philosophy, art and culture, the plan would not work.

In this society, people are allowed to express their opinions freely without fear of repression. They enjoy life, reading, listening to music, and watching TV.

And even though they may complain about the government from time to time, they all ultimately subscribe to the same beliefs that Yancy gently suggests.

The result is a de-politicized, nonphilosophical and homogenized society of android like humans that follows Yancy’s every whim.

Analyst Peter Tavener works for the Niplan police, studying and creating reports on the political situation of Callisto.

He tells Police Director Kelleman that while Callisto they achieved a totalitarian society without an actual dictator, any elected Parliament has the potential to become totalitarian if they reach too deeply into people’s lives.

Tavener agrees to go undercover on Callisto, posing as one of their own who are increasingly looking alike.

Phillip K. Dick said that the Yancy character was roughly based on U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Banal middle class culture has long been a source of inspiration for writers and filmmakers. In the 1950s, Dick saw this culture as a tool for conformity in the United States.

He used Eisenhower as an example of someone who was vapid and musing, yet still held immense power over the people through his broadcasts.

Of the story PKD had this to say:

“Obviously, Yancy is based on President Eisenhower. During his reign we all were worrying about the man-in-the-grey-flannel-suit problem; we feared that the entire country was turning into one person and a whole lot of clones. (Although in those days the word “clone” was unknown to us.)

I liked this story enough to use it as the basis for my novel THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH; in particular the part where everything the government tells you is a lie. I still like that part; I mean, I still believe it’s so.

Watergate, of course, bore the basic idea of this story out.”

Today, we can clearly see the hundreth-Yancy affect with political clones directing our thinking, as myself and others in the so-called middle class complain against many of these government policies, we still have to follow them and consume what is on the store shelves in order to survive.

Dick is correct in seeing the entry point of totalitarian conformity in consumerism.

While people may disagree on politics, they tend to find common ground when it comes to popular culture, which continues to move the population towards certain values.

Arguing against anti-intellectualism, it is often said that without intellectuals to question the status quo, fascism and other forms of totalitarianism can more easily take hold.

This is because intelligence and critical thinking are necessary to challenge authority and keep society free.

However, this argument presupposes that all opinions are equally valid, which is clearly not the case. Some opinions are simply better than others, and this is especially true when it comes to art, culture, and philosophy.

To be truly neutral on these matters would be impossible for anyone with a brain; one must either have an opinion or be dead inside or possibly a clone or android in Dick’s novels.

Thought and behavior control operating under the guise of social virtue is particularly invidious, easily capturing those of us suffering from the widespread malady of intellectual laziness.

The effort to mold a national way of thought can result only in a mouldering state of mind, a decay of initiative inviting totalitarianism to creep into every aspect of our lives.

I will leave you with Dwight D. Eiesenhower’s farewell speech to the colony, warning them about the danger of becoming captive to the military industrial complex and a technological elite.

The most famous quote from Eiesenhower came about halfway through the speech: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

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