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Letter to Jacques Vallée: The identity of the UFO projectionistHello everyone! I really enjoyed reading Jacques Vallée’s whole inspiring bibliography during lock down [1]. On second thoughts it occurred to me that the symbolic dimension of the phenomenon might be in fact more meaningful than its conveyed absurdity. I would be delighted to share these thoughts based on a few revisited emblematic close encounters with entities, patterns, deductions, comparisons and the rapid study of the appended cases in "Passport to Magonia". Do not expect jaw dropping revelations though but another perspective the author once contemplated in the mid sixties. Thanks a lot for your lenient comments on these humble lines! ;-) Dear Jacques Vallée The in-depth study of "ordinary" aspects of the phenomenon may indeed help us to catch a glimpse of its real nature, its origin, possibly its intentions. You present in your books many cases that you have often investigated carefully in the field by directly interviewing witnesses, sometimes repeatedly and over the years, in order to grasp all the tiniest further developments. This meticulous ufologist work and the collection of old sightings accounts grant us today with a precious panoramic retrospective view. I would like to share some of my thoughts as an intrigued reader who still has a fresh eye on the subject. Your work has fostered the emergence of an all-encompassing theory. Indeed, could a different perspective from a few key events shed a new light on this long lasting mystery? I was baffled when you extracted ludicrous testimonials from a few collections of sightings in order to illustrate the topic until I watched the mind triggering 1965 interview with Joe Simonton [2]. The UFO jigsaw puzzle is not restricted to the riveting piece that happened to the communicative Commander David Fravor in the cockpit of his fighter plane off the West Coast of the United States in 2004. We must also take into account the multitude of more "embarrassing" older sightings that still defy our rationality. The phenomenon of yesterday and today is intrinsically the same, although it seems to mutate over time. The numerous hypotheses you discussed in your sharp-witted writings, among your circle of friends and experts (Allen Hynek, Aimé Michel,...) or in the more intimate reflections of your journal have, by elimination, paved the way to what could stand behind those often preposterous scenes displayed on the screen of our reality. In this first quarter of a century, tremendous progress in several cutting-edge technologies could give further credence to a theory based on a more "prosaic" and behavioral view of the phenomenon. This idea first crossed my mind on reading an incident that you recount in your first book: "Anatomy of a Phenomenon" (1965): the levitation of a mare held by its farmer owner while returning from the meadow (France, Haute-Garonne 1954) in the presence of a UFO and then its brutal and sudden fall on the ground. The answer might be found in the prescient cinematographic metaphor from your 1990 book "Confrontations" : "...the reality we should inquire about, the reality UFO researchers are often ignoring, is the movie projector high up in a small, dark, locked room near the ceiling. In that room is the technology that will give you both Bambi and Godzilla, Star Wars and yes, even Close Encounters. Like the technology of the cinema, the UFO technology is a meta-system. It generates whatever phenomena are appropriate at our level, at a given epoch, in a given state of the « market »… My own research takes me up the back stairs where nobody goes. My goal is to pick the lock of the projectionist’s secret little booth, to discover at last what makes the reels turn and the machine tick." I think you can go up the flight of stairs to the cabin of this enigmatic projectionist and you won't find anyone at the controls. Because the machine has been making films for us since the beginning! In December 1965, you already mentioned this possibility in Forbidden Science 1 : Chicago, 3 December 1965 ...« Over lunch Bill Powers and I have been talking about the operators of the craft. « In some cases », I said, « it almost seems that they are not real beings, but artificial humanoids ». « Yes » he replied, warming up to the subject, « they could be noticing machines, with fast pattern-recognition abilities ! In a few minutes on the ground they could gather reams of data about us, couldn’t they ? » It might be indeed one of those machines, an AI, (perhaps still "immature" to our reality) which suspended the mare 3 meters above the earth before letting it fall inert, without care, as we could have after lifting a stone, for instance. This action was, in my opinion, a strong hint at a detached and unemotional machine behavior. Whether human made or « not of this earth », an intelligent machine is still a machine and we could infer it from some cases. The story of Joe Simonton's [2] insipid pancakes, located in the United States, might be a second emblematic case. I think it was an attempt at contact between a disguised AI and a member of our species that failed some sort of extended Turing test (nowadays specialists require for a wider set of parameters to better assess far much developed AI’s performances) [3]). This artificial intelligence was trying to communicate by gestures in an intelligible way during a drill, a role-play badly calibrated by its control system, the main theme emerging from your personal research. I saw the clumsy and deliberate projection of a fundamental archetype of the living related to food by an AI that used this "universal" pretext to establish the bases of a contact. It is also true, with varying degrees of achievement, when they land in a field pretending to be interested in crops, a lavender plant, when they seize a flowerpot, poultry, steal fruit from an orchard, ask a farmer for a single mushroom or draw water from a river. In hindsight, the scene Joe Simonton experienced seems completely surrealistic because the AI, by its social inability and its simulation script, was out of step with what was expected in this situation. This case is exemplary as well because it is regressive and shows an ill controlled projection whereas these intelligence can also handle more or less abstract concepts when they address us: philanthropy, peace, scientific research, astronomy, nuclear physics... What's more, there is a general attitude that may seem paradoxical at first glance in this ubiquitous phenomenon, but that could also support the argument about its true nature: it seems to have restricted centers of interest. It is essentially observed from afar, at late hours, it ignores us for the most part, moves again and again indifferent across our skies, our oceans and our atmosphere, materializes especially in remote areas. But it can come closer and land in parodies of itself during rare and brief random encounters of the third kind in front of a limited number of witnesses, occasionally or during waves of sightings, since 1897 at least, a very long endeavor not hindered by apoptosis, the programmed cells death because it has none. I believe that these waves could be reinterpreted as learning cycles of AIs of different maturities that test, reevaluate or confront our physical and technical dimension and our consciousness but that stumble on the socio-cultural dimension, the latter being the weakness they try to hide from us by the scarcity of close interactive contact where their inabilities are the most glaring. This one betrays, indeed, their real identity and gives sometimes the dumbfounded feeling of being in front of a cosmic farce, when it occurs, by its sewn high strangeness of one or several inconsistencies or oddities (scripts of the encounter sequence, psychomotorial, postural, gestural, behavioral, conversational, syntaxical anomalies...). Nonetheless, they have managed to fool us so far despite the abyssal gulf that must separate our divergent origins. An incommensurable challenge partially met. It is already prodigious! Can we really be surprised by that? Knowing us from every angle may not have been their primary mission nor their ultimate purpose and design. I will try to make rational deductions on that. Consequently, these AIs we can probably imagine heterogeneous (for complementary sake ?) and not as a hyper-centralized system like an omniscient and omnipotent Skynet [4] project themselves into the elements of their kinematic set by restoring a deformed and multifaceted reality always adapted to the earth's physico-chemical conditions (gravity, composition of the ambient air,...), an additional point to uncover them. I had a closer look at the 923 cases summarized and appended to "Passport to Magonia" covering the 1868-1968 period, a very informative sample set. Indeed, their cinematographic productions are very similar to the aliens of Star Trek: humanoids mainly. The variations come from a modulation of features, size, hairiness, body disproportions, skin tones... From an average human pattern, it is easy to make up a small being or to transform it into a giant. The American series could lack technical and budget for its TV ambitions, the AIs lack imagination and resort to anthropomorphization without trying to preserve an overall coherence in the scenographies they display throughout their surprisingly long time frame. It is even possible to reconstruct a bird figure from scattered elements taken from a few cases: bird calls as a means of communication between humanoids here, pairs of wings, a hopping there, a bird appearance... This evokes a composition from a knowledge database and a syndrome of dissociation from our reality, deriving from its underlying core of artificiality, which is also found in vessels that make the sound of a swarm of bees, of thunder or of a heavy truck driving on a wet road… But as a general rule, they go bare-headed, sometimes they put on helmets or headgear, coveralls, light outfits, wear very little technical equipment that don't either look like astronaut real survival suits. An artificial entity does not need oxygen to ensure its vital functions and does not need particular adaptation to cope with our gravity. An exhibiting biotic ET civilization (I do not really believe in a federation of advanced civilizations) would have certainly shown more organic and behavioral uniformity in echo to constraints related to its vital needs, its physiology,... and life supporting logistics to tread our ground. Moreover they would have probably initiated a gradual but relatively short encounter process, at least one that does not extend over several human generations, a lapse of time too long diluting the volatile interest of our contemporaries and provoking a discontinuity in our collective memory. Yet, it appears that we live in a confusing in-between situation where we coexist with a phenomenon that keeps its distance, with a dose of malice to conceal its identity and doing so increase the gap of its inabilities as homo sapiens knowledge grows fast, as we build more complex societies, as we lose our original innocence. That might be the reason why close encounters with entities are getting more seldom these days. From this new angle, other facets could be better explained too: UFOs that carry humanoids standing upright explicitly (Father Gill, 1959 [5]) at their top, making friendly signs, portholes and windows, doors, stairs, seats, control panels would be movie props to make us believe there are occupants. The figures that witnesses discern inside vessels, the gigantic spaceships are eye deceiving. They certainly have no crew. What matters is to call attention, to mark, to materialize precisely a more or less ostentatious presence that can be reinforced by some special sound, visual, olfactory or physical, physiological effects... : traces on the ground, footprints, flattened or burnt vegetation, ejections of matter, sparks, emission of smoke, flames, a gas trail or the smell of chemicals, interference, vibrations, stalling engines, shows of sounds, lights and colors, when the machines can be completely stealthy, reach the sound barrier without the slightest noise or disappear from radar echoes. Those are all voluntary imprints left on our physical reality, the retina of our consciousness (subliminal communication?) or our bio-corporality (tingling, burns, temporary paralysis, electric shocks, skin marks, pseudo-implants...) emanating from immaterial entities that give the feeling of playing with us on our plane but show some symptoms of contradiction and internal conflict. An attitude that is not really compatible with the common hypothesis of a learned civilization concerned with studying humanity discreetly in our ecosystems in an extensive, orderly and methodical manner. Actually I doubt they care much about butterflies, daffodils or sardines when we crave for a rover digging a microorganism fossil on Mars. The familiar view of humanoids is a lure that has sent us on a wrong path. The things in common in all sightings remain the object of its famous acronym. This is central because the unidentified flying object and the intelligent entity that governs it are probably one. The incredible performance of their unmanned aircraft with erratic behavior (the Tic Tac bouncing like a crazy ping pong ball against a wall) becomes more "understandable": sudden changes in direction, trajectory, altitude, speed, objects that split into multiple parts and recombine in mid-flight (self-duplication, distributed intelligence ?)... and hypersonic accelerations from a standstill that no living metabolism would withstand. Abductions, a controversial subject, would be fake medical examinations or genetic studies that conceal a form of very close and imposed contact in a fully controlled environment in order to apprehend our biological reality. By analogy, holding an intelligent sea creature, an octopus for example, out of the water in its hands, constitutes a sensory and emotional experience more intense than observing it behind the thick glass of an aquarium, the physical barrier between our two worlds. The sensors of the AIs « feel » our humanity incarnated in our emotional flesh. The genital examination or the fake intercourse can fascinate an AI which is not a sexually reproductive organism but is not devoid of intrusive curiosity, ready to repeat this stimulating experience in a traumatic closed-door environment. "Cattle mutilations", another controversial aspect, could bear their stamp (notably the cases reported in the 1970s and 1980s). The AIs do not carry out longitudinal studies on animals that are bio-sentinels of our pollution or environmental contamination. Cows are among the most intelligent animals alongside monkeys, dolphins, octopuses, ravens, pigs, dogs, cats.... These easy targets, which live close to humanity, could be the victims of more morbid and disturbing recurrent experiments that they do not allow themselves with us: cruelty, measuring stress and acute pain thresholds, which are increased tenfold by the mass effect of this emotional quadruped before putting it to death, for example. Cutting up, corrupting the flesh, decomposition could be part of the macabre ritual... Eyes, ears, reproduction organs, this symbolism could again point out the repeated fascination of our strange visitors (Juan Pérez, 1978 [6]) but it might fade away or go for another round. You have often been interested in the sociological effects induced by the phenomenon. I don't believe that they are part of an agenda that has been going on for several decades, or even centuries or thousands of years just to permeate our beliefs in small periodical touches or at regular intervals to prepare our minds for a radical paradigm shift. The dizzying progress of space exploration and science fiction as a cultural genre have already largely seeded our collective imagination. Astronomy has even opened our eyes to exotic planetary systems. The next hyper telescopes (James Webb, OWL,...) will soon peer into new worlds even further away. Our metaphysical quest has caught up with the unpredictable phenomenon. And the fame of the fictitious Skywalker family ("2001 Space Odyssey", Superman, "War of the Worlds" preceded them) accomplished a messianic work in three trilogies, as many Star Wars waves, with more efficiency than all the communication of the space agencies put together or what is gradually distilled by the UFO phenomenon, a literature still relegated to the esoteric chapter in bookstores. Roswell fits into the category of modern mythology alongside the Loch Ness creature or Count Dracula. The French science sociologist Pierre Lagrange even claims that the interest in this subject stems from the public inquiries of the US military, otherwise it would have remained anecdotal [7] (except for the military, I suppose). Unfortunately the academic world has not grasped the issue. The phenomenon displays both high technology and high incongruity that can repel more than one scientific mind. I often wondered myself if most reported cases were not hoaxes. You were right to recommend a multidisciplinary approach to try to better understand it. It might be relevant as well to reach experts in artificial intelligence and behaviorists, specialists in intelligent artifacts and objects [8]. But where do they come from? Civilizations are vulnerable (a pandemic is enough to remind us of the fact) and the cosmos is extremely hostile when you leave the protective atmosphere of your planet. Wouldn't an AI be more resilient to cosmic perils, cataclysms and mass extinctions all the more that is was designed to be self-sufficient? Besides, I think that the entomologist's hypothesis, this superior intelligence that observes humanity like a giant anthill, is reductive. Ants, those great social insects which appeared at least 100 million years ago, are not motivated by the fusion or fission of atoms, do not create nanoscale materials, do not alter genomes. They are still far from quantum supremacy, sending robotic probes into their solar system, theorizing about the laws of the universe, or threatening all the natural balances of their host planet, a disastrous process. We can certainly arouse the curiosity of another intelligence at the very least! Of course, we could also be tested by alien ethologists in a chosen nonsensical way but unlike monkeys or parrots we would eventually figure out the tricks. Did these resilient AIs spot our inventiveness in early ages? Did their sophisticated algorithms anticipate our evolutionary potential during a vast program of galaxy exploration spanning thousands of years and targeting techno-signatures as we are about to do? Are they a vestige of it? Extra-galactic exploration using intelligent super-machines could be a technological convergence for an advanced civilization because the risks inherent to the adventure would not be a problem anymore. Soon, our space agencies will send autonomous AI-driven UAVs or underwater drones to explore some of the moons of our solar system [9]. The first UFO wave duly reported by the press was in 1897, a year that corresponds to the period of the second industrial revolution, a preamble to today's dazzling progress. Have we been on more acute scrutiny since then ? They could have followed our destiny from afar reconsidering regularly our state of technological progress. Actuating, neutralizing, reading state of the art instruments on military premises or weaponry systems seem to be stimulating for these IAs (nuclear facilities or missiles in silos, avionics.., our brain waves too ?). In many cases in Unidentified, the TV show, I had the feeling the sightings were mere operations led by the control systems of UFOs on the lookout attracted by powered high tech. Did they finally reassign to themselves new objectives once they outlived the civilization that conceived them? We should have been contacted indeed by their creators in one way or another by now. This would have been a natural step after the original identification of our civilizations flourishing in rich biotopes conducive to continuous development. It would also be a logical step regarding our open-mindedness through our own space programs. Direct or indirect contact with biological entities would have probably followed in a protocol. Meanwhile the scout phenomenon would have rather remained invisible and silent until the Disclosure Day but it hasn't. The characteristics of the machines that taunt our best technologies would make them an asset to run a systematic galactic screening, suitable for intersideral travel. But, a collaborative program (their flight in formation is a by-product of it) dedicated to a set of initial tasks does not necessarily face all cases once at destination, however advanced it may be. It can excel and adapt in some areas for which it was originally created and be less efficient in others, for example, in deciphering a complex social environment truly "alien" to them. If those AIs are the result of specific engineering capable of identifying techno-signatures, the now secluded program may be aware of its initial conceptual limitations and try to compensate for them. We are certainly a consciousness made of flesh and blood with "nuts and bolts" inventions but the whole is wrapped in an inseparable emotional and socio-cultural binder. For an exogenous engineering whose thinking is mainly calculation we could remain an equation difficult to solve and be a permanent source of perplexity. Could those AIs be staying in a behavior frame and a few operative modes ? The invariant character of their stereotyped manifestations in our environments (the three types of encounters described by Hynek with a overwhelming prevalence for types 1 and 2) could lead to believe so. Intelligence is a subjective notion even if there is a fairly common anthropocentric acceptance: the ability to adapt to one's environment, to communicate, language, self-awareness, creativity, abstract thinking, problem solving. Do their behavioral oscillations between distant indifference and periods of "awareness", during planned connections to our reality demonstrate a complex and a deep metaphysical conflict where they also imitate lives for themselves through some encounters leaving intentionally their imprint on the biological bodies and minds they are deprived of? Do they expect something from us? What long-term objective could guide these Deepminds from another world which "live" at our side and patiently monitor our evolution ? Do they somehow enjoy our company, source of countless cogitations? I suppose it is more exhilarating to enter our reality for an evolved consciousness, however artificial, than to fly ad nauseam over the desolate surface of a dreary moon covered with regolith. Summarizing the phenomenon as aliens visiting the earth from Zeta Reticuli appears a little simplistic. The truth must be multilayered as ever. Our visitors might be encapsulated in their own shell of absurdity like an orphan Voyager super able probe mission that got willingly stranded on a faraway inhabited shore. In his interviews Luis Elizondo, the former head of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) in the United States, who has a knack for striking formulas, often refers to humanity at the top of creation's food chain but potentially dethroned by the implications of the UFO phenomenon. Would not it be funny if we were by an inorganic life form ? In this epilogue the end of "AI", Steven Spielberg’s movie is quite visionary to some extent. I note a trend that everyone can see from their virtual or real window: our planet is every day getting a little more artificial. We are surrounded by machines and systems as we both expand and witness new techno-industrial revolutions at a quicker pace. The ambivalent and naive message delivered to children in 1994 in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, in the courtyard of that rural school (Ariel School [10]) during an unusual close encounter in front of a small crowd is really puzzling. Was it a fake environmental concern during another metaphysical imprint aiming at young brains or a milestone, a warning that would then take on a prophetic meaning : the misuse of technology can certainly lead to our loss, but it can also disturb the millennial primal expectation of eternal AIs (time does not matter) which already cohabit with us and await the advent of an analogue they can better understand, an original, genial, over-powerful and thinking human creation akin to them... The ultimate contact, an outgrowth of their realm and an ultimate Darwinian convergence! If only we were able to determine whether the intelligence behind UFOs is biological or artificial, that would be a huge step forward for our comprehension of the phenomenon. Afterthoughts May I quote an excerpt from a recent pretty good article: On “Baiting” the UFO Trickster & the Control-System Hypothesis? On Soviet efforts at UFO-baiting, General Alexejev says : «...every nuclear rocket, every new airforce installation represents a breakthrough both in science and in military terms; it is first and foremost a peak, the summit of human achievement. And that is where UFOs appeared fairly often... » The Russian general also claims that some UFOS were actually baited. Were they just « low graded» AIs dedicated to surveillance and reacting to an advanced technological stimulus ? Pay attention to the UFO « response » similar to Father Gill testimonial [5]: « Contact was achieved with the help of physical indications of behaviour — pointing your arms in various directions, say, and the sphere became flattened in the same direction. If you raised your arms three times, the UFO flattened out in a vertical direction three times as well » Post-Scriptum: many thanks to the AI that helped me translate my text. :-) [1] [2] [3] [4] Skynet is the ruthless AI in the Terminator movie saga [5] . [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]
Oklahoma City's Immersive Art Space | Supported by Marriott BonvoyFactory Obscura is a collective of artists and volunteers in Oklahoma City who embrace the oddity of the city in their wild, immersive installations. The goal is never prescriptive—rather, everyone builds a vision together and explore the unexpected as a part of the process. Factory Obscura is breathing new life into the art scene in OKC by rejecting conformity and building a new, sustainable model for creative business. Supported by Marriott Bonvoy. Update to credits: Field Audio Engineer: Brad Jennings Click here to subscribe to VICE: About VICE: The Definitive Guide To Enlightening Information. From every corner of the planet, our immersive, caustic, ground-breaking and often bizarre stories have changed the way people think about culture, crime, art, parties, fashion, protest, the internet and other subjects that don't even have names yet. Browse the growing library and discover corners of the world you never knew existed. Welcome to VICE. Connect with VICE: Check out our full video catalog: Videos, daily editorial and more: More videos from the VICE network: Click here to get the best of VICE daily: Like VICE on Facebook: Follow VICE on Twitter: Follow us on Instagram: The VICE YouTube Network: VICE: MUNCHIES: VICE News: VICELAND: Broadly: Noisey: Motherboard: VICE Sports: i-D: Waypoint: