There is one word to best characterize parapsychological research “maturation.” Even though parapsychology has a long history it entered the seventies with a show of new exuberance. New methods developed for ESP and PK research was developed and a group of talented young researchers were taking up the challenge of psi research. By the 1980’s however a sense of disillusionment set in as the exuberance was replaced by a feeling that the burst of research that had just taken place might not, in the end, bring the field any closer to understanding the phenomena or to acceptance in the scientific community. By the end of the decade and the next the disillusionment was replaced by a renewed confidence that the result of psi research was starting to make sense. Meta-analysis is confirming that parapsychology is dealing with real effects, not statistical chimeras or methodological mirages.
This time parapsychology is not experiencing just another bout of wide-eyed optimism. As our science headed into this new millennium, parapsychologists have optimism based upon hard numbers and perhaps for the first time in history a realistic assessment of the size of the effects we are dealing with in experiments. With a fresh perspective on decades of data, parapsychologists as well as parapsychic scientists should be able to bring to their fields the level of replicability and predictability needed to make it a useful science. In scientific terms this is maturity.
Reflecting parapsychology’s growing maturity, I think the answer to how soon it will be before psi is reliable and useful depends less on the arrival of a talented genius and more on those same factors that the rest of science seems to depend so heavily upon: money and manpower. Teasing psi’s weak effects out of the morass of chance and unknown factors is not easy. It took over fifty years of systematic experimentation before we could even begin to do that with some confidence. Enhancing those psi effects to the point where they might be effectively used is likely to be even more difficult. But if those psi effects are truly there and -believe the evidence is now quite clear that they are-we can rest assured that the secrets of psi and its application will be available to whomever chooses to commit the necessary resources to unlock them.