Why you should care
Because he is seeking to electronically influence the human mood.
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Kendrick Lamar may not have intentionally referenced a scientific phenomenon when he wrote the song “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” But according to inventor Stanley Jungleib, your vibe — and your power to influence someone else’s — is the upshot of your personal electromagnetic aura. Jungleib has gone so far as to create, and patent, a device to quantify that aura, which may represent a colossal leap forward in human knowledge.
For many people, the sensation of feeling someone else’s energy is commonplace, even if unexplained by science. Imagine you’re alone on the 146-acre National Mall in Washington, D.C. Now imagine you’re in the same spot, but this time you’re joined by the 800,000 people who attended the gun-control demonstration in March, and the crowd is silent to symbolize the time elapsed during the shooting in Parkland, Florida. In both situations the space is exactly the same. The noise level is about the same too. But the vibe is totally different. And that vibe is precisely what Jungleib wanted to measure.
His invention may prove useful for some of the millions of people like himself who struggle with depression.
He tells me this on a recent afternoon while seated in a leather chair in the studio attached to his Portola Valley, California, home, five miles from Stanford, a drum set visible behind him as we chat over FaceTime. It’s unconventional to assign oneself the task of gauging subtle human energy. But it’s all the more improbable for someone who’s better known as a music technologist.
In the early 1990s, the Intel Corporation hired Jungleib — who is the second-generation offspring of Jewish and Italian immigrants, raised in Northern California suburbia — to create software-based audio capability in the PC. Up until that point the hardware “sound card” was the only means of generating sound on a computer, but Jungleib’s team of engineers developed the first audio synthesizer native to the computer processor. For two decades afterward, until its expiration last year, he held the patent that made it possible for your cellphone to blare a ringtone or a song. (In addition to being an inventor, Jungleib is also a musician, philosopher and activist. He speaks most proudly of something he accomplished at age 17: permanently protecting a nearby mountain from real estate developers.)
After inventing a technology that millions of people would carry around in their pockets, Jungleib fell into a debilitating depression. It was his personal struggle for health that led him on a quest to better understand human energy — something that is typically associated with New Age hokum rather than hard science.
But his approach to psychoenergetics, as this field is called, was informed by his engineering background: He sought to measure a person’s energy in a way that yielded empirically reproducible results. He was following highly credible thinkers of yore. Back in 1930 the journalist Upton Sinclair published a book called Mental Radio about his wife’s telepathic experiments, and the preface was written by Albert Einstein, who endorsed the concept.
Jungleib emphasizes that the human body really does function as a radio: The heart produces a magnetic field, and our sweat glands contain tiny crystals that can act as radio receivers. His theory for how people swap vibes goes back to music. “A real singer will sing a note and then bring in vibrato,” he tells me, bushy gray eyebrows arching over steel-framed glasses as he references the change in pitch that adds expression to music. “So besides the basic characteristics [of a musical note], you have variations that also transfer important information.”
Jungleib used that concept to formulate what he named the “Subtle Timbral Spectrum Theory,” which suggests that your vibe is a kind of supplementary information accompanying your physical and verbal expression — in the same way that overtones attend a musical note — and that it’s transmitted by way of subtle energy spread across the electromagnetic spectrum. Drawing on a lifetime of expertise in electronics, Jungleib then built a device to register that energy.
In his studio, he holds up a gold-hued circuit board with dozens of relays and hundreds of colored wires snaking around the back. (A related device, called the RTA-1, has a screen and generates numerical readings of detected energy.) In 2013, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Jungleib a patent — the first intellectual-property protection granted in psychoenergetics.
Yet the science of the human vibe is far from proven.
Dean Radin, a professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, has spent 40 years researching phenomena at the boundaries of accepted science and has known Jungleib for a decade. He likens the patented device to a common painkiller: For thousands of years healers administered willow bark to cure headaches without understanding why it worked; eventually chemists traced the effect to the bark’s salicylic acid, and aspirin was born. “The device Stanley made is detecting something,” Radin says. “[But] we’re in that prescientific period.” He says there is not yet an explanation compelling enough to convince most scientists.
Jungleib agrees, and is now seeking venture capital to pursue the next generation of research. But the race to manufacture a commercial vibe detector could get crowded. Google is rumored to be conducting research in this area, and Apple has filed a patent for a mood sensor. Rick Davies, a technical writer who has known Jungleib since they were colleagues at a music tech company in 1979, emphasizes that the “one of a kind” Jungleib has proven skeptics wrong before, on PC audio.
Meanwhile, Jungleib continues to wage the battle for mental health, as his invention may prove useful for some of the millions of people like himself who struggle with depression. According to the patent, the device does more than just measure human energy: It also has the potential to influence that energy by radiating at specific frequencies. This opens a whole cosmos of possibility. If his technology can affect how a person feels, says Jungleib, “We can synthesize more states of mind than people have felt, more than our greatest poets have put into words.”
Just don’t kill my vibe.
5 Questions for Stanley Jungleib
What’s the last book you finished? Karen Horney’s Neurosis and Human Growth.
What do you worry about? The propagandization that went on in the last election.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without? A dog.
Who’s your hero? Barack Obama.
What’s one item on your bucket list? I hate that term. I want to go to South Sudan.
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