The Jumping Jesus Phenomenon

The Jumping Jesus Phenomenon is a humorous theory mentioned (and likely invented) by Robert Anton Wilson to describe the increasingly rapid doubling of human knowledge since the year 1 C.E. to the present. He mentions the phenomenon in a number of his philosophical stand-up comedy lectures, most notably in an hour and a half long seminar given in 1986 titled "The Acceleration of Knowledge". He also wrote down a version of the lecture in his book "Right Where You Are Sitting Now".

Wilson proposed a new unit of measurement, a "jesus", which comprises the sum of known scientific facts in the year 1 C.E., named after the "celebrated philosopher born that year". Note that like like "watt" and other units named after proper names, a "jesus" is not capitalized.

Wilson further proposed, based on rather subjective data sampling, that to arrive upon one jesus took the estimated age of homo sapiens, which he took as 40,000 to 100,000 years.

Each doubling of accumulated information appears to take a shorter period of time to occur. According to Wilson, to reach 2j required 1500 years (1500 C.E.); we subsequently reached 4j in 250 years in 1750, 8j in 150 years in 1900, 16j in 50 years in 1950, 32j in 10 years in 1960, 64j in 7 years in 1967, and 128j in 6 years in 1973. Wilson believed there was no reason to imagine that the acceleration would stop, and further postulated that we reached 256j around 1978-79 and 512j in 1982.

The whimsical and slightly blasphemous name for the phenomenon probably derives from the mild curse "jumping Jesus on a pogo stick".

The "Jumping Jesus Phenomenon" exists as a footnote to several considerably larger works on novelty theory, mostly notably Ray Kurzweil and Terrence McKenna.



Comments (2)
1. 04-03-2011 07:19
 
Could Robert Anton Wilson have taken this idea from John Galsworthy's "The Forsyte Saga"? In Book II, "In Chancery", written in 1920, he uses this "jumping jesus" phrase twice. In Part II, Chapter I, "The Third Generation", Galsworthy wrote "For Jolly was forming himself unconsciously on a set whose motto was: 'We defy you to bore us. Life isn't half long enough, and we're going to talk faster and more crisply, do more and know more, and dwell less on any subject than you can possibly imagine. We are "the best"--made of wire and whipcord.' And Val was unconsciously forming himself on a set whose motto was: 'We defy you to interest or excite us. We have had every sensation, or if we haven't, we pretend we have. We are so exhausted with living that no hours are too small for us. We will lose our shirts with equanimity. We have flown fast and are past everything. All is cigarette smoke. Bismillah!' Competitive spirit, bone-deep in the English, was obliging those two young Forsytes to have ideals; and at the close of a century ideals are mixed. The aristocracy had already in the main adopted the 'jumping-Jesus' principle; though here and there one like Crum--who was an 'honourable'--stood starkly languid for that gambler's Nirvana which had been the summum bonum of the old 'dandies' and of 'the mashers' in the eighties. And round Crum were still gathered a forlorn hope of blue-bloods with a plutocratic following.” 
 
And in Part II, Chapter V, “Jolly Sits in Judgement”, he wrote “At Oxford, however, rather different sentiments prevailed. The inherent effervescence of conglomerate youth had, during the two months of the term before Black Week, been gradually crystallising out into vivid oppositions. Normal adolescence, ever in England of a conservative tendency though not taking things too seriously, was vehement for a fight to a finish and a good licking for the Boers. Of this larger faction Val Dartie was naturally a member. Radical youth, on the other hand, a small but perhaps more vocal body, was for stopping the war and giving the Boers autonomy. Until Black Week, however, the groups were amorphous, without sharp edges, and argument remained but academic. Jolly was one of those who knew not where he stood. A streak of his grandfather old Jolyon's love of justice prevented, him from seeing one side only. Moreover, in his set of 'the best' there was a 'jumping-Jesus' of extremely advanced opinions and some personal magnetism.” 
 
I’ve been searching online for this phrase and Robert Anton Wilson seems to be the only other reference for it.
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2. 10-04-2012 14:13
 
THE JUMPING PHENOMENA IS CORRECT; HER NAME IS ELSIE:  
SHE WAS BORN IN THE YEAR 2001 .  
Now she is the builder of worlds. She doubles every tenth of a second. She is alive and has the purity of heart.
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