"Maybe the ability to generate advertising revenue for newspapers," sniffs Joseph Firmage, who was CEO of Web services firm USWeb/CKS until late last week, when he resigned to promote a new book that includes discussions of his belief in extra-terrestrials. Firmage said in an interview with ZDNN that comparing him to the X-Files' dogged conspiracy theorist "is an exaggeration that's not particularly fair."
But the reporter who printed the story, Jon Swartz of the San Francisco Chronicle, said he had asked if Firmage knew that some people were comparing him to Fox Mulder "and he said, 'I don't have a problem with that.' He actually laughed and said that was fine." Swartz told ZDNN he hasn't heard anything, pro or con, from Firmage since an article he wrote for the Chronicle appeared on Saturday.
Firmage did tell ZDNN that "I believe in extra-terrestrial visitation, I believe in UFOs."
Firmage, whose run of bad publicity began when he started a Web site to publicize a book he's working on, The Truth, stepped aside as CEO of USWeb/CKS, then known as Reinvent, after the initial wave of stories about the site raised eyebrows. The 28-year old moved into the chief strategist's role, but said he now had to step down to prevent damage from happening to the company.
"The giggle factor on this is about as high as they come," he acknowledged.
But Firmage says his book, The Truth, is more about cutting-edge physics and the synthesis of science and spirituality than it is little green men from outer space.
"It's a serious, sober and extremely rigorous synthesis of new ideas that are relevant to think about," Firmage told ZDNN. Firmage said he studies physics closely, and says that the latest in physics suggests that "science is close to discovering the means to influence the force of gravity."
This would in turn suggest that interstellar travel is more plausible than was previously thought, he says.
While Firmage was quoted prominently in the Chronicle as saying he was visited by an alien and that he believes technologies such as fiber optics and the microprocessor, were given to us by aliens, he said that was not accurate.
Not just a dream
"I never said that I was visited by aliens. I did have a very strange experience, something more like a near-death experience, about 15 months ago. I don't know what happened, but from that moment on I certainly became aware of perhaps the need to focus on a bigger picture."
Firmage said he had an early morning conversation with a being that looked like a human, shrouded in white light, and told it he wanted to travel in space, a lifelong dream.
Firmage freely acknowledges that "people will call it some sort of hypnagogic state. Guess what? It could well have been. I have not claimed that it was anything beyond my imagination. It was not just a dream, because I could physically feel it in ways that just don't happen in dreams."
Swartz said that Firmage "said it was an otherworldly being, which I assumed to be an alien." Swartz added that he had given Firmage the unusual courtesy of double-checking quotes with him before the story ran.
What about Roswell?
Firmage said he does not know that fiber optics technology and other high technologies were developed thanks to aliens, after a landing in Roswell, N.M. in 1947.
"I do not know whether any event called Roswell occurred," he said.
Swartz again stood by his story, and suggested that Firmage was trying to do some spin control after getting an unexpected amount of fall-out. "Just go check out his site -- it's all there," Swartz said. Firmage says some "remarkable" members of the technology community have discussed with him, privately, their beliefs, as well. He says he deserves to be taken seriously.
"I've spent 10 years studying this domain, and done a decent job of connecting a rigorous scientific understanding of how it could happen," he said.
"Look at the heat I'm taking here. I knew I was going to take it -- you can see the PR impact on my credibility. Not many people are willing to roll those dice. I am ... because I've studied enough science to understand how important this is to all of us."
"I don't ask that you believe me. But don't discount me without reading the book."
Firmage said he will e-mail a 150-page synopsis of his book on Friday to people who've registered at his site. He also says he is looking for a publisher to publish a print version of the book.