Overview Effect

Apollo, the Dragon, and the Overview Effect

Written by Frank White on Monday, 28 May 2012. Posted in Overview Effect, Space Tourism

Not long ago, I got up at 3:30 am to watch the Falcon rocket blast off. In doing so, I recalled the all-nighter I pulled in Oxford, England, in July 1969 to watch the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. To me, these two missions were similar because nothing would be the same afterward. And both missions, I believe, are related to the Overview Effect and its impact on our awareness of who we are and where we are in the universe.

How can this be, you may ask. After all, the Apollo missions represented the first time we saw the whole Earth, gave us our first glimpse of "Earthrise," and helped give the environmental movement a kickstart as a major factor in shaping attitudes and behaviors on our planet. Didn’t Apollo represent the Overview Effect par excellence? And wasn’t this SpaceX launch just an unmanned cargo craft resupplying the International Space Station (ISS)? How could the two have anything in common?

Let me try to answer that question as best I can. I suppose on launch day, I simply knew that both were "historic" turning points, but I wasn’t sure how. It wasn’t until the following Monday, when the Dragon linked up with the ISS that the connection with the Overview Effect became more clear.

The most obvious link was simply in what NASA TV showed us as the Dragon maneuvered into position at an increasingly smaller distance from the space station. There, in the background, I saw amazingly beautiful video of the Earth rolling past, sometimes showing puffs of clouds, sometimes land masses, and at other times, the oceans. Of course, the NASA commentator wasn’t doing a program about the Overview Effect, so he didn’t comment on the view. He focused on the spacecraft below, the conversations among the flight controllers, and the issues that were arising as the moment of docking approached.

However, it occurred to me that many more people were watching this broadcast than would usually be the case, and this was a good thing. NASA TV often shows striking video from orbit, but they do not have a very large audience to see these images. With a larger group watching, people might have an experience of the Overview Effect for the very first time that morning, even if they didn’t know what it was!

Then, what came to mind was Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind this magnificent moment. He, too, was receiving more attention than usual on this day, and deservedly so. In response to questions about "What next?", he might have said that he just wanted to fulfill his contract with NASA to keep flying more supplies to the ISS. He said that, of course, but he has also talked about humanity becoming a multi-planet species, and his goal of sending large numbers of people to Mars.

In a flash, I realized that a long-held dream of mine might come true in my lifetime: thousands of people experiencing the Overview Effect, instead of the 500 plus that have had the experience so far.

This is the true promise of the NewSpace industry, which includes visionaries like Musk, Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Peter Diamandis, and many others. It is not the suborbital hops and space hotels, the moon missions and Mars colonies alone that really matter. It is, rather, that we will soon reach the point where as many people will see the Earth from a distance within a week’s time as have experienced it in the past 50 years.

At some point in the life of a human system, a quantitative change leads to a qualitative change. For decades, we have observed a few hundred astronauts and cosmonauts undergoing the shift in worldview represented by the Overview Effect, and we have been saying, "this is extraordinary." Now, soon, this will happen to many, many ordinary people and, through them, to society as a whole.

At that point, we will become not only a multi-planet species but also a species that is aware of its true destiny, i.e., to become Citizens of the Universe.

Thank you, Neil Armstrong. Thank you, Elon Musk. Thank you Apollo and Dragon.

Immersive technologies for Overview Effect delivery

Written by Douglas Trumbull on Wednesday, 24 June 2009. Posted in Overview Effect

Ever since working on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, I have been on a quest to develop increasingly immersive film technology in order to give audiences the feeling of "Being There". This led to the development of the SHOWSCAN film process, which is still regarded by professionals as superior to IMAX.

Now, via emerging digital technologies I believe we are at the threshold of a wholly new kind of media immersion, both by giant screens and high frame rates, as well as by delivering high resolution imagery directly to the human retina. My goal over the next five years is to develop this new Virtual Retinal Display technology to the point where extremely wide field of view, high brightness, stereoscopic imagery will be indistinguishable from reality.

This could facilitate the Overview Effect without having to go into space, as well as expand human consciousness of an unlimited variety of experiences that go far beyond our earthly physical limitations.

The universal message of the Overview Effect

Written by Mike Simmons on Wednesday, 24 June 2009. Posted in Overview Institute, Overview Effect

Our ancestors have looked up at the night sky in wonder for thousands of years. In modern times we've learned that we share the same sky with the rest of the spherical world we live on, one people living under the same blanket of stars. The Overview Effect now conveys a complimentary and even more direct message from the perspective of space. The Overview Effect is an essential element in the attraction of our move off our planet, one that demonstrates with ease and clarity the fragility of our home and the need to work together to preserve it.

Like the universal attraction to the starry sky that encircles us all, the Overview Effect is a message that resonates with people regardless of geographic, political or cultural identification. As humanity increasingly moves into space, the Overview Institute will foster this vision of hope, engaging the majority of humanity that, while remaining Earthbound, continues to view the stars from below and travel into space in spirit.

The Overview Effect moves humanity closer to world peace

Written by Andrew Newberg on Wednesday, 24 June 2009. Posted in Overview Effect

The Overview Effect may be one of the most important experiences we can try to bring to people. This experience needs to be made available for all people. It is also crucial to bring this experience to leaders around the world, regardless of whether they are political, corporate or academic leaders. All of us can benefit from this experience.

The experience itself is deeply rooted in our biology. As a neuroscientist studying a broad variety of human experiences, it appears to me that the brain itself is capable of taking in the Overview Experience and converting such an overwhelming concept into our behaviors and thoughts. Individuals who have had the Overview experience feel a breaking down of boundaries and a sense of the interconnectedness and preciousness of the Earth and all those who live on it.

The Overview Effect is a testament to how our brain is wired to enable us to transcend our often petty goals and seek to become something greater than we already are. By encouraging others to have the Overview experience, we have the opportunity to move humanity closer to world peace by deepening our understanding of those around us and committing ourselves to improving the lives of all human beings.

The Overview Effect and the future

Written by Edgar Mitchell on Wednesday, 24 June 2009. Posted in Overview Effect

Only in recent times has the power of perspective and belief to effect behavior change become well documented in human social and political endeavors.

The "Overview Effect" reported by our generation of space farers provides us hope that learning to see ourselves, our small planet, and our actions toward nature and each other from that larger perspective can strongly influence the course of evolution toward a more peaceful and sustainable future.