After the first flurry of publicity about The Overview Effect, and the spate of speaking opportunities it provided, responses to the book—and sales—slowed considerably. My strategy had been to write a series of books on space exploration, and I had hoped that The Overview Effect would do well enough to support me in writing the rest of the series. However, I had only been able to manage to write and publish one of those, The SETI Factor, which looked at how the search for extraterrestrial intelligence was changing our views of the universe and ourselves.
This document reflects remarks prepared by Frank White, author of The Overview Effect and cofounder of the Overview Institute, for delivery at the world premiere of the Planetary Collective film, "Overview." The event was sponsored by the Harvard Extension School’s "Freethink@Harvard" series and hosted by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on December 7, 2012.
The first edition of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, was published by Houghton-Mifflin Company in November of 1987. I had begun using the term earlier than that, and had presented a poster session on “The Overview Effect: A New Psychology for a New Civilization” at the Space Studies Institute’s annual conference in 1985. However, it was the book that elaborated on the concept in a complete way, and it is the book that has had the greatest influence on how people think about space exploration over the past quarter-century.
In June of 2011, I sat down with my wife, Donna, to watch Excalibur, the 1981 film about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. I had watched that movie many, many times in the past because I have long been fascinated with the Arthurian legend, and because I felt this particular film held some secret I had yet to decipher.
In The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, I envisioned a millennium-long “central project” for all of humanity that would engage our best efforts in the great adventure of exploring the universe. It was called “the Human Space Program,” to distinguish it from national space programs. The idea was consistent with, and flowed from, the concept of the Overview Effect.