A Critical Time
We live at a critical moment in human history. The challenges of climate change, food, water and energy shortages as well as the increasing disparity between the developed and developing nations are testing our will to unite, while differences in religions, cultures, and politics continue to keep us apart. The creation of a "global village" through satellite TV and the Internet is still struggling to connect the world into one community. At this critical moment, our greatest need is for a global vision of planetary unity and purpose for humanity as a whole.
The Overview Effect
For more than four decades, astronauts from many cultures and backgrounds have been telling us that, from the perspective of Earth orbit and the Moon, they have gained such a vision. There is even a common term for this experience: "The Overview Effect", a phrase coined in the book of the same name by space philosopher and writer Frank White. It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, the astronauts tell us, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide us become less important and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this "pale blue dot" becomes both obvious and imperative. Even more so, many of them tell us that from the Overview perspective, all of this seems imminently achievable, if only more people could have the experience!
Communicating the Overview Effect
Thus far, this unifying Overview Effect has been experienced by only a handful of space explorers, some 500 to date. Moreover, it has proven quite difficult for them to communicate more than just a portion of this potentially revolutionary experience to their listeners, despite their best efforts. Recent advances in cognitive science strongly suggest that these difficulties are directly related to the limitations of conventional media in communicating the rich and perspective altering experience of space. We will work with leading researchers as guides to the best media tools and strategies to overcome this challenge to communicating the Overview Effect.
Two Recent Advances
Two recent advances are about to dramatically change this limitation. The first is the advent of a commercial space industry that will soon begin taking tens of thousands of people into the near-space environment, far enough to grasp some aspects of the Overview Effect. Zero-gravity flights will make this effect of space travel available to many more. This is only the beginning of the historic human evolution into space, and the resulting transformations of human culture and consciousness as we become a space-faring culture.
The second major advance is the rapid maturation of high-definition digital media, from the internet-connected desktop to three-dimensional simulation media and virtual reality. These new technologies, together with other forms of art, media, entertainment and education will soon provide new and more powerful tools to immerse Earthbound audiences in a close approximation of the space environment and potentially bring the Overview Effect to many millions around the globe.
The Current Marginalization of The Overview Effect
However, at this critical moment, the reality, significance, and relevance of the Overview Effect to the current problems facing humanity is seldom mentioned, and its potential contribution is largely underestimated and seldom promoted. Because of this marginalization of the space experience in world affairs:
- The new commercial space access industry is largely seen as the sole province of wealthy entrepreneurs and space enthusiast millionaires.
- The Overview Effect, while intuitively valid to many, is often marginalized as a philosophical, metaphysical or aesthetic epiphany, not the fundamental perspective-altering experience that both astronauts and scientists suggest that it is.
- Space simulation art, media and entertainment are often seen, even by some leaders of the new space movement, to be merely marketing tools or entertainments rather than necessary forms of pubic space awareness.
- Those social leaders who are deeply concerned with the critical issues of our time, such as the environment, energy, international relations and many more, often see the new space movement as a diversion of attention, resources, and energy from solving those very problems, rather than potentially one of the greatest tools for galvanizing world support and the will for solving them.
The Intention of the Overview Institute
For these reasons, the undersigned individuals, formally known as The Overview Group, have come together to create The Overview Institute with the purpose of both researching and informing the world of the reality, nature, and potential of the Overview Effect. We will also promote and support widespread experience of it, through direct space travel, and newer, more powerful and more publicly available space art, multi-media and education. We will encourage artists, educators, entertainment creators, and simulation media designers and technologists to consider the rich potential of integrating the Overview Effect into their work as well as the opportunity to play a role in bringing space experiences to the world. And, just as important, we will network with world social leaders in all those areas most likely to benefit from the Overview Effect, both directly experienced and through space media.
An Announcement and an Invitation
We are making both an announcement and an invitation. First, we are announcing today our intent to form The Overview Institute as a nonprofit organization (and that we will be seeking 501(C) (3) status) in order to receive grants from foundations and corporations. We would ask for the support of members of both of these sectors as we grow and develop The Institute.
We would also like to extend an invitation to leaders in our four agenda areas of Space, Science, Media, and the Humanitarian Services to join with us to strengthen our expertise, global reach, and positive effect in each of these fields. Through these efforts, we declare our interdependence with one another, the planet as a whole, and the cosmos.
We close with a quote from the philosopher Socrates, often repeated by supporters of the Overview Effect:
Authored and signed by the Overview Group