Overview Effect – Awe & Cognitive Shift in Awareness

100km… A short distance which will take around an hour with a car. Now think about covering the same distance not on the surface of Earth but vertically towards outer space.

Where will you reach?

Karman Line. It’s considered the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. If you gaze down on Earth from such an altitude, you won’t see any countries, borders, boundaries, nations, and religions. All these artificial social constructs vanish. As a result, you will encounter the “Overview Effect” which was termed by Frank White in 1987.

This effect has been defined as the cognitive shift in awareness that astronauts face when they get to see our planet from outer space.

“Overview Effect” 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 people 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.

According to astronauts, this cognitive shift in awareness alters their worldview. A sense of respect and admiration for our planet, a deep understanding of the connection between all forms of life, and a renewed sense of responsibility to protect the environment. Our artificial constructs may have played important roles during evolution, but today they do more harm than good. Boundaries and borders divide us, whereas religion and nationalism separates and causes hatred. Many people aren’t aware that their irrational pride in their nationality and religion just happens to be the result of that random coordinate that they were accidentally born on. Children are being raised with the fallacy that their nation is the best, their religion and their god is the one and only that they should worship. What makes your country/religion better?

Why would being born on a certain piece of land make me any more connected to someone who was born there too than to someone who hasn’t?

Attaching your irrational pride to a vast artificial construct, that doesn’t even exist beyond the fact that lots of other people attach their irrational pride to it too. All these ideas are indoctrinated into us throughout our childhood “education”. We are all a single species. That’s what matters. Imagine if you were born on some other coordinate on Earth. The god you worship, the religion you practice and the nation that you are proud of wouldn’t mean anything at all. All these imaginary concepts injected into children’s minds impose acceptance of dogmas without questioning. As a result, people do not question, do not wonder and stay away from science.

Is it worth fighting each other for out-of-date worldviews?

Contrary to our ancestors’ way of life, the visual connection of modern-day people and the night sky has been lost due to extreme light pollution in cities. Y and Z generations don’t get much chance to see the Milky Way, most of them probably don’t even know what it is. By the way, I’m also a millennial (born 1990). When I told my grandfather about my astrophotography passion, he immediately knew what Milky Way is. He said they used to see it every night because there wasn’t much if any, light pollution. Whereas a couple of millennial colleagues of mine had no idea what the Milky Way is.

We forgot to think, question and wonder due to daily hassles and the rush of the current system. We don’t have time for learning about the universe we live in because we’re so “busy”. Seems like busy is the new stupid.

Astronomy is the oldest of the natural sciences. It is the branch of science that opens the door for free thought, enables us to comprehend our place in the universe, demolishes dogmas and thus enlightens humanity. An individual who is into astronomy looks at the world from a bird’s-eye view and experiences the Overview Effect. Light pollution is also one of the factors that hinder access and awareness to this cosmic perspective. Fortunately, we don’t need to be astronauts to experience the Overview Effect. We can achieve this cognitive shift in awareness by reading about astronomy and cosmology, by wondering about the universe in which we live in.

Even better, drive far away from cities and their light pollution. Find a dark spot (use Light Pollution Map) where you can actually see thousands of stars and the milky way with the naked eye. Once you see the galactic center of our galaxy with your own eyes, I can guarantee your life will change for good. Did you know that you could also see Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula with the naked eye?

It is time that we leave behind the differences caused by irrational beliefs. We have to reach a cosmic perspective in which we accept the fact that homo sapiens is just an ordinary life form traveling through space-time.

The self-consciousness of a civilization reflects its entire attitude towards life, including itself and other cultures. The building blocks of future spacefaring civilizations will be Cosmism and similar world views which are based on the Overview Effect, transcending and leaving behind the middle age understanding that is doomed to fail very soon.

We all share a common home address;

Cosmos>Laniakea Supercluster>The Milky Way Galaxy>Earth