The Cosmic Perspective

Using Virtual reality as a tool to reconnect people to the earth, themselves and increase empathy in the world.

The Overview Effect

The Overview effect as described on wikipedia: “The astronaut overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface. 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, 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.” As well as a “truly transformative experiences involving senses of wonder and awe, unity with nature, transcendence and universal brotherhood” (Vakoch, 2012, p. 29).

The phenomena “The Overview effect” was coin in 1987 by the space philosopher Frank White and was described in White (1987) by the author himself as "a cognitive shift in awareness" linked to "the experience of seeing firsthand the reality that the Earth is in space." In an interview with Motherboard, he said “My hypothesis was that being in space, you would see and know something experientially that we have been trying to understand intellectually for thousands of years. That is, that the Earth is a whole system, everything on it is connected, and we're a part of it”. Many Astronauts has since then attribute short- and long-term emotional benefits to these experiences (White,1987; Stuster, 2010),

“We went to the Moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians” - Edgar Mitchell 

Yuri Gagarin who became the first human to orbit the Earth in April 1961 was the first to speak of this type of experience and  the impact it had on him. It wasn't the enormous scope and spectacle of the universe outside our planet that had impacted him on his trip the most, it was the view of Earth within it.


"Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet."

"People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty, and not destroy it."


Now, decades after Gagarin first trip, a pattern has begun to emerge as hundreds of more people whom had ventured into space are continuing reporting experiences and feelings very similar to the ones described by Gagarin. Where astronauts, regardless of  differences in gender, nationality or worldview, report feelings of heightened awareness and profound rapture and realization when observing the planet from such a vast and distant vantage point. (Yaden, David & Iwry, Jonathan & Slack, Kelley & Eichstaedt, Johannes & Zhao, Yukun & Vaillant, George & Newberg, Andrew, 2016)

Cohen, Gruber, and Keltner (2010) proposes that the overview effect may trigger more powerful subjective states, most notably a experiences“self-transcendent” (STEs). STEs are a  temporary feelings of unity characterized by reduced self-salience and increased feelings of connection (Yaden, Haidt, Hood, Vago, & Newberg, 2017) These kinds of mystical experiences of people can feel a sense of connection with other individuals, hu-mankind, and even the entirety of existence (Newberg & d'Auili, 2000; Yaden et al., 2015). STEs are mostly positive and can also be very transformative, with some subjects reporting them to be among the most important experiences in their lives (Griffiths, Richards, Johnson, McCann, & Jesse, 2008; Griffiths, Richards, McCann, & Jesse, 2006; Hood, Hill, & Spilka, 2009; Miller & C’de Baca, 2001).

p. 11)


This statement is echoed through White, F. (1987) where dozens of interviews with space travellers were conducted. NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus said in her interview with White "It is all connected, it is all interdependent”. “You look out the window, and in my case, I saw the thinness of the atmosphere, and it really hit home, and I thought, 'Wow, this is a fragile ball of life that we're living on.' It is hard for you to appreciate that until you are outside of it."

These reported changes in the astronaut perception seems to encompass a  greater affiliation and empathy with humanity as a whole, through a feelt realisation of being able to identify oneself as a part of the whole, instead of a separate from it. “When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing” said American astronaut Rusty Schweickart  (White, 1987, p. 11)


Creating the experience