Following is our report on the findings of the Science of the Noosphere project, which was conceived, initiated, and defined by Human Energy. The implementation of the project is a joint effort of evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, a member of Human Energy’s Science Advisory Board, and filmmaker Alan Honick, under the direction of Human Energy’s president, Ben Kacyra.
We launched the project with three complementary goals. The first was to validate Teilhard de Chardin’s exposition of the birth, anatomy, physiology, development, and future of the noosphere, as described in Chapter 10 of The Future of Man. The second was to update Teilhard’s description by applying scientific knowledge that has emerged through research conducted since 1947, when Teilhard wrote the essay that became Chapter 10, titled “The Formation of the Noosphere: A Plausible Biological Interpretation of Human History.” The third goal was to build the components and begin to identify participants in a science-based story of the noosphere’s evolution that serves as the basis for series of documentary films.
We have pursued these goals by conducting 24 online video conversations between David Sloan Wilson and experts from a diverse set of disciplines. These include biological evolution, cultural evolution, complex adaptive systems, linguistics, geopolitics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, cosmology, history, economics, classical Greek culture, and artificial intelligence, among others.
Each individual conversation opens a window onto different aspects of the noosphere’s functioning from a unique point-of-view. The sum of all conversations forms a synergistic whole, a collective body of knowledge that goes a long way toward establishing the noosphere as a realm for serious scientific inquiry, one that is essential for humanity to pursue.
The body of this report is constructed to facilitate a self-guided tour for viewers through a set of representative clips selected from nearly 40 hours of conversations. These clips, ranging from 3 to 27 minutes in length, are embedded on 4 separate pages that are organized around the 4 main sections of Chapter 10.
When you click on the section links to visit those pages, you’ll first encounter a short selection of excerpts from the matching section of Chapter 10. Following those are the video clips. Each clip is preceded by a brief description that identifies the participants and the subjects being discussed. Then comes the video clip itself, and underneath each video clip a link that leads to the transcript of that clip as a PDF. We hope that this provides an easily accessible means of sampling the conversations we’ve conducted over the last several months.
There are 32 clips in total, which represent only a small sampling of the conversations we have conducted to date. We hope this presentation method empowers viewers to select the material that most interests them.
Our method of seeking perspectives from a wide range of experts has yielded positive results, though the picture of the noosphere’s formation, evolution, and future that emerges from these conversations is — as one might expect — as complex as the noosphere itself.
Interestingly, even among researchers associated with Human Energy, while there is broad agreement on the existence of the noosphere, there is no clear consensus on exactly what the term means. Thus one of our key findings, a “meta” finding of sorts, is that the task Human Energy has taken on – to focus resources and attention on discovery of the noosphere’s functioning and its role in human life – is critical to the future of the noosphere itself.
The overall import of these conversations is that Teilhard’s description of the noosphere’s formation is valid and real. Virtually all major tenets of Chapter 10 are confirmed in broad strokes. In particular, the reality of Teilhard’s claim that Noospheric theory provides “a plausible biological interpretation of human history” is confirmed in multiple ways — as is the concept that human and technology are coevolving into a superorganism with collective consciousness that forms a thinking layer of life around the earth.
At the same time, these wide-ranging conversations add fascinating layers of nuance to Teilhard’s vision that could not have been appreciated without an understanding, for instance, of both biological and cultural evolution that wasn’t available in his time. Given the giant strides science and technology have made in the last 75 years, it’s amazing that Teilhard was as prescient as he was.
Most importantly, however, the reality of an evolving noosphere – as a biological, cultural, and technological superorganism – is confirmed in multiple ways. Perhaps the most significant confirmation is an aspect of evolutionary science that Teilhard only glimpsed – but has been thoroughly investigated over the last several decades – known as the Major Transitions in Evolution. It tells us that the formation of a global-scale noosphere itself – and its manifestation in electronic information and communication technology – is a scientifically accurate description of our present moment in time, as significant as the origin of life itself.
In light of a planned Phase II of “Science of the Noosphere” – the production of a docuseries based on these ideas – both the validation of Teilhard’s vision and its updating through modern science offer the potential of a powerful story to tell. We – David Sloan Wilson and Alan Honick, co-producers of this project – believe our overall finding at this point is that this is a story that urgently needs to be told to a wider world audience.
Additional Outcomes from Phase I of Science of the Noosphere
Though we chose only a few of the participants for their direct knowledge of Teilhard’s work, nearly all were willing and and even enthusiastic about considering their own work in noospheric terms. Since one core goal of our project is to establish the noosphere as both a commonly used term and useful analytical framework for investigating humanity’s evolutionary path, we consider that a sign of success.
By engaging this set of experts in these discussions, Human Energy is planting the seeds of a science-based noospheric framework among thought leaders from diverse disciplines. We think this is important in and of itself, because there is a tendency within the scientific community to associate concepts of the noosphere with spirituality and mysticism. Addressing those misconceptions by exploring the functioning of the noosphere from many different research perspectives is the ideal way to put the noosphere on solid scientific ground.
Along those same lines, it was heartening to see support for various aspects of noospheric theory from different disciplines. For example, the underlying concepts of collective consciousness are consistent with biological and cultural evolution, anthropology, and psychology, to name just a few. Exploring the noosphere through our cross-disciplinary approach has enabled us to gain an understanding of some of its subtleties and nuances that could not be achieved in any other way.
While we view Phase I of Science of the Noosphere as a promising start, these deep dives into detailed analysis of these concepts, using the language of trained experts, will be accessible only to an already engaged audience — the “early adopters”, to use the framework of the “Crossing the Chasm” model through which disruptive ideas gain acceptance in society.
Venturing across that chasm to reach the “early majority” in society is the challenge for Phase II — a documentary series based on these ideas. However, successful execution of Phase I has been an essential step, enabling us to get a clearer picture of the chasm itself, and what lies on the other side. In order to cross the chasm, however, we need to build on that success by constructing a bridge using the essence of these ideas, transformed into the Third Story that can take humanity into the future, a fully realized noosphere that unites the whole Earth.