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The noosphere (//; sometimes noösphere) is the sphere of human thought. The word derives from the Greek νοῦς (nous "mind") and σφαῖρα (sphaira "sphere"), in lexical analogy to "atmosphere" and "biosphere". It was introduced by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1922 in his Cosmogenesis. Another possibility is the first use of the term by Édouard Le Roy (1870–1954), who together with Teilhard was listening to lectures of Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky at the Sorbonne. In 1936 Vernadsky accepted the idea of the noosphere in a letter to Boris Leonidovich Lichkov (though he states that the concept derives from Le Roy). Citing the work of Teilhard's biograprapher, Rene Cuenot, Sampson and Pitt stated that although the concept was jointly developed by all three men (Vernadsky, LeRoy, and Teilhard), Teilhard believed that he actually invented the word: "I believe, so far as one can ever tell, that the word 'noosphere' was my invention: but it was he [Le Roy] who launched it."
History of concept
In the theory of Vernadsky, the noosphere is the third in a succession of phases of development of the Earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life). Just as the emergence of life fundamentally transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition fundamentally transforms the biosphere. In contrast to the conceptions of the Gaia theorists, or the promoters of cyberspace, Vernadsky's noosphere emerges at the point where humankind, through the mastery of nuclear processes, begins to create resources through the transmutation of elements. It is also currently being researched as part of the Princeton Global Consciousness Project.
Teilhard perceived a directionality in evolution along an axis of increasing Complexity/Consciousness. For Teilhard, the noosphere is the sphere of thought encircling the earth that has emerged through evolution as a consequence of this growth in complexity / consciousness. The noosphere is therefore as much part of nature as the barysphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. As a result, Teilhard sees the "social phenomenon [as] the culmination of and not the attenuation of the biological phenomenon." These social phenomena are part of the noosphere and include, for example, legal, educational, religious, research, industrial and technological systems. In this sense, the noosphere emerges through and is constituted by the interaction of human minds. The noosphere thus grows in step with the organization of the human mass in relation to itself as it populates the earth. Teilhard argued the noosphere evolves towards ever greater personalisation, individuation and unification of its elements. He saw the Christian notion of love as being the principal driver of noogenesis. Evolution would culminate in the Omega Point - an apex of thought/consciousness - which he identified with the eschatological return of Christ.
One of the original aspects of the noosphere concept deals with evolution. Henri Bergson, with his L'évolution créatrice (1907), was one of the first to propose evolution is "creative" and cannot necessarily be explained solely by Darwinian natural selection. L'évolution créatrice is upheld, according to Bergson, by a constant vital force which animates life and fundamentally connects mind and body, an idea opposing the dualism of René Descartes. In 1923, C. Lloyd Morgan took this work further, elaborating on an "emergent evolution" which could explain increasing complexity (including the evolution of mind). Morgan found many of the most interesting changes in living things have been largely discontinuous with past evolution, and therefore did not necessarily take place through a gradual process of natural selection. Rather, evolution experiences jumps in complexity (such as the emergence of a self-reflective universe, or noosphere). Finally, the complexification of human cultures, particularly language, facilitated a quickening of evolution in which cultural evolution occurs more rapidly than biological evolution. Recent understanding of human ecosystems and of human impact on the biosphere have led to a link between the notion of sustainability with the "co-evolution" [Norgaard, 1994] and harmonization of cultural and biological evolution.
Instances in popular culture
- American integral theorist Ken Wilber deals with this third evolution of the noosphere. In his work, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), he builds many of his arguments on the emergence of the noosphere and the continued emergence of further evolutionary structures.
- Media art critic Gene Youngblood refers to Teilhard's noosphere in his seminal work, Expanded Cinema (1970): "Distributed around the globe by the intermedia network, it becomes a new technology that may prove to be one of the most powerful tools in man's history".
- The term Noöcene epoch refers to "how we manage and adapt to the immense amount of knowledge we’ve created."
- Julian May elaborated the noosphere concept of 'unification' in popular science fiction in the Galactic Milieu Series.
- The noosphere accounts for Teilhard being often called[by whom?] the patron saint of the Internet.
- Brian Stableford references human culture as a possible delirium or fever dream of the noösphere in his novella Mortimer Gray's History of Death, first published in 1995.
- Marilyn Ferguson's best seller The Aquarian Conspiracy was largely inspired by the concept of Noosphere.
- Greg Bear used the concept of the noösphere as the interaction space of his 'noöcytes' when he expanded his short story Blood Music to a full-length novel in 1985.
- Ambient dance group The Orb, in the track "O.O.B.E." from the album U.F.Orb', use a sample from the reading of New Pathways in Psychology by Colin Wilson, who discusses the concept of the noösphere.
- The Gone-Away World, a novel by Nick Harkaway, depicts an Earth devastated in a war fought with "Go-Away Bombs"—weapons which erase the information content of matter, causing it to disappear from reality. The fallout of these bombs, called "Stuff", subsequently draws information from the noosphere, "reifying" human ideas and thoughts into physical form and creating a fantasy landscape of monsters and horrors.
- In the essay "Homesteading the Noosphere", programmer and advocate Eric S. Raymond uses the concept in discussing the social workings of open-source software development.
- In the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Human Instrumentality Project has the goal of achieving the state of a noosphere.
- The game S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl involves the use of the nuclear power plant for scientific experiments involving adjusting the noosphere to remove aggression from humans. As a failed attempt at doing this, the "Zone" was created.
- In the 2008 video game LittleBigPlanet, the titular planet is described in terms similar to a noosphere—as the physical manifestation of idle human thoughts. Users can further expand on this idea by creating levels and uploading them to the servers for other players to experience.
- In F. Paul Wilson's 2009 Repairman Jack novel Ground Zero, the recurring character of The Lady is revealed to be a manifestation of the noosphere whose function is that of a "beacon" which informs a higher intelligence ("the Ally") that sentient life exists in the area where she appears.
- The 2009 Warhammer 40,000 novel Mechanicum by Graham McNeill features a noosphere as an experimental communication infrastructure that empowers the user by harnessing the power of the collective mind.
- The book Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky mentions the destruction of the noosphere during the last war, along with the destruction of paradise and hell.
- Dan Simmons's Ilium/Olympos novels use the noosphere as a way to explain the origins of powerful entities such as Ariel and Prospero, the former arising from a network of datalogging mote machines, and the latter deriving from a post-Internet logosphere.
- Cory Doctorow's short story "I, Robot" refers to noosphere as a cyberspace inhabited by digitised minds of humans who have chosen to leave their bodies.
- The conscious, professional exploration of the noosphere provides a major theme in the Archonate series of novels by Canadian science-fiction author Matt Hughes.
- The anime Log Horizon used the term noosphere in Elder Tales, an online fantasy RPG that has become popular worldwide in the anime's fictional universe. In its twelfth expansion package, "Homesteading the Noosphere" is installed, and thirty thousand players in Japan are trapped inside.
- Georgy S. Levit: Biogeochemistry, Biosphere, Noosphere: The Growth of the Theoretical System of Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863-1945) ISBN 3-86135-351-2
- Georgy S. Levit: "The Biosphere and the Noosphere Theories of V. I. Vernadsky and P. Teilhard de Chardin: A Methodological Essay. International Archives on the History of Science/Archives Internationales D'Histoire des Sciences", 50 (144), 2000: p. 160–176 http://www2.uni-jena.de/biologie/ehh/personal/glevit/Teilhard.pdf[dead link]
- "[...]he defined noosphere as the 'thinking envelope of the biosphere' and the 'conscious unity of souls'" David H. Lane, 1996, "The phenomenon of Teilhard: prophet for a new age" p. 4 http://books.google.com/books?id=QrwityQkdxkC
- In 1922, Teilhard wrote in an essay with the title 'Hominization': "And this amounts to imagining, in one way or another, above the animal biosphere a human sphere, a sphere of reflection, of conscious invention, of conscious souls (the noosphere, if you will)" (1966, p. 63) It was a neologism employing the Greek word noos for "mind". (Teilhard de Chardin, "Hominization" (1923), "The Vision of the Past" pages 71,230,261 http://books.google.com/books?id=GnwPAQAAIAAJ )
- Tambov State Technical University: The Prominent Russian Scientist V. I. Vernadsky http://www.tstu.ru/win/kultur/nauka/vernad/uchver.htm, in English
- "Evolution on Rails": Mechanisms and Levels of Orthogenesis by Georgy S. Levit and Lennart Olsson
- Cuenot, cited in Sampson & Pitt, 1999, p. 4). The biosphere and noosphere reader: Global environment, society and change. New York: Routledge.
- "Global Consciousness Project - consciousness, group consciousness, mind". Noosphere.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- P Teilhard de Chardin, (1959), The Phenomenon of Man, Collins, St James Palace, London.
- "Get Smarter - Jamais Cascio". The Atlantic. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- However, the Vatican regards Isidore of Seville as the patron saint of internauts, because of his pioneering work on indexing; see Classement Alphabétique.
- Paul R. Samson and David Pitt (eds.)(1999), The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader: Global Environment, Society and Change. ISBN 0-415-16644-6
- The Quest for a Unified Theory of Information, World Futures, Volumes "49 (3-4)" & "50 (1-4)" 1997, Special Issue
- Raymond, Eric (2000), "Homesteading the Noosphere", available online.
- Norgaard, R. B. (1994). Development betrayed: the end of progress and a coevolutionary revisioning of the future. London; New York, Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06862-2
- Hödl, Elisabeth, Die Noosphäre als Bezugsrahmen für das Recht (The noosphere as a framework for the conception of law) in: Schweighofer/Kummer/Hötzendorfer (Hrsg): Transformation juristischer Sprachen, Tagungsband des 15. Internationalen Rechtsinformatik Symposions, 2012, S. 639-648.
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- "Evidence for the Akashic Field from Modern Consciousness Research" by consciousness researcher Dr. Stanislav Grof, M.D.
- http://www.lawoftime.org/GRI/GRI.html# The Place of the Noosphere in Cosmic Evolution (pdf)
- http://noosphere.princeton.edu/ Global Consciousness project at Princeton
- Fortaleciendo la Inteligencia Sincrónica
- Unidad de Ciencia Noosféricas de la Universidad del Mar en Chile
- http://www.odeo.com/channel/105280 "Just Say Yes to the Noosphere", a Podcast from Stanford Law School
- Omega Point Institute Noosphere, Global Thought, Future Studies
- Semandeks A web application that tries to imitate Noosphere
- noosfeer A web application simulating the Noosphere by changing paradigms of content discovery
- Synaptic Web States that the Web is the substrate for the "sphere of human thought"