The "Earthrise App"

August 31, 2018 at 8:30 am by Frank White

Fifty years ago this Christmas, Apollo 8 traveled to the moon. It may have been the most important mission to date, as an Overview Effect moment. The astronauts did not land but they did orbit the moon and at one point as they rounded the far side, they saw something extraordinary hanging in the lunar sky---our very own Earth!

They had already "blown our minds" on their way to the moon by turning their cameras back to look at the whole Earth, the first time human beings had ever shown the complete image of the home planet to their fellow humans.

This reversal of perspective truly revealed the Earth for what it is: a planet in space, aka "Spaceship Earth." Over time, we have come to realize that all of us are astronauts on this natural spaceship as it courses through the universe.

We realize it intellectually, but our experience is the same as that of our ancestors hundreds, even thousands, of years ago.

So many of us who are interested in the Overview Effect believe that if we could provide the astronaut experience to surface dwellers, it would make a huge difference in the behavior of people on "Spaceship Earth."

Recently, one of these "Overviewers" got in touch with me and David Beaver to discuss an idea he had for an application that would bring home the reality that we really do live on "Spaceship Earth" and that we are really the astronauts of this spacecraft. His name is Mike Turney and his application is called, appropriately, "Earthrise."

Here are some of Mike's thoughts on "Earthrise:"

"Considering the almost certain exponential global increase in Internet connectivity coupled with growing access to inexpensive devices the world is poised for an on-line explosion connecting billions of people. What if we could create a phone/tablet application that would connect these people while giving a instant and visual human pulse of the planet? An app that would allow the user to experience real-time global feedback depicted graphically onto the surface of a beautiful 3D/360 photorealistic globe of the Earth floating in space. 

"The two constant themes would BE the Earth as a visual whole and visually sharing this Earth with one another in real time.

"Imagine, for example, a simple 'Question of the Day' posed to the world, only to see the results to that question light up on the surface of Earth?  Think of the opportunities with the type of global questions that could be asked, ones which drill down illuminating our common humanity sharing this planet together.

"Other related uses for a format of this kind could include:

*To poll the planet on important subjects affecting all people. 

*The ability to build consensus on matters of concern in concert with the ability to visually depict consensus (and dissent) on the globe.

*The ability to instantly ping other participants or events from and to anywhere in the world resulting in visual tidal waves. (These pings are quantifiably visible in real time on the surface of the globe.)

*The ability to orchestrate global events visually and in real time.

*The ability to formulate global opinion and policies.

*Reinforcement of One People/One Planet/Spaceship Earth."

David and I discussed the concept at length with Mike and we like it.

We pointed out that you can't always control how people behave on the Internet, so this app might draw trolls who would try to take it in the wrong direction.  

Yet Mike believes the specific design of the app could focus the conversation in a way that stays on topic, emphasizing our fundamental human likenesses, needs and desires.

If you are interested, please contact Mike at and include in the subject line "Earthrise."