Virtual reality technology is opening up new ways for us to connect and new worlds for us to explore. Yet, one of its most valuable applications may be enabling us transcend ourselves.
There's a powerful phenomena called the "overview effect." Only a few of us have been fortunate enough to experience it. The term describes the psychological transformation astronauts go through when they gaze back upon the Earth from space. They become overwhelmed with a sudden wave of awe and deep emotion. Yet, the "overview effect" is far from a transitory feeling. It triggers a life-long cognitive shift in awareness.
Those that experience the "overview effect" adopt a new framing of reality and the self. They connect to a profound sense of oneness with the earth and its inhabitants. And from this sense of unity, divisions like national borders seem arbitrary and petty. The focus shifts from one's self as an individual, to one's self as part of the whole.
The experience is said to be indescribable - like the feeling of falling in love, or seeing one's newborn first child.
Given its significance, it seems cruel that the "overview effect" has been unattainable to the vast majority. Yet those barriers are falling. Soon it will be possible for anyone to immerse one's self into the experience through a VR headset.