“For you are all the children of God by faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
The French Jesuit theologian and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Russian geochemist and natural philosopher Vladimir Vernadsky co-developed the concept of the Noösphere - a proposed novel stage of the Biosphere powered by human reason.
In Vernadsky’s view, the Noösphere is the next stage in planetary evolution in which human creativity allows leads us to monopolize the Earth-shaping power of the Biosphere. Humanity yokes the biogeochemical cycles of Gaia to transmute raw base materials into any physical form of matter that we so desire. Vernadsky believes that this information-processing outgrowth of the Biosphere is an inevitability. Homo sapiens, like all species of life at least on this planet, will continue to exploit the resources around us to maximize our self-driven evolutionary pathway. The Noösphere is the force which moved the Earth into the Anthropocene - a geological epoch (still under debate) characterized by human civilization radically altering the nature of the rock record. Microplastic deposits, widespread concrete placement, extremely rapid carbon emissions, and anthropogenic radioisotopes from nuclear fallout are potential markers of this strange new age.
The Industrial Revolution was a major step towards the manifestation of Vernadsky’s Noösphere. The story of humanity is our rapid edging out of other forms of life to expand our own carrying capacity - savannahs plowed under in favor of human controlled fields, tropical rain forests razed to open up land for ranching, shores, streams, and oceans dredged to provide our fish. Industrial civilization represents a different, non-renewable expansion of human living space on Earth, as the products of ancient sunlight which accumulated over millions of years are rapidly eaten up to abnormally enrich food production, provide chemical stocks for new materials, and power medical which push human lifespans further into the future. Human civilization is the mechanism by which the Noösphere colonizes the Biosphere, and achieves its goal of monopolizing the environment for the ends of one species. We’ll see if we will be able to strike out to the cosmos before running out of town on our home planet.
Teilhard de Chardin’s Noösphere takes its inspiration from Christian spirituality. He envisions the Noösphere as the sphere of human thought, reason, and intelligence that has emerged as a result of humanity’s increasingly complex ways of organizing and networking itself . This realm is the space in which human languages, legal systems, economies, cultures, religions etc. interact with one another to bring us closer to a unified humanity. The human collective is the Biosphere meditating upon itself. The evolution of Teilhard de Chardin’s Noösphere is also teleological, like Vernadsky’s, and leads to the enhancement of human individuality while setting the conditions in place for the unification of all human souls in Christian love and peace. Eventually, we will reach the Omega Point, at which the whole universe is brought into Christ, the Logos, the Word made Flesh.
The arrival of the Internet is a major step towards Chardin’s concept of the Noösphere. Twitter is one of the purest human-to-human networking solutions that I’ve come across I first started using Twitter seriously about two years ago. I only started posting at the beginning of the pandemic to get some facsimile of human interaction while isolating in my pod. I’ve cultivated many more deep relationships through Twitter in one year than I’d accumulated in much of my “real” life before using it. It’s a special place, or at least can be if used in a good way. Human thoughts in the medium of text, video, audio, and image from people all around the world combine in the cloud to produce a global culture. Unfortunately, this has not lead to greater harmony, love, and unity among the human family as Teilhard de Chardin optimistically prophesied, but has lead to the creation of an uncountable number of decentralized clans. Our interactions are filtered through a patchwork of interconnected networks, meaning we find our selves stuck, in the micro-communities we happened to fall into online.
A concept from the Lindy Table is that Twitter is like a bar. You pull up a chair, tweet your thoughts, and have conversations with the patrons around you. Except this bar is truly global and you can access it at anytime and from anyplace so long as you have an internet connection. Twitter is a return to the age of hearing the news through the grapevine, in hearsay and whispers, from people you trust or at least know as members of your own community. There is no shared knowledge base for us to rely on after after the break up of the 20th Century Media Monoculture because you can get your information from a startling array of sources from around the web. You find your tribe(s) and stick with them as they’re your friends. We’ve returned to ancient pathways of information flow, except that now you can network with anyone from around the world and hence aren’t limited to connecting with people near you geographically.
The collapse of a single, coherent narrative is disturbing to many. Social media companies try to keep the old paradigm in place by labeling content as misinformation and disinformation (reputedly coined by Joseph Stalin as dezinformatsiya… makes you think, doesn’t it?) if it doesn’t fit with the elite-driven “consensus”. Explicit forms of censorship have ramped up dramatically throughout 2020 as Leviathan struggles to keep the people on the same page. Nonetheless, these efforts will fail. Information is antifragile. The more that authority attempt to suppress it, the stronger and more widespread it becomes. There are just too many avenues for information to flow by for it to be quashed. We are at the beginning of a truly immense information explosion, potentially orders of magnitude larger than that caused by the invention of the printing press, and we know about the dramatic religious wars that followed that. What new belief systems will emerge? How many wars are going to be sparked? Will the modern state’s monopoly on governance hold? These are questions to ponder.
However, if the internet as Noösphere analogy is to hold water in Vernadsky’s eyes, it needs to reshape the Earth’s surface in addition to being in the mind. I think that internet tribes will come into the real world as numerous experiments in community living - operating at a smaller-scale, in a local rather than global context, and with human-centric outlook radically different from the all-encompassing globalism of today. I have had conversations with friends in the Interintellect who are interested giving communal living a shot, which is why I’m co-hosting a salon about intentional communities in history with Jamie Stantonian tomorrow! Decentralized Noöspheres are coming into being, we’ll have see if they can work in the real world are fated to stay in the cloud.