The Noosphere

Our thoughts mingle in a layer above the earth, the noosphere.

As a philosopher and phenomenologist, Teilhard invented the word “noosphere” to describe the layer of thought and its corresponding energies that surrounded the physical biosphere of the Earth. As a scientist, Teilhard worked to understand the evolutionary process on a physical or biological level. He believed that the Earth was a living organism that evolved through the progression of human consciousness and that the noosphere contained humanity’s collective ideas, interactions, and energy.

All humans contribute to this existential sphere and it is key to the future of the planet. According to Teilhard, collective and reflective thought will ideally converge at an Omega Point as individuals grow in consciousness and become more human. Teilhard termed this transformational process “hominization” and its conclusion “Omega,” the last letter of the Greek alphabet. 

In The Human Phenomenon, Teilhard thus describes the location and constitution of the noosphere:

“Above the animal biosphere there is a human sphere, the sphere of reflection, conscious invention, and felt union of minds (the noosphere, so to speak) and at the origin of this new entity…there is a phenomenon of special transformation which affects preexistent life: hominization.” 

There is much speculation among scholars, writers, and thinkers that the current Internet, the worldwide network of computers, is “the mechanical apparatus of the noosphere.” Teilhard also referred to networks in his explanation of how the noosphere functioned—“the Noosphere—is multiplying its internal fibers and tightening its network and simultaneously its internal temperature is rising, and with this its psychic potential.” While the complexity and sustainability of Teilhard’s thought are evidenced in these inquiries, equating the noosphere to the Internet limits Teilhard’s vision to one technological development.

This question may be better answered by viewing human activities and consequences of digital technologies, such as the Internet, as evolutionary examples of noospheric activities on the Earth. Teilhard believed that war and peace were in the “minds of men.” Robert Mueller, a longtime high-ranking U.N. functionary, thought of the U.N. as a “noosphere.” It follows, then, that the world of news—the newsphere as we exploring and understanding it here—may also be considered a noosphere—a layer of thought enveloping the world.