Buckminster Fuller Future Designer
(From the book "Visionaries of the 20th Century", edited by Satish Kumar and Freddie Whitefield, Green Books, Totnes Devon, 2006)
"A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist."
"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."
"Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization precluded comprehensive thinking."
Richard Buckminster ('Bucky') Fuller was born in 1895 in a Transcendentalist culture. He died in 1983, well recognized as a prominent twentieth century prophet – certainly a great moral teacher and a futurist, whose predictions proved most accurate, yet also an inventor, design scientist and master geometer. Fuller discovered how to realize the ancient prophetic vision (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3) - to "remake swords into plowshares".
Fuller showed that, by calamity or by choice, humankind would either die out or reach a steady state with some 10 billion people sharing the Earth. He also proposed a novel method of getting there by choice – through the “World Game”. Trained as naval officer, 'Bucky' addressed the entire 'Spaceship Earth' (a term he invented): how to navigate humankind and our planet, with both love and precision, through their most critical passage ('navigate' seems the right word, for “Navi” means in Hebrew 'Prophet').
Fuller’s basic insight was that historically, practically all human progress has been due to war. Not because there is anything admirable about war, but because only for winning victories were governments willing to make investments in research, and some of the discoveries of this research were then turned to peaceful uses. Computers, television, satellites and the Internet are just some of the life-improving products of military research. But, said Fuller, this needs not be so: human improvement need not be just an accidental byproduct of military research. Fuller claimed that we can be masters of our destiny: we can purposefully generate research that will improve human existence.
His strategy was to instigate a 'World Design Science Initiative' for the development of 'livingry' (as opposed to weaponry) tools. The Fuller design mottos included 'Reform the environment, not the humans' and 'Do more with less' – well exemplified in his own Geodesic Dome and Tensegrity structures. The names of some of his many books spell well his stance: Utopia or Oblivion, No more Secondhand God, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and The Critical Path. New books about him keep coming.
Ironically, it was the military defense application of his best-known geometrical and civic invention that led to Bucky's fame. Fore many years he was a prophet calling in the wilderness, to whom no one listened. But when the North American anti-ballistic defense needed shelters for their radars, Fuller's patent of the Geodesic Dome seemed the answer. So after he got rich he became a global celebrity whose lecture tours circulated the Earth more than twenty times over.
Fuller anticipated the creation of a world management system that would distribute material substances in a just way. His book Critical Path (CP in the appended quotes below) contains his visionary schemes for energy, economics, world management, trans-nationalism, city planning and more. His Magnum Opus Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking gets to the fundamentals.
His quest was to understand the principles of the Universe and “to discover human functioning therein, thereby to discover nature's governing complexes of generalized principles and to employ these principles in the development of specific artifacts that would benefit humanity's fulfillment of its essential functioning in the cosmic scheme" (CP p.126). Fuller thoroughly explored the geometric design of nature, so that we should be able to organize humanity along similar patterns. In finding this cosmic, holistic perspective and working with it, instead of against it, we will attain the "conversion of all humanity into an integrated, omni-harmonious, economically successful, one-world family" (CP xix), where we all will "live comfortably and luxuriously on daily energy income from the Sun in its many derivative phases" (CP p. 254).
Extra material (not included in the book) from the original draft that was called:
"Navigating Spaceship Earth - The New World Game of R.B. Fuller"
Fuller’s own life gives us a model how to train leaders responsible for navigating Spaceship Earth. Fuller believed that humanity's fate rests on individuals who dare to steer their course only by truth, as "strange as the realized truth may often seem - wherever and whenever the truths are evidenced to the individual - they may lead, unfamiliar as the way may be" (CP xxxvi). He states that only God is exact truth. And we can come closer to God by seeking and loving truth.
At the age of thirty-two, having tried to commit suicide after failing in the business world, Bucky Fuller made a private deal with God, dedicating his life to improving our Earth environment, both physically and metaphysically, so as to provide protection and support of all humanity – thus starting his own one man experiment. I heard that during a critical health crisis later in life, Bucky had asked God to grant him one more year to finish his work, especially his 'Synergetics' testament. God granted his request, and Bucky kept his side of the bargain.
Already back in 1960’s, Bucky envisioned the computer as the server of the future world management system, and the design of “The World Game” was high on the agenda. By now, computer games are coming of age and became the world’s second-largest entertainment industry. An exciting World Game could be joined by millions of users, serving to build a global community of “world managers”. There is already a World Game website, yet its current design is limited, lacking the dramatic focus and excitement needed for a real game that would attract millions and missing the Fuller’s relative advantage – the geometrical-holistic vision. Such New World Games will train players in management of earth’s physical resources. They will also train in the skills of comprehensive thinking and the acceptance of self-and-other – the navigation in a geometric 'metaphysical' information environment.
Bucky Fuller has explicitly suggested showing the 'earthly' factors of resources and global trends as light patterns on a lights grid covering a Geodesic Dome as a giant earth globe. Likewise, his synergetic explorations indicate how to visualize the complementary spiritual-geometrical 'heavenly' domain, where Players’ conceptual moves could show as choreography of lights.
The present 'Clash of Civilizations' furor, with Jerusalem at its heart, offers a dramatic setting for the metaphysical game of reconciliation. Islam’s five-daily prayer - “Guide us on the straight path” - endorses a universal plea for guidance, and Islamic science, art and metaphysics excel in geometry. The Islamic geometrical patterns at Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock inspire my own World Game designs for the requisite metaphysical component: A model “Heavenly Jerusalem” of lucid geometry, facilitating the harmonization of the conceptual moves of myriad players.
It might also be mentioned in this context that Fuller was a memeber of an international panel of architects appointed by mayor Kolek about 1968 to advise the building of the New Jerusalem. Also when I started thinking on the 'Heavenly Jerusalem", Bucky informed me (through Michael Ben-Eli) that he was ready to design a giant Geodesic Dome over the Old City. It took me decades to realize that this is a great idea.
Some further information about R.B. Fuller:
www.bfi.org/introduction_to_bmf.htm - “who was Bucky Fuller?” Introduction to the Buckminster Fuller Institute website.
www.cjfearnley.com/fuller-faq-3.html - Fuller's Ideas About Human Society, from The Critical Path.
www.thirteen.org/bucky/film.html - TV program: Thinking out loud.
www.buckminster.info - Buckminster Fuller Virtual Institute.
www.cjfearnley.com/buckyrefs.html. Chris Fearnley's List of Buckminster Fuller Resources on the Internet.
Thomas T. K. Zung (Editor): “Buckminster Fuller: Anthology for the New Millennium”. St. Martin's Press, 2001, cites 23 of Bucky’s books.
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