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THE DESIGN-SCIENCE REVOLUTION
OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER
Outlined And Expanded By Libby Hubbard
aka Doctress Neutopia
R. Buckminster Fuller was a magnanimous man of the Twentieth Century. He was
an inventor, architect, poet, scientist, futurist, and why he was never
selected to be Secretary of Energy is only a reflection of the
irresponsible, short-sighted, and corrupt government under which we live. He
not only spoke to America, the continent to which he was born in 1895, but
to the entire "SpaceShip Earth," the planet he loved and worked to help
save. This essay will focus on the text from his final book, _Critical
Path_. All quotes found in this essay are taken from _Critical Path_. From
the text, I will explore his creative vision for the future.
In 1927, at the age of thirty-two, after failing to succeed in the business
world, Bucky Fuller decided to dedicate his life to improving our
environment both physically and metaphysically (human thoughts, generalized
principles, and customs) by providing protection and support of all
He saw the creation of a world management system that would distribute our
physical substances in a just way. His dedication was to all humanity, not
just committing his efforts to the exclusive advantages of himself, his
dependents, his team, or his country.
Fuller sought 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 the specific arti- facts that would benefit humanity's fulfillment of its
essential functioning in the cosmic scheme" (126). In other words, Fuller
sought to discover our cosmic human order; he thought that if we can
comprehend how nature is design and governed, we will be able to organize
humanity in a similar pattern. In finding this cosmic, holistic perspective
and working with it, instead of against it, we will have found our ultimate
human freedom and thus survival. In order to achieve this new pattern of
life, Fuller feels we need to diligently work to mistress and master a
Fuller predicted that by 1989, the youth who have lived their entire lives
in the Space Age, will be of age to command and execute a world-embracing
design-science revolution. This will result in the "conversion of all
humanity into an integrated, omniharmonious, economically successful,
one-world family" (xix). The design-science revolution is a strategy for
governing the development of artifacts. The revolution will melt all
weaponry and use those metals for livelihood. This would raise thestandard
of living for everyone never before experienced on Earth. People will "live
comfortably and luxuriously on daily energy income from the Sun in its many
derivative phases" (254). His message to the peace movement is that peace
will come through a design-science revolution, restructuring the economy so
that all have an equal chance at self-actualization.
For him the world is the self, which means that our fate lies with personal
integrity. He writes,
You can deceive others, you can deceive your brain-self, but you
can't deceive your mind-self for mind deals only in the discovery
of truth and the interrelationship of all the truths. The cosmic
laws with which mind deals are noncorruptible (xxxviii).
Fuller believed that humanity's fate rests in the 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" (xxxvi). He states
that only God is exact truth. And we can come closer to God by seeking and
loving truth. For him, truth seeking can become blocked by loyalties to
mother, friends, college fraternities, bosses, and nations. By seeking
personal truth one can plainly see we critically need to achieve a planetary
consciousness by creating a design-science revolution, or face extinction
through nuclear war or environment degradation.
Humanity has been evolving to this present state of technological process
for thousands of years. Now, Fuller feels it is time for a world revolution
which can harness technology making it work for the good of humanity by
allowing everyone access to its fruits. He knows that a bloody revolution is
not the kind of revolution the world needs, for a bloody revolution could
escalate to world war. Fuller feels that we will all win if there is a
design-science revolution, "one that, instead of revengefully pulling down
the top fortunate few, will elevate all the heretofore unfortunates and the
fortunate alike to new and sustainable heights of realized life far superior
to those previously tenuously attained by the most privileged few" (200).
Fuller states, "I sought to reform the environment, not the humans." But Fuller fails to realize that by giving us a new environmental plan, he is also reforming our beings. Fuller gives us a new philosophy, social system, psychology, and economy so that we may harmonious live together in the new environments. Without a new social structure, that is, a new relationship people have with each other, there can be no environmental utopia, on the other hand, one can not build a social utopia without having an environment plan. Nevertheless, Fuller must have realized the connection between environmental reform and reform of human social relationships since he gives us a image of a new world government and economic system based on a world energy grid. He gives us a blueprint to build leaders who are responsible for managing Spaceship Earth.
There can not be a design-science revolution without the use of the computer. In Fuller's revolution the computer is the all-knowing mind, storing date from all over the world. The world government could not be possible without the use of a "world-around, satellite-relayed, and world-integrated computer accounting system." The information obtained from the computer will be able to persuade a world audience that by melting down the metals from weaponry and putting it into "livingry" and by building new cities with them, we will "now have four billion real-wealth billionaires." (Since the book was published in 1981, the population figure has risen to five billion.)
Wealth is defined by Fuller as the "technological ability to protect,
nurture, support, and accommodate all growth needs of life" (xxvi). The
computer will show us that at least 70% of jobs in Western
private-enterprise countries are work that creates no life support,
therefore no real wealth. Examples of these jobs are: "inspectors of
inspectors, reunderwrites of insurance reinsurers, Obnoxico promoters, spies
and counterspies, military personnel, gunmakers, etc" (xxxiv). It is more
economical to pay these people to stay at home and not drive their cars into
work since it cost "nature well over a million dollars to produce each
gallon of petroleum" (xxxv).
We find all the no-life-support-wealth-producing people going to
their 1980 jobs in their cars or buses, spending trillions of
dollar's worth of petroleum daily to get to their
no-wealth-producing jobs. It doesn't take a computer to tell you
that it will save both Universe and humanity trillions of dollars
a day to pay them handsomely to stay at home (xxxv).
The computer will help us distribute the wealth. Gold will be exclusively
used as a "supreme electromagnetic conduction-and reflection medium."
Everyone will have "only-computer-readable credit cards, whose constant
living, travel, and development use will continually integrate all the
production starts and holds on world-wide coordinated supplying of the needs
of a world-around dynamically dwelling humanity" xxvii.
Fuller warns us not to be afraid of technological inventions, but to employ
them to liberate us. He thinks automation is natural to the human species.
He uses our bodies as an example: our bodies function automatically like the
digestion and elimination of food without any conscious effort. Society
should be run on the same principle and now with the invention of computers
and robotics we have the know-how to make society run as unconsciously as
our bodies. This automated society will eliminate the Protestant work ethic
and change our perspective on work which in turn will change our economy and
what we consider to be socially valuable.
Automation will also increase the free time necessary to find our truly
creative syntropic selves. People will be able to choose what work they love
to do and they will find out that they love to be self-disciplined at what
they do best to demonstrate their competence to others (266). As the sun
shines for free so will we labor for free; no one will be paid for work.
It would be like qualifying for the Olympic team to be allowed to
do what you want to do. You would have to prove that you could do
the job you wanted to do better than anyone else available to get
onto the production teams. Permission to serve on the world's
production teams will be the greatest privilege that humanity can
bestow on an individual...Those who are real craftsmen and are
good at developing the tools-that-make-tools and love their work
will be the heart of the production teams. There will be no need
to earn more because your fellowship will always get you more than
you want. You won't be able to buy any nonconsumerables -you will
only be able to rent. If you are renting more than you can use,
the system will call the excess back (266-267).
But automation will not work for everyone unless we build our cities to
function with high technology as its ally not as its suppressor enslaving us
with a high-tech police forces who are ruled by the rich few as in our
modern cities. It is important here to discuss entropy and syntropy. Fuller
explains, "The entropic stars exporting enery as radiation; and the
syntropic loci in the Universe where enrgy is being imported and converted
from radiation into matter (275). Earth is a syntropic energy importing
place. The planet imports random radiation in which the syntropic
photosynthesis produces chemical ordered molecules which create vegetation
and other creatures, which which then consume the vegetation thereby growing
physically by themselves. The generous, compassionate tendencies of most
human beings are syntropic. Nature made us syntropic so that we may keep the
universe regenerative. The use of soft energy, wind, wave, or solar power is
Our selfish characters are entropic. Fuller writes, "The drive to make money is inherently entropic, for it seeks to monopolize order while leaving un-cope-with-able disorder to overwhelm others" (276). Entropy also works on the assumption that there is not enough wealth to go around, that there "exists a lethal inadequacy of life support on our planet," a theory founded by Thomas Malthus in 1810 after he was the first person to analyze the world's vital and economic statistics. His theory suggests that it is either you or me who will survive but there is not enough for both of us. The entropic character also fits with Darwin's theory that the survival of the fittest is the rule of evolution, therefore one better get as much as one can before your sister or brother beats you to it.
Fossil fuels play into these entropic theories since there is a limited
supply on the earth. Fuller considers them to be "nature's own savings
account, deposited in our "Earth Bank" and not be be stolen by exploiters"
The Sun does not make us pay for the energy the Earth imports. It wants to
us succeed in the cosmic scheme by using what Fuller calls "cosmic costing
accounts." Cosmic accounting can ever go bankrupt, since the sun is always
shining, accept when humans make the mistake of withdrawing our critical
"capital" assets as we are doing presently with fossil fuels. So one can see
how we are living in a bankrupt state of affairs, wasting our fossil fuels
and burning fusion and fission nuclear energy which Fuller says is "burning
our terrestrial production equipment," when we should be living
syntropically by the sunlight being imported to Earth.
When we begin living in a syntropic way on a "cosmic-energy wealth income" by wind, wave, and solar power, big businesses will see no way for putting a meter on these forms of energy to run their bureaucracies and war machines. National governments and big business continue to use up "nature's energy savings account" ,that is, fossil fuels and by atomic energy which is what Fuller calls "Spaceship Earth's physical hull," even though scientist can find no solution to the problem of nuclear waste. (Fuller thinks we should rocket the waste back into the sun). But because of our intuitive wisdom strongly forming an anti-nuclear energy movement, the energy owners have turned back to the coal and shale mines to convert them into meterable and pipable liquid fuels. Fuller writes, "this selfishly exploitable energy fuel strategy will inexorably destroy the atmosphere's capability of supporting biological life on planet Earth" (112).
Fuller feels we can phase out our use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy by the development of a "omni-world-integrating electrical-energy network grid" which will put all humanity's energy into a "Earth Bank" forming a commonwealth accounting system. We already have the technologies to transfer energy thousands of miles enabling us to create the grid. Fuller says, "Windmills installed around the world converting their direct current into alternating current and feeding the electric energy into the world network can harvest the planet Earth's prime daily energy income source-the wind--and adequately supply all the world's energy needs" (208). The problem-solving computer will integrate the night-into-day, day into-night hemisphere exchange of energy. The grid will deliver "electric energy anywhere, to anyone, at any one time, at one common rate."
Fuller explains the grid, "From the Bering Straits, Europe and Africa will
be integrated westwardly through the U.S.S.R, and China, Southeast Asia;
India will become network-integrated southwardly through the U.S.S.R.
Central and South America will be intergrated southwardly through Canada,
the U.S.A., and Mexico" (206).
There will be a common energy-value system expressed in kilowatt-hours,
watt-hours, and watt-seconds of work. This replaces
"top-power- system-manipulable monetary systems" making our complex lives easier and materially equal.
The time-energy world accounting system will do away with all the
inequities now occurring in regard to the arbitrarily maneuverable
international shipping of goods and the top economic power
structure's banker-invented, international balance-of trade
accountings. It will eliminate all the tricky banking and
securities-markets exploitations of all the around-the
world-time-zone activities differences in operation today, all
unbeknownst to the at-all-times two billion humans who are
Another critical aspect to the grid is regarding the population explosion.
From graphs of our 150 nations one can see how the birthrate decreases when
electrical energy increases. Therefore, Fuller feels that "the world's
population will stop increasing when and if the integrated world electrical
energy grid is realized" (206).
Through forming the electrical grid which works on the same economic
accounting and value system throughout the world, the need for nation states
will be eliminated. In order to achieve a planetary equality we must abolish
national sovereignty and live as we are "one family of humans aboard
Fuller realizes that our largest and most powerful religious, political, and
financial institutions long ago became transnational. An example he uses to
show the way transnationalism came to power is seen through religious
institutions. Wealthy religions financially backed missionaries to travel to
foreign countries to set up establishments strengthening their own power.
Big idealogies like "socialism" and "free enterprise" have also become transnational.
The 150 nation states are now being manipulated from outside by big transnational businesses which operate under a supranational state, while the nations are left in "150 pens to struggle with all the disadvantages of 150 mutually opposed economic policies" (218). The flow of "lifeblood" metals are being blocked by the 150 nations. Without this flow we "cannot realize the increasing know-how of all humanity" (286). Fuller stated to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee May 22, 1975, "Very soon the nation-state sovereignties will have to be eliminated, or humanity will perish" (286).
Now we have 150 chiefs, each in their head quarters directing their private
islands of sovereignty, trying to destroy the other one's island knowing
that if they are successful at their enemies demise, they too will sink. For
they are on the same ship, that is Spaceship earth. At this point, we have
an international anarchy, where our true visionary captains, like R.
Buckminster Fuller, are denied to use their natural abilities to steer the
ship on the cosmic high-tech greenworld peace path.
Fuller sees that the United States system doesn't even allow a president to
in any why foster the idea of desovereignizing. If they discussed it at all
they will be immediately impeached since the first oath of office is to
defend the national sovereignty against all foreign intrusion. Consequently,
Fuller foresees the evolutionary forces freeing us from national sovereignty
by "putting the U.S.A. out of business through international bankruptcy"
(287). He writes, "Bankruptcy need not be the end. It is simply nature's way
of ridding the planet of the most powerful of yesterday's sovereignties and
thereby setting off a chain of 149 additional desovereignizations,
altogether removing the most stubborn barrier to the free circulation of the
Earth's world around metals, foods, and income energy supplies and people"
When we finally rid ourselves of the 150 national sovereignties and form a
world energy grid and a free credit system, we will "have a recirculatory,
interaccommodative, world around democratic system," run by the World
As an artist/scientist, Fuller understands the way power has controlled the
direction of creativity. An example he gives to illustrate the relationship
between political power and creative genius is the building of the Egyptian
pyramids to house the body of the dead pharaoh and his faithful servants.
There was so much misery in the ancient Egyptian life that it was thought
that the more one suffered, the greater the rewards in afterlife. So the
building of the great pyramids where in preparation for a land of paradise
in the afterlife where after the pharaoh reached there, he could then
deliver this people.
It was the artist/scientist who designed the pyramids and the first one to
discover the use of the lever to move rocks. The next creative genius for
the pharaoh came up with the idea of using wood-log rollers, and wood-log
tracks to move rocks and so on. Fuller expresses, "The technological
inventiveness of the pharaohs' respective scientist-artist-architects became
evolution's comprehensive environment advancers" (51).
Therefore, it is the artist/scientist/architect who is the mover of history.
Under our present nation-state system, the artist/scientist/architect is
enslaved in a world where the politicians are entropically concerned with
their own fragmented power and wealth. The visionary is unemployed and finds
it difficult it fit into the rigid educational system that is becoming more
financially exclusive each semester.
In _Critical Path_, Fuller repeatedly warns us of the folly of educational
specialization. For eons, the power structure has used the strategy of
divide and conquer to keep the intellectuals and talented people
academically and professionally divorced. As the specialist glimpses at the
separate specialization she or he is unable to focus on the generalized
principles governing the eternally regenerative Universe. (xxxi) Our species
has realized some of the generalized scientific principles ruling the
universe, however, Fuller writes, "The synergetic integral of the totality
of all principles is God, whose sum-total behavior in pure principle is
beyond our comprehension and is utterly mysterious to us, because as
humans--in pure principle--we do not and never will know all the principles"
(159). Only mind can "apprehend, abide by, and be led by truth". By turning to the synchronic forces we can discover new principles. Fuller says that
our purpose in life is to "exercise the Universe-functioning of mind," and
when the human mind finally becomes in charge of human affairs the first
task is to "make it" (xxxvi).
As for now, Fuller sees human affairs being controlled by "muscle, cunning,
fear, and selfishness," dividing us into diff- erent "speech patterns, skin
color, religions, social customs, class or caste systems, political
preferences, and all varieties of individually unique "troubles," suffering,
and discontent" (214).
When the cosmic mind finally does come into the power to direct human
affairs, the vast majority of people will be free to follow their innate
drive "to make sense and to produce order in consonance with universal
order" (276). People all over the world will strive to serve on the World
On Fuller's revolutionized Spaceship Earth children learn to educate
themselves through connecting with the "world-satellite- interrelayed
computer" and "video-encycolpedia" access. A university education level
lasting six years begins with the video call-up procedure at age eighteen.
At ago twenty-one, the student enters an internship at a production service
which consist of forty-eight-hour work weeks for fourteen years. Their
service to the production support of humanity ends at the ago of
thirty-eight. From then on, people are "free to initiate their own
mind-informed commitments to the improvement of human functioning in support
of the eternally regenerative integrity of Universe" (264). Fuller says that
the people will realize the joy of working for all humanity, and that no joy
is equal to knowing you are doing your best and doing it well to improve the
lives of all human beings. Fuller writes, "Activities of this kind are
reinspirational to a mystical degree" (267).
Fuller's ideal human race abroad Spaceship Earth is governed not by
socialism where basic human needs are provided by the state, but by a
meritocracy where basic human needs are provided for, but there is incentive
for the individual to reach for their highest ideals.
Fuller explains, "Too long has such freedom of initiative been usurped
either by the Communist party, representing only 1 percent of the U.S.S.R.
population, or by the Western world's private enterprise's utterly selfish
exploitation for money- making rather than for common-sense-making" (196).
In Fuller's vision, the highest achievement society rewards to an individual
is to be selected to be part of a Production Team.
An example of a Production Team would be the Forestry Team. People who are
concerned with soil and land conservation and regeneration would seek to
join this team. These people would be responsible for reforesting the world.
They are concerned in a "major way with the planet Earth as a total
crystalline, hydraulic, and pneumatic system.
An idea for the Soil Science Team would be to "harness great streams and to let gravity pull water inward to the sea while returning and reducing the
runoff of topsoil-carrying-water. We can dam areas to recover washed-away
topsoil as yet resident in fresh- water lakes and streams and, using
off-peak wind-power generation, repump bottom silts to dry land to enrich
the soil's surfaces" (270).
People who have valuable ideas to teach will work to qualify for the
"subject-scenario-writing teams or on the video-cassette or disc production
teams." Great scholars will be allow to pursue their work whatever fields
they are in. Fuller writes, "Vast numbers will discover that they are
earnest, capable independent-research scholars. What they have to say, if
unique, can become the subject of a video-cassette, world satellite-relayed
encyclopedia entry" (267).
If someone desires to leave a place on a production team they are free to do
so and seek a position on another team. The engineering teams will be
inspired to create more and better automation to further emancipate human
beings from repetitive and "sterile muscle-and-sorting jobs." The society
will not block the prospects of automation in order to save jobs.
Of course, before there can be a successfully managed Spaceship Earth, there
has to be a transitional period. In the following outline, I will attempt to
show this transition obtained from Fuller's text.
- I. World Bankruptcy: the end of modern civilization due to using up
"nature's energy saving account" by burning fossil fuels and nuclear energy,
and the end of the nation state system which vital metals get trapped.
- II. Assemble world-wide windmill power which establishes an electric
world energy grid. This establishes the creation of an effective World
Government. Melt down all metals used in weaponry and put it into
livingry. Convert spy satellites into a world democracy electronic
- III. Give people life-scholarships to stay home from their non-wealth
producing jobs and schools.
- a. turn school buildings into taping studios for creating educational
video cassettes. Elementary education through video cassettes and
neighborhood activities which teach "social experience and tool-handing
- b. set up Production Teams
- IV. Convert skyscraper office buildings into living spaces.
At present all the great new city office buildings
have fancy plumbing (with which only the typewriters sleep) while
a majority of city people sleep in inferior quarters with poor
plumbing. The moment we start giving everyone those handsome life
fellowships, we will find almost all the great new business
buildings in the cities being depopulated in such an extent that
we shall, in quick order, be able to turn those buildings into
great apartment houses and hotels to accommodate the free-will
residential convergencies of humanity in central cities (246).
Next dome over the city to decrease energy lose. Vertical, square,
tubular-tower skyscrapers are the worst design for energy efficiency. A
two-mile-diameter dome over mid-Manhattan between "Twenty-second and
Sixty-second street and between the Hudson and East rivers, having a surface
that is only one eighty-fourth that of all the buildings now standing in
that midtown area, would reduce the heating and cooling energy requirement
of that area eight-four-fold" (xxiv).
- V. Build new cities, demolition of the old buildings.
The new cities will be like great ocean passenger ships where all our human
needs and social functions are met such as living, working, studying, and
playing. Consciously planning cities will give us the advantage of planning
the best and safest (from earthquakes, etc.) places to build them and to
explore new areas to live such as Fuller's designs for the floating
tetrahedronal cities which float on the sea, submarine island cities, sub-
dry-surface dwellings, or flyable dwelling machines.
Air-deliverable small domes will be deployed in remote areas of the world to
accommodate the needs of artists, wilderness athletes, geologist, and others
involved in wildlife studies, work, or meditation in single-family, small
groups, or individual units.
How do we protect the people of the world from an abuse of power by the
World Management Committee in Fuller's scheme? Fuller informs us that each
of us "generates a self-surrounding, ultra-ultra-high-frequency
electromagnetic field" (314). The energy alternatives between negative and
positive. When a person is feeling positive he or she gives of positive
The spy satellites of both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are sensitive to this
human electromagnetic field, and they could be changed from satellites of
war and intrusion into satellites making a true world democracy possible.
The World Management Committee will inform people by broadcasting the
"specific computer-derived problem-solution proposals" to them. After an
adequate time period, a referendum will be taken on how the people feel
about the proposal. When a 75% majority is "attained, the
professional-management world committee will be authorized to put the
proposition into the world-around industrial production and service" (342).
Thus will begin the world's first real tamper-and corruption-proof
democracy. Humanity will make mistakes, but the minority, knowing
that this is the first true democracy, will often go along
spontaneously with the majority, knowing that if it develops that
the majority has made a bad judgment, negative readings will
swiftly occur as society discovers that it has chosen the wrong
The electronic referendum will quickly make people think globally about our
total knowledge and resources, and how we all can best live. We will soon
discover that we can no longer think strictly for ourselves, but all
humanity. Fuller says, "Selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth
non-rationalizable as mandated by survival. War is obsolete" (xxv).
Fuller's revolution puts a handle on the steam engine running the
evolutionary process. It opens the door to a new epoch beyond
post-modernism. It hurls us into a new human dimension where love guides
technology and where we are put on the cosmic survival path. His design
revolution builds a new person, from homo sapiens to hetero-techno sapiens,
a world where technology has freed us to explore our loving minds.
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