R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER – A VISIONARY FOR OUR TIME
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© September 2012, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
At age 20, while in college, I discovered the writings of R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). He was one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century. He was a visionary, architect, designer, inventor and educator.
Born in Massachusetts, USA, “Bucky”, as he was often called, led quite an amazing life. Early on, he joined the Navy and became an admiral during World War I. There he learned all about fighting wars without the benefit of radio, radar and other modern technologies.
He attended Harvard University very briefly, but did not like college and instead went to work in a factory. He loved that experience, and was soon inventing new machinery to make textiles better.
Later, he built a car that got about 100 miles per gallon using a standard Ford engine. The secret was that his vehicle was light in weight, and extremely aerodynamically shaped. It was built of aircraft parts, and the nose of the car looked something like the front of an airliner.
He built several amazing houses, and in 1951 or so patented the geodesic dome structure, for which he is most famous. Thousands of these triangulated structures have been built around the world. It is the lightest and strongest way to enclose space, and continues to be used in thousands of applications worldwide.
THE LESSONS OF BUCKMINSTER FULLER
While his books are full of statistics, diagrams, designs and more, what struck me the most about Buckminster Fuller’s life and work were the principles by which he lived and worked. Here are just a few of them:
1. Life is about systems theory. Always look to the big picture, or the whole system.
2. Synergy happens. Synergy means unpredicted wonderful things that happen when minds cooperate, when people love each other, and when humanity works together to solve problems. Simple examples of synergy are alloys of metals. One takes some iron and adds a little nickel and molybdenum, and lo and behold, one gets a complete new material called steel. Add a few more minerals, and one gets another new material called stainless steel, each with its own unique properties.
3. Wealth has two components: a) the 93 chemical elements, and b) the know how to combine them and use them for human survival. By this definition wealth is ever increasing. The 93 elements cannot be destroyed. They stay around and just change forms. The know how is increasing at an ever faster pace. As a result, the real wealth in the world is increasing drastically.
Those who are afraid of failure and poverty are totally mistaken and thinking incorrectly in scarcity terms. The reality is that life is abundant. It is not necessary to take from the rich to give to the poor. Just educate people and let them loose on the problems of the world.
4. Until around 1942. There was not enough wealth to go around, so scarcity was the correct attitude. There had to be wars because there was not enough food, energy, etc. for everyone. That has changed thanks to more technology, manufacturing capability, etc. Now we live in abundance and we must take care of everyone at a standard of living higher than most people enjoy. It can be done quite easily if we will just let go of our old scarcity mentality, scarcity-based economics, and so on.
5. Dymaxion was just one word that Dr. Fuller invented. It is a combination of dynamic and maximum. It was his byword for his inventions.
6. We live in a dynamic and quickly changing world. All static ideas are wrong and just get in the way. Dr. Fuller wrote a small book called I Am A Verb, Not A Noun. By this he meant that he is about movement and dynamism (verbs are about doing things and movement). Nouns are about “things” and are static.
Einstein’s physics is about dynamic forces, whereas the older Newtonian physics is about static forces.
7. Education is horrible and needs to change. Fuller wrote a book called Education Automation in which he predicted that the schools of the future will be mainly television recording studios where the best teachers and masters of all subjects will gather and every student in the entire world will have the benefit of hearing the best teachers in every subject – all electronically.
8. Integrity is the key for the future. A problem on planet earth is too much lying. Integrity is a very special word and concept. Dr. Fuller wrote a book called Ideas and Integrities. that is the subject of a separate article on this website: Integrity.
9. Do more with less. This simple phrase does not mean we should all get by with less things. It means that as technology moves along, we do more things with less materials. An example he gave is that thousands of miles of copper cable stretching across the sea from America to Europe were replaced by one communication satellite weighing less than 500 pounds. Similarly, a simple little computer today can do what a machine thousands of times larger could never do only a few years ago. Such is the progress of technology.
10. Pollution is just having our resources in the wrong place. For example, a pile of pile of garbage is a stinking mess. However, if that garbage is burned in a high-temperature incinerator, it will produce power. A pile of old rusty cars is awful, but the steel and glass and other materials can be moved and recycled into products people need.
Given freedom, human beings will naturally clean up the earth because no one wants to live on a dirty planet. It is just a matter of using our resources better.
11. Technology is nothing more than the extension of our senses. This is a key concept. An automobile or aircraft is just an extension of our legs. A phone is just an extension of our ears and mouth. A telescope or microscope is just an extension of our eyes. A computer is just an extension of our brain.
This is so important because people do not understand technology and are afraid of it. So many of them want to “turn back the clock” and return to simpler times that they seemed to understand. However, this will not work and will not happen, as millions would starve and shiver to death in the cold.
Unfortunately, the environmental movement and the socialists are terrified of change, and do not realize that technology is good. Yes, it requires some controls, but the earth is not dying, and in fact is getting cleaner in many ways, as we learn to do more with less and we learn better ways to make everything.
12. We all share spaceship earth, a beautiful spaceship able to support life that is hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour. It is time to stop slaughtering each other, and learn to get along on this really tiny planet, relatively speaking.
These are just a few of Bucky Fuller’s exciting ideas.