New Circuit Designs for Motherboard Earth

[ originally on wholesys-l discussion list in 1995, later published by Electronic Frontier Foundation and a Mensa newsletter in Canada. Early "manifesto" introducing "GST" (general systems theory) ]

  New Circuit Designs for Motherboard Earth

I propose we look at Starship Earth (Buckminster Fuller's metaphor for our planet) using another metaphor as well: that of Motherboard Earth.

I tip my hat to the criticism that this is another off-base nerdy engineering lens through which to misperceive a living planet and that, although the "mother" part is apt, linking to circuit boards is just more Newtonian mechanism, more of which we simply don't need.

But I don't see it that way myself. I think of the powerful film images I've seen linking urban-scapes from high altitudes with microchips. Good native American-sounding titles like Powaqqatsi and Koyanisqaatsi come to mind (both interesting films). And the energy bathing our motherboard is more than metaphorically electrical.

In sum, I don't see "motherboard" as necessarily whiteman talk at all, but a clear-eyed snapshot of what, in fact, our eco-economy is: a set of spherical circuits, layer upon layer, some phased in with humans just a split second ago, on the geologic timescale.


Moving on, I look at the psychology of banking, which seems to view this pool of liquid capital, called gold or currency or whatever it is that's convertible to just about anything of value, as the one thing we cannot afford to "leak" away. The whole investment banking circuitry is about wiring up projects and programs and powering them with "juice" (liquid capital) only if it appears the return will exceed the investment. The only electronics on the motherboard that interests bankers is the kind that "nets a return" meaning it has to return all the juice received, and then some.

If I think of my computer as the motherboard, and the wire plugged into the wall as my umbilical link to the sun, then I start to wonder about the intelligence of microcode which plans to starve motherboard assets which are not designed to amplify and return juice. I mean, the way a computer is designed is like a water wheel: current flows downhill to the ground, in the meantime turning wheels which turn other wheels and so on. Yes, the liquid electricity all drains out the bottom, but serious work got done in the meantime. Capacitors and storage batteries pool current for a time, before allowing it to surge onward (the banking idea of savings). But nowhere is the motherboard (the computer I'm using) designed to return juice to the wall let alone "with interest."

I look at TV images of human skeletons, either getting a little charity, or dying in droves, or both, with economists off to the side shaking their heads: no way to organize these humans into projects which will net a return to the bankers, and we can't allow our precious "juice" to just "leak away." So we let our human families starve to death.

That's just the way it is ... but is nature our model here, or banking? The sun is broadcasting terawatts of energy in our direction, second by second. What we do is insert our programmable circuitry, our gizmos, our wheels turning wheels, and reap the benefits. Within this game, we have liquid asset accounts, and transactions, and trade. But the overall big picture is of a motherboard plugged into the sun and human circuitry that is designed to starve large portions of the motherboard based on some dogma about needing to retain precious liquid, currency, without regard for the true state of affairs, which is that the great global ecosystem is not about returning juice to the sun, anymore than my computer is about returning juice to the wall socket. Doing useful work, yes. Keeping energy from flowing downhill, no way.


So that's why I propose General Systems Theory, which has a clear view of the sun-powered motherboard, the humanly programmable circuitry which interlayers with nonhuman circuitry, and the pain and suffering of numerous humans who are left out because they don't have magic 'juice returning powers' -- why I propose that GST build itself as antithetical to the juice-worshipping tribes who use their primitive 'economics' to justify the status quo media programming.

GST takes inventory of human inventions, artifacts, and storyboards multi-media deployment scenarios, casting humans in new, interesting, intelligent roles, and sees that we have the props, and the actors necessary, to make the real-world scenario entitled: Humans Make a Success of Themselves (lots of subplots). But instead, the old curriculum directors continue to produce episode after episode of The Great Tragedy, claiming that they are the sophisticated ones, whereas we, the success-oriented directors, are naive, because we don't properly understand their Theory of Juice.

GST has a different view of juice, it's true. I say we can afford to drive programming, using solar inputs, that will not only prevent starvation, but enroll the starving in new distance education programs that nets them lots of other relevant assets besides food: medical care, shelter, information, entertainment, vehicles for self-expression, opportunities to see more of the planet before they die. I say we don't have to expect our global university students to pay back their scholarships in any silly literal kind of way, but that the work of learning a living, of demonstrating competence, of being a star in world game scenarios worthy of high caliber acting, is repayment enough.

Do the work of Making Humans a Success, and forget about 'netting a return' in the traditional bankers' sense. Create wealth (life support), not just more money, and find out how much better off we will all find ourselves in short order. Lets co-invent General Systems Theory to light the way forward. And lets leave Economics behind, in the current Dark Age, where it belongs.

Kirby Urner
4 June 1995


Views: 374

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 6, 2016 at 5:04pm

I am not convinced yet, based on our conversations, that we are in agreement about your understanding of the witness I am testifing to.

Yes, if you set about building castles on the beach, it is preferable to have the freedom to build a castle of your own or at least hang around one you prefer even if you did not build it.

However, in the inshining Light itself in itself illuminating my conscious and conscience, I do not participate in the building of any castles on the beach nor do I identify with any castles others have built. I merely walk the beach sharing with people that they do not need these sandy structures to gain meaning, purpose, and identity. It is mine to testify to a different way of being altogether that is complete in itself and that does not involve participation in the fashioning of or identity with outward political, religious, social, and economic, constructs. That they can know and experience meaning, purpose, and identity, in direct participation with immanent Being itself in itself and the resulting smashing the mini babel towers they are building. This experience is iconoclastic in nature relative to outward constructs and does not involve replacing those outward forms with other new, improved, and innovative outward forms. In this different way of being, immanent Presence is complete in itself without reference to outward political, religious, social, and economic, constructs.
Comment by Kirby Urner on 9th mo. 6, 2016 at 6:53pm

You're right Keith, I don't see a way to just walk away from having a body that needs food, water, sleep. I'm committed, as it were, to getting through yet another day of work-study. I see others suffering from this same predicament, lets call it the human condition.

The state of mind you suggest sounds like that of an immortal without the troubling demands of mortal existence.  If I "die and go to heaven" then maybe I'm free of needing to chop outward wood, and carry outward water. Would that be heaven to me?  Would there be any "me" to be concerned about?

Given I have a somewhat busy schedule, a calendar of events, a set of looming commitments, I don't feel I have the luxury of concerning myself with such questions indefinitely.  In meeting for worship I might ponder such queries.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 6, 2016 at 7:31pm


Aside from gaining meaning and identity... One continues to eat, breathe, to feel a certain sympathy with any fellow humans needing certain spaces and substances needed for those experiences to continue.

Any exteriorly-based ethical system for producing & distributing the necessary items for that... will as you say be subject to corruption & diversion into counterproductive games, quite certainly.

However, some externally-based systems do lend themselves to such corruption & derailment more readily than others.

Where people live in small groups & depend on each other for help, misbehavior typically gets dealt with informally, directly, & generally effectively -- more so than in a large, disconnected urban neighborhood where people don't know each other well & may not still be neighbors a month from now. It isn't that people in large cities don't help each other, or wouldn't take risks for someone under attack; but the external conditions make criminal behavior more likely to succeed, less likely to have consequences for people inclined that way.

If you think of an economy as 'a social machine with human moving parts' -- Some ways of structuring the machinery work better than others. Some constitute what traditional ecomomists used to call 'moral hazards', ie the amount of dysfunctional behavior they permit and/or reward reaches a point where that machinery starts to shake & throw out bits...

People attuned to God would mitigate or rebuild such a system, if they were part of it. But anyone so attuned would be rather rapidly forced out of the present system, because the rules have come to demand dysfunctional behavior just to keep up the high rates of (ficticious) return their customers demand in order to not actually lose money.

If people were to reform (even to overthrow) present arrangements -- without people being generally attuned to God along the lines you're recommending -- it would be only decades, at best, before the new improved system was being corrupted in new ways of its own. So far, we're on the same page, I believe.

What I'm not agreeing with is your (apparent) belief that the current ongoing economic malfunction doesn't matter.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 9th mo. 6, 2016 at 8:14pm

Speaking of ongoing economic malfunction, Forrest's earlier link to a Michael Hudson interview with Chris Hedges, may have re-balanced my Youtube's "you might also like" settings, such that I'm currently 40 minutes into another Chris Hedges recording I might not have otherwise found: 

Highly learned. Lots of puzzle pieces (many familiar ones), re-arranged.

Thanks to Forrest, QQ, and Alphabet (Google / Youtube) for helping me "steer into the wind" as it were.

I'm giving a talk on the Raspberry Pi this evening at the boyhood home of Linus Pauling, scientist par excellence, Oregonian, and married to a WILPF activist, Ava Helen. 

I've been using Youtube to bone up on ARM chip architecture, and history (I recall first using an Acorn Computer in Paro, Bhutan). 

Quite a day of work-study in the Global U.  Lets go down to the basement to see if Eclipse in now working on the Pi (I left it installing).

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 7, 2016 at 1:16am
"What I'm not agreeing with is your (apparent) belief that the current ongoing economic malfunction doesn't matter."

Hello Forrest,

This is very serious business we are discussing. It can turn ugly without the immanent Presence of God.

If I understand your assessment of our disagreement correctly, yes, the current economic malfunction is not the matter. It is merely a symptom of a larger malady. The disease itself is the process of outward institutionalisation of the economic relationships and identity with those forms.

To be clear as to my testimony, the moment people attuned to God set out to rebuild an outward economic system is the moment they begin nurturing disfunction. It is the prerogative of Christ to care for people. The building of outward political, religious, social, and economic, institutional forms usurps the rule of Christ in the conscience of people. By way of personal example, I do not help and care for people because it is a duty or the moral thing to do. I do so because of the directly and literally experienced increased inshining Liqht in my conscience. If I were to act out of duty to some outward moral code, I would engage in the shadowing over of the inshining Light and dethroning it from its rule in my conscience.

I am recommending to people that there is another way that involves surrender to the spirit of Christ in each conscience by establishing the inshining light itself as complete in itself to rule and care for people by not turning to outward economic and social systems that overshadow and usurp the prerogative of Christ.

With all that said, I understand and accept that many people will turn to outward prescriptions and outward institutional form to help people and I will not trample upon their conscience by attempting to undermine their established forms. Generally speaking, however, I will not participate in their process for the sake of conscience.

I hope what I have laid down here facilitates a better understanding of my conscience, even though many do not share my conscience on these matters.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 7, 2016 at 10:00am

Keith, I have never proposed substituting any outward organizational form for the direct reliance on "Christ" [a term I unaccountably dislike, though I've found Jesus' quoted words quite illuminating -- perhaps because the word itself is so entirely unilluminating to anyone who hasn't grown up using it to point to this. I suppose the same could be said of the word 'God', which at least has a commonly understood meaning, despite its myriad misinterpretations. Differing preferences in terminology, for Something/Someone they all knew, was also something familiar & accepted among early Friends -- perhaps Intended to protect them from substituting a term for the Actuality.] That Spirit is indeed available to guide each person from within, and should be relied on, so far as a person comes to recognize it.

But I don't put on a blindfold to help God guide me through a cluttered room -- I would expect the mind of Christ to suggest I take that silly blindfold off & use the eyes God gave me.

And so I do not expect the mind of Christ to tell anyone to hold to the injustices and cruelties of a bad organizational arrangement, but rather to stop supporting it & organize matters better.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 7, 2016 at 7:32pm
" Spirit is indeed available to guide each person from within, and should be relied on, so far as a person comes to recognize it.
But I don't put on a blindfold to help God guide me through a cluttered room -- I would expect the mind of Christ to suggest I take that silly blindfold off & use the eyes God gave me."


Was it your intent to by writing "But I don't put on a blindfold to help God guide me through a cluttered room" to insinuate that this is what I suggest?
Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 7, 2016 at 11:53pm

Wearing a blindfold to cross a cluttered room -- is a good analogy to what you suggest.

We're collectively using inappropriate and counterproductive means, which work to maintain and increase inequality, corruption and widespread suffering -- with many people having been convinced that these means could somehow enhance the general public's security & well-being, although it's pretty common knowledge -- certainly among the banking and governmental circles where these policies are settled -- that they accomplish the opposite.

To continue with the policies and organizational arrangements we now have isn't _quite_ the same as putting on that blindfold -- merely like refusing to remove said blindfold after we'd fallen over numerous objects and badly injured ourselves.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 8, 2016 at 10:36am
"Wearing a blindfold to cross a cluttered room -- is a good analogy to what you suggest."

Okay, thank you for this. Would you please break down what it is that you think I suggest without using the analogue?
Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 8, 2016 at 12:37pm

If I don't know what you're suggesting, your ways of suggesting it might not be the best available: What it looks like to me is: "Pay no attention to organizational arrangements that produce widespread, needless suffering, because you can't fix these effectively until everyone is relying on their connection to the Spirit within for their sense of who they be & what to do..."

I was wanting to tell you this, in another discussion here: After more than a decade striving to mitigate the political mistreatment of dishoused people here in San Diego, it had become extremely, redundantly clear to me that the existence & maintenance of homelessness is inextricably tied to the popular governmental policies that work to increase selling & rental prices for real estate (aka "property values" sic).

That is, the problem isn't going to budge until the values which government officials and their governees support come to have a whole lot to do with compassion, a whole lot less with illusions of "wealth."

That is, I saw there was a whole lot more going on here than the easily surmountable "practical" obstacles. The spiritual obstacles are key; yet I didn't have a clue how to get a handle on those. (That was a major factor in my decision to abandon the direct efforts & blow most of my remaining bucks on a school year at Pendle Hill, which I hoped would better fit me for work on the real problems.)

I'd lived through, not recognizing it at the time, an incredible regression in American political attitudes & economic policies, from a time when most of us had hope for economically better lives, when the education system was incredibly bad, yet we had some wonderful teachers -- and at least we _had_ an educational system, not a rip-off. 

The seeds of our decline had been present in the government's economic policies back then, which were immeasurably less wrong-headed than what we're doing now. So I do know that just tinkering with policy improvements doesn't make up for a nation's  spiritual disconnection.


I don't agree with your apparent belief that there's a one-size-fits-all ideal way of connecting with God's presence or experiencing it; I do agree that doing so is essential. Persuading people to turn to any form of spirituality -- as an alternative to removing their present pains -- is simply unlikely to move many people except to barf. Dealing with the pains alone is as you say, a temporary fix at best.

So I think we'll need to work on all the intractible problems together, with whatever different emphases different people will be led to bring to that... the spiritual highest in priority, but we can't let the others go, no more than Jesus did when he began his work by healing the casualties of the corrupt & vicious system his people were oppressed by.


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