Bucky Fuller is credited for popularizing a lot of memes, some of which developed into full-fledged physical artifacts, such as the geodesic domes, which blossomed everywhere in architecture, most impressively on the industrial scene, but also in the form of do-it-yourself affordable shelter solutions. 

However "the industry industry missed" (Archibald MacLeish) is still missing for the most part.  We have the mobile home industry instead, which gets little input from the aerospace sector.  Fuller's overall strategy was to introduce more tension over compression, as a design principle, thereby making artifacts more performant per pound.  

He pointed out this was a general trend:  as humans become more confident and competent with a technology, they optimize it to become less wasteful of resources.  He called this trend "ephemeralization" (Arnold Toynbee: "etherealization").  Ephemeralization was evidence of our growing mastery of the generalized principles (or "natural laws" as we say in English).

Other memes he coined were more nebulous in terms of outcome.  Consider his "design science revolution" (DSR) aimed at ending world hunger (The Hunger Project), bringing electricity to currently under-served millions (World Game), and improving the general public's comprehension of our human potential (Synergetics).  

To what extent were these hopes and dreams realized?  Are we still on track to utopia, or did we choose oblivion?

Fuller's emphasis on "design science" was somewhat unique in that he saw it as an alternative to the political process and its "warring state" model (War Game).  He would tell his students that politicians were in no way in a position to deliver the goods, lacking the appropriate training and background. 

The internet itself would be a good example of a life-changing invention that was not a product of the legal imagination, even if it was aided and abetted by the inventor of the algorithm, Al Gore (joke).

Fuller walked his talk, delivering working prototypes of a new kind of car, house, world map, curriculum.  His work seemed on track to dovetail with Disney's, who envisioned experimental prototype communities wherein these new ideas might be tested.  

Fuller's geodesic structures became a fixture at World's Fairs and Expos, subsequent to the Kabul and Moscow Domes of 1956 and 1959 respectively, and culminating in the Biosphere, the US Pavilion of 1967 in Montreal.  The geodesic dome became synonymous with "American know-how" the world over, thanks to the USIA.

Old Man River City, domed-over and stadium-shaped, was to be a crowning achievement, in terms of mega-projects he hoped to see in his own lifetime.  OMR was an attempt to rescue people from the ghettos and slums of North America, as it fell into disrepair under supranational rule. 

Fuller even declared the USA we had known "bankrupt and extinct" in one of his last books, before receiving a Medal of Freedom from its "final" president.  Narratives vary, as to the ongoing role of "nation-state theater" in world affairs.  

Fuller's world map was conventionally published in border-free form i.e. without the political data layer most people insist on seeing, giving ammo to those calling him a crackpot. The map is rarely shared with young people, in the course of their indoctrination in whatever nationalism.

Even more nebulous than "design science" was Fuller's evolving description of "the computer" and how it would revolutionize the human psyche.  

Much as Dr. Vannevar Bush anticipated the internet, complete with search engines, as long ago as 1945 (As We May Think, Atlantic Monthly), Fuller anticipated our hard core number crunching capabilities would keep us on track towards making humanity a lasting success.  

His own computations told him we still had a chance.  His notion of "the computer" had a cosmic dimension, as a metaphoric stand-in for the mind itself, our connection to that synergy of synergies some would call God (a term Fuller himself did not eschew).

Posted by Kirby Urner at 11:28 AM

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