Norie Huddle Interview with Buckminster Fuller – Spring 1981
At eighty-five years of age Buckminster Fuller was considered by many to be one of the creative geniuses of our times. Inventor of the geodesic dome, Fuller developed a powerful scientifically based view of the underlying principles of the universe and the geometry of thinking. His recent book, Critical Path, is a penetrating analysis of the historical trends and powerful forces of politics, economics, and ideas which have led us to our current situation, as well as a blueprint for going on to the next stage of human evolution. Dr. Fuller was well known for the World Games, an annual series of simulations for solving world problems.
Humanity is moving ever deeper into a crisis which has no precedent. It is a crisis brought about by evolution being intent on completely integrating differently colored, differently cultured, and intercommunicating humanity, and by evolution being intent on making integrated humanity able to live sustainedly at a higher standard of living for all than has ever been experienced by any. Probably ninety-nine percent of humanity does not know that we have the option to make it ; we do. It can only be accomplished, however, through a Design Science Revolution.
Those in supreme power, politically and economically, aren’t yet convinced that our Planet Earth has anywhere nearly enough life support for all humanity.
They assume it has to be either you or me, that there is not enough for both. Those with financial advantage reason that selfishness is necessary and fortify themselves even further. That’s why the annual military expenditures of the USSR, representing socialism, and the U.S., representing private enterprise, have averaged over two hundred billion dollars. This makes a total so far, of six trillion, four hundred billion dollars to develop the ability to kill the most people at the greatest distance in the shortest amount of time.
Neither the great political or financial powers of the world nor the population in general realize that the engineering-chemical-electronic revolution now makes it possible to produce many more technical devices with ever less material. We can now take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than anybody has ever known. It does not have to be “you or me,” so selfishness is unnecessary and war is obsolete. This has never been done before. Only twelve years ago technology reached the point where this could be done. Since then it has made it ever so much easier to do. With the highest aerodynamic engineering facilities in the world redirected from weapons-delivery production, all humanity now has the option of becoming enduringly successful. The capability has come through the continual dealing with the invisible world of electronics, of alloys. But you have to know what you are doing.
Weighing only fifty-five pounds, with a wing span of a hundred ninety-six feet, the human-powered Gossamer Albatross was able to fly across the English Channel because the structure of the materials with which it was built had enormous tensile strength, sixty times stronger per unit of weight than the strongest structural material available to Leonardo da Vinci. This enabled us to finally realize the design of his human-powered flying machine. To give another example, a quarter-ton communications satellite is now outperforming the message carrying capacity and transmission fidelity of one hundred seventy-five thousand tons of transatlantic copper cables. Human-powered pedal airplanes and communications satellites are only two of the hundreds of thousands of examples of technologies which can now accomplish much greater performance with much less material. You have to understand this. This is not a visible revolution and it is not political . You’re dealing with the invisible world of technology.
Politics is absolutely hopeless. That’s why everything has gone wrong. You have ninety-nine percent of the people thinking “politics,” and hollering and yelling. And that won’t get you anywhere. Hollering and yelling won’t get you across the English Channel. It won’t reach from continent to continent; you need electronics for that, and you have to know what you’re doing. Evolution has been at work doing all these things so it is now possible. Nobody has consciously been doing it. The universe is a lot bigger than you and me. We didn’t invent it. If you take all the machinery in the world and dump it in the ocean, within months more than half of all humanity will die and within another six months they’d almost all be gone; if you took all the politicians in the world, put them in a rocket, and sent them to the moon, everyone would get along fine.
There is more recognition now that things are changing, but not because there is a political move to do it. It is simply a result of the information being there. Our survival won’t depend on political or economic systems. It’s going to depend on the courage of the individual to speak the truth, and to speak it lovingly and not destructively. It’s saying what you really know and feel is the truth, in all directions. Our greatest vulnerability lies in the amount of misinformation and misconditioning of humanity. I’ve found the educations systems are full of it. You have to examine each word and ask yourself, ” Is that the right word for that?”- the integrity and the courage of the individual to speak his own truth and not to go along with the crowd, yet not making others seem ignorant. After a while, if enough human beings are doing it, then everybody will start going in the right direction.
Most of this change is going on invisibly, technologically. Take all of the people working with computers; we don’t really know all that’s going on. By the time something gets into the newspaper it’s often ten years old. There’s something enormous going on. It means housecleaning all around the world, getting rid of the misinformation that we’re all exposed to. It’s a daring attitude that you can’t let up. You have to do it twenty-four hours a day. For example, almost all of academic science is today operating on mathematical systems the universe is not using. Academic science doesn’t know what it’s talking about. AT times when I’ve been invited to speak to important scientific bodies I’ve asked any scientist in that audience who does not see the sun going down in the evening to please raise his or her hand: no one did. I said “For five hundred years we’ve known that the sun is not going to go down. There is no such thing as ‘down.’ The sun’s not doing anything – the earth obscures the sun.” But what are we doing about this kind of error? Nothing.
We’re not just dealing in willingness. Humanity has to qualify to survive. You have to have some confidence. We’re all born naked, with no external equipment and no experience. Therefor we’re terribly ignorant. We’re hungry and thirsy, driven to find food by trial and error. So we’re designed to live by trial and error. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Study your mistakes; admit them, study them, and be terribly excited about them too. If this isn’t true, what is true?
As for weapons, there’s no sense in weapons. But we have had to learn by making mistakes. If I thought ” There’s not enough to go around,” then I have to say, “How come God put me here?” and “Maybe I have to do away with you because there’s not enough to go around.” My responsibility is to me. I could under those circumstances rationalize my response selfishly. I could say, “My family is a little more devout than other families; my family is better than yours.” That’s the kind of rationalization we’ve been doing. I find that through a proper understanding of the basic principles of the universe there is ample to go around. I know this is so, not intuitively but by actual knowledge of the figures involved. So we come back to the question of the weapons: weapons are invalid if there is enough life support to go around. Since there is ample to go around, I don’t talk about weapons because they are obsolete tools.
Now as far as using atomic energy, I say, “Nature has already given us all we need – which is the sun.” Big government, big business, and big religion don’t see any way to put a meter between the people and the sun, so they don’t do anything serious about developing solar energy. These organizations are predicated on people not having enough to go around and they still have to have big money to survive. All ideas coming from these organizations are based on the idea of humanity’s being a failure and that everyone should be in pain and suffering. Their business is “Come down and get a turkey dinner from us and we’ll get you into heaven.” There is enough to go around, but the church is not interested in that because it would put them out of business. The Roman Catholic church, for example, is terribly rich. They have an enormous amount of real estate all around the world. Big businesses too are at the top of the heap. They’d all have to go out of business if humanity is a success. There’s a built-in resistance to letting humanity be a success. Each one claims that their system is the best one for coping with inadequacy. We have to make them all obsolete. We need to find within technology that there is something we can do which is capable of taking care of everybody, and to demonstrate that this is so. That’s what geodesic domes are about and that’s what my whole life has been about.