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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Futurists - Bucky's Vision

Date: 24th June 2009
Time: 7.30pm to 10pm
Place: The lecture room next to Hair Affair, The Adelphi Mall, Singapore.
Buckminster Fuller is the visionary in the 60s of the future. In between, there is a gap. Tonight, we are going to discuss about the difference between the Bucky's vision of the future versus Singularity, which is what is contemporary.
Steffan believes that 'Singularity' will be achieved in the next 10 years. Singularity is based largely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the accelerating computing power based on Moore's Law (that processing power will double every 18 months). AI will be developed and progressed to a stage where the human can't keep up with it anymore. It'll be beyond the human scale.
Joo Hock said that Bucky illustrates this rapid exponential progress in "the chronological rate of acquisition of the basic inventory of cosmic absolutes - the 92 elements" (page 243, Critical Path). In that Bucky plotted a graph of time vs the number of elements discovered. It started with very few, the first one being arsenic in 1250 AD in Italy. The rate of isolation of elements started slowly, then accelerated rapidly around and after 1810AD.
Also in the transportation sector, the adoption of new modes of transport accelerated - initially with the sail boat, steam ship,... to spaceship.
Now we have reduced travel time, we require less resources by combining different elements to gather new alloys that give more strength per given weight.
Bucky questioned if humankind have a function on Earth. Do we have a function?
He discovered that whatever something that happens here, there is a complementary phase somewhere else.
Then when Einstein discovered E=mc2, he realises this is bringing things back to order. That there is an order, because the mind generalises. So Bucky propounded a set of generalised principles that applies consistently in the universe.
From there he developed artifacts that illustrates those generalised principles. He then developed the Dymaxion Map, Dymaxion Car, Dymaxion House, the Geodesic Dome, the World Game...etc.
Bucky asked how we can work for the entire humanity without ecological damages and without disadvantages to anyone.
Joo Hock: Can AI asks questions instead of answering questions?
Replies: AI is no different from the evolved intelligence of humans. Can machines ask an original question? Bucky thinks not, but there again, may be he changed his mind later because he said, "only the impossible happens".
The top 10 jobs 20 years ago does not exist today. Similarly, the top 10 jobs in 20 years' time does not exist today. Some of the top jobs of the future could be:
  • Reputation Managers
  • Consultant, but run by a computerised network (similar to crowd sourcing)
Common to these two jobs will be a term called "Ping Quotient", which is a measure of your responsiveness to other people's requests for engagement, your propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network .
So what is Bucky's vision for humanity in the future?
Will it be like "Cloud 9" - cities floating in the sky?
Bucky has a vision of the use of technology on every front in our life.
He conceived the idea of tetrahedral cities submerged in the sea.
He derives the generalised principles from how nature works. From the principles, he created artifacts. For instance, he demostrated that a chain with many links have many degrees of freedom of movements. Then as the links are reduced to 3 links, it stopped having the freedom to move. Then, Bucky realised that a triangle is a basic structure. from a triangle, he proceeded to discover the tetrahedron as the basic structure, and so on.
So science is putting our experiences in order.
Bucky's 10 Anticipatory Design Leadership qualities:
  1. Think comprehensively
  2. Anticipate the future
  3. Respect gestation rates
  4. Envision the best possible future
  5. Be a trimtab
  6. Take individual initiative
  7. Ask the obvious and "naive" questions
  8. Do more with less
  9. Seek to reform the environment, not man
  10. Solve problems through action
Bucky also spoke about the illusion of 'ownership' - that ultimately, we don't really own anything. Indigenous tribes were perplexed with European colonisers of land ownership. To them, it is impossible to own the land. To them, the land owns them. And so they got cheated by being asked to sign a treaty to give the land away to their colonisers.
So from an ownership model, we proceed to a service (rental) model. We are here to use something, then put it back.
A dangling comment:
We have been discussing about 'Good' and 'Evil'. In between, there is 'indifference'. For instance, a cockroach is probably indifferent. :)
Steffan feels that Bucky is the futurist of his time. Then, humanity needed structures for housing, transportation...etc. There was little said about organising information. Perhaps now Kurtzweil (author of "Singularity") is the futurist of this era, as he works extensively with 'information'.

Bucky's books:
Cosmography: A Posthumous Scenario for the Future of Humanity
From Fuller's last work, nearly finished when he died in 1983, is composed of short sweeps--for Fuller--of afterthought, and some additions, to the main themes of his previous books. As always, Fuller spikes his science with anthropology and sociology, as he did in Critical Path (1981) and Syngergetics I and II (1971-1979), but for hardcore Fuller fans the heart of this book will be the long chapter called "Cosmic Conceptioning." This section includes a note Fuller wrote to himself, at his wife's hospital bed, on "spheric experiences" of the structure of gases--a raw example of Fuller's special "geometry of thinking." (It is dated 1983 and signed "with thanks to God, the eternal sum of all truths.") "History of Structure," on the other hand, reads like a guest-lecture speech, summarizing the future world millenium according to Fuller. While obtuse wording, such as "omninteraccelerating cosmic concept" can seem to mock his brilliant insights into the grand geometry of structures, topology, chemistry, metallurgy and, perhaps, society, nearly a decade after his death, Fuller is still ahead of the parade.
Critical Path
From Critical Path is R. Buckminster Fuller's masterwork - the summing up of a lifetime's thought and concern - as urgent and relevant as it was upon its first publication over 20 years ago. Critical Path details how humanity found itself in its current situation - at the limits of the planet's natural resources and facing political, economic, environmental, and ethical crises. Fuller's analysis has been proven correct in many areas since then and his options for the survival of mankind are as compelling as ever. Critical Path is an essential text for any student of humanity.
The Whole Earth Catalog
From Wikipedia: The Whole Earth Catalog was an American counterculture catalog that granted "Access to Tools" published by Stewart Brand between 1968 and 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. Apple Inc. founder and entrepreneur Steve Jobs has described the Catalog as the conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web.

Andrew Kirk in Counterculture Green notes that the Whole Earth Catalog was preceded by the "Whole Earth Truck Store". This store was conceived of as the "first phase" of his Whole Earth idea and was "an alternative library" and an "abbreviated version of Brand's earlier hope to tour the country with educational fairs. The truck was a store but was also a lending library and mobile microeducation fair." It was created in his 1963 Dodge Truck. In 1968, Brand and his wife Lois went "on a commune road trip" with the truck. The "Truck Store" finally settled in its permanent location in Menlo Park, California.
Brand's intent with the catalog was to provide education and "access to tools" so a reader could "find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested." The Catalog's development and marketing were driven by an energetic group of founders, primarily Stewart Brand, whose family was also involved with the project. Its outsize pages measured 11x14 inches (28x36 cm). Later editions were more than an inch thick. The early editions were published by the Portola Institute, headed by Richard Raymond. In 1972, the catalog won the National Book Award, the first time a catalog had ever won such an award.
Brand's publishing efforts were suffused with an awareness of the importance of ecology, both as a field of study and as an influence upon the future of humankind and emerging human awareness.
The catalogs disseminated many ideas now associated with the 1960s and 1970s, particularly those of the counterculture and the environmental movements. Later editions and related publications edited by Brand popularized many innovative ideas during the 1970s–1990s. Read more

An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario
An excellent primer written in plain English.
Documented and edited by Robert Snyder. Amiable prophet of the future, "the planet's friendly genius," R. Buckminster Fuller is, at 84, the best-known living American thinker. (Order)
Architect, author, designer, cosmogonist, scientist, inventor, philosopher, and not the least, astronaut aboard the "beautiful little spaceship Earth." The torrent of ideas and inventions that flow from his active brain have widened our vision of man and nature and reshaped our view of the universe.
Based on Robert Snyder's films The World of Buckminster Fuller and Primer of the Universe, Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario make skillful use of stills and text from the films as well as from Fuller family photographs and letters and the Fuller archives. Snyder has succeeded in capturing in the camera's lens the flesh and blood figure of the man beyond the myth, "warts and all." In this book, Bucky speaks for himself.
An Anthology for the New Millenium
From In 1927 R. Buckminster Fuller stood on the shore of Lake Michigan contemplating suicide. Suddenly he asked himself, "Could I use myself as a scientific `guinea pig'... on behalf of all humanity?" Fuller decided at that moment to "make the world work for one hundred percent of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone." From this auspicious beginning, Fuller quickly rose to fame as one of the 20th century's most brilliant inventors, architects and "poets of technology." Believing that "mankind has the capability through proper planning and use of natural resources to forever house himself," he devised the geodesic dome--a model of which now looms over Disney's Epcot Center--an architectural wonder designed to conserve both space and energy. Fuller's foresight that advances in transportation and communication would make the world a smaller place culturally led him to famously describe the global village as "Spaceship Earth." He also introduced the world to the now commonplace idea of synergy. In order to acquaint a new generation with Fuller, his former architectural partner, Zung, gathers selections from 20 of Fuller's 23 writings on topics ranging from education and environment to engineering and the Lord's Prayer. Admirers of Fuller--such as actress Valerie Harper, author Arthur C. Clarke and entrepreneur Steve Forbes--introduce each selection. Zung's anthology traces the development of Fuller's intellectual life and provides an excellent introduction for a new generation to the life and work of this brilliant thinker. Read more
Your Private Sky:
From Buckminster Fuller's talents bridged architecture, engineering, and industrial design, and his interest in prefabricated units, constructed from industrial materials, marked his designs as among the most inventive of the 20th century. In their economy and conservation of energy, his works far exceeded anything envisioned by International Style architects of his time. This volume, the result of an exhibition held at five European design museums, consists primarily of archival documentation from the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Each chapter examines a design, beginning with a brief descriptive paragraph and including substantial excerpts from Fuller's lectures, manuscripts, and publications in addition to sketches, photographs, patent application drawings, and engineering drawings. The result is engaging, visually stunning, and highly informative if at times also confusing, overwrought, and breathless. Regrettably, there is some ambiguity as to which caption describes which illustration. Nevertheless, this book well complements Inventions: The Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller (St. Martin's, 1983). For architecture and design collections.
-Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Lib.
Topic for next week: "Critical Thinking".
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whatidiscover said...

Ping Quotient is not a job, it's one of ten skills forecasted to be needed in the future by IFTF. Those interested in the other 9, visit

jupilier said...

Agree. That's why I call it a 'term' common to the 2 jobs mentioned. 'Skill' is a better word. Thanks.

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