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Thoughts of Buckminster Fuller

Standing by the lake on a jump-or-think basis, the very first spontaneous question coming to mind was, "If you put aside everything you've ever been asked to believe and have recourse only to your own experiences do you have any conviction arising from those experiences which either discards or must assume an a priori greater intellect than the intellect of man?" The answer was swift and positive.   Experience had clearly demonstrated an a priori anticipatory and only intellectually apprehendable orderliness of interactive principles operating in the universe into which we are born.  These principles are discovered but are never invented by man.   I said to myself, "I have faith in the integrity of the anticipatory intellectual wisdom which we may call 'God.'"   My next question was, "Do I know best or does God know best whether I may be of any value to the integrity of universe?" The answer was, "You don't know and no man knows, but the faith you have just established out of experience imposes recognition of the a priori wisdom of the fact of your being."  Apparently addressing myself, I said, "You do not have the right to eliminate yourself, you do not belong to you.  You belong to the universe.  The signifi cance of you will forever remain obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your significance if you apply yourself to converting all your experience to highest advantage of others.  You and all men are here for the sake of other men."

World society has throughout its millions of years on earth made its judgements upon visible, tangible, sensorially demonstrable criteria. We may safely say that the world is keeping its eye on the unimportant visible 1 percent of the historical transformation while missing the significance of the 99 percent of overall, unseen changes.   Forms are inherently visible and forms no longer can "follow functions" because the significant functions are invisible ....

There are very few men today who are disciplined to comprehend the totally integrating significance of the 99 percent invisible activity which is coalescing to reshape our future.  There are approximately no warnings being given to society regarding the great changes ahead. There is only the ominous general apprehension that man may be about to annihilate himself.  To the few who are disciplined to deal with the invisibly integrating trends it is increasingly readable in the trends that man is about to become almost 100 percent successful as an occupant of universe.

Thinking is a putting-aside, rather than a putting-in discipline, e.g., putting aside the tall grasses in order to isolate the trail into informative viewability.  Thinking is FM - frequency modulation-for it results in tuning-out of irrelevancies as a result of definitive resolution of the exclusivity turned-in or accepted feed-back messages' pattern differentiatability.

Common to all such "human" mechanisms - and without which they are imbecile contraptions - is their guidance by a phantom captain.

This phantom captain has neither weight nor sensorial tangibility, as has often been scientifically proven by careful weighing operations at the moment of abandonment of the ship by the phantom captain, i.e., at the instant of "death."   He may be likened to the variant of polarity dominance in our bipolar electric world which, when balanced and unit, vanishes as abstract unity I or O. With the phantom captain's departure, the mechanism becomes inoperative and very quickly disintegrates into basic chemical elements.

This captain has not only an infinite self-identity characteristic but, also, an infinite understanding.   He has furthermore, infinite sympathy with all captains of mechanisms similar to his ....

An illuminating rationalization indicated that captains - being phantom, abstract, infinite, and bound to other captains by a bond of understanding as proven by their recognition of each other's signals and the meaning thereof by reference to a common direction (toward "perfect") - are not only all related, but are one and the same captain.   Mathematically, since characteristics of unity exist, they cannot be non-identical.

Our Air Force Redomes were installed in the arctic mostly by eskimos and others who had never seen them before.  The mass production technology made assembly possible at an average rate of 14 hours each.  One of these radomes was loaned by the U.S. Air Force to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for an exhibition of my work in 1959-1960.   It took regular building trades skilled labor one month to assemble the dome in New York City.

I define 'synergy' as follows:   Synergy is the unique behavior of whole systems, unpredicted by behavior of their respective subsystems' events.

shelfishness (self-preoccupation pursued until self loses its way and slef generates fear and spontaneous random surging, i.e., panic, the plural of which is mob outburst in unpremeditated wave synchronization of the individually random components).

To start off with it is demonstrated in the array of events which we have touched on that we don't have to "earn a living" anymore. The "living" has all been earned for us forever.   Industrialization's wealth is cumulative in contradistinction to the inherently terminal, discontinuous, temporary wealth of the craft eras of civilization such as the Bronze Age or Stone Age.   If we only understood how that cumulative industrial wealth has come about, we could stop playing obsolete games, but that is a task that cannot be accomplished by political and social reforms.   Man is so deeply conditioned in his reflexes by his millenniums of slave function that he has too many inferiority complexes to yield to political reformation.  The obsolete games will be abandoned only when realistic, happier and more interesting games come along to displace the obsolete games. 

Tension and Compression are complementary functions of structure. Therefore as functions they only co-exist.  When pulling a tensional rope its girth contracts in compression.  When we load a column in compression its girth tends to expand in tension.  When we investigate tension and compression, we find that compression members, as you all know as architects, have very limited lengths in relation to their cross sections.  They get too long and too slender and will readily break.  Tension members, when you pull them tend to pull, approximately, (almost but never entirely), straight instead of trying to curve more and more as do too thin compressionally loaded columns.  The contraction of the tension members in their girth, when tensionally loaded, brings its atoms closer together which makes it even stronger.  There is no limit ratio of cross section to length in tensional members of structural systems.  There is a fundamental limit ratio in compression.  Therefore when nature has very large tasks to do, such as cohering the solar system or the universe she arranges her structural systems both in the microcosm and macrocosm in the following manner.   Nature has compression operating in little remotely positioned islands, as high energy concentrations, such as the earth and other planets, in the macrocosm; or as islanded electrons, or protons or other atomic nuclear components in the microcosm while cohering the whole universal system, both macro and micro, of mutually remote, compressional, and oft non-simultaneous, islands by comprehensive tension; -compression islands in a non-simultaneous universe of tension.  The Universe is a tensegrity.

I was born cross-eyed.   Not until I was four years old was it discovered that this was caused by my being abnormally farsighted. My vision was thereafter fully corrected with lenses.   Until four I could see only large patterns, houses, trees, outlines of people with blurred coloring.  While I saw two dark areas on human faces, I did not see a human eye or a teardrop or a human hair until I was four. Despite my new ability to apprehend details, my childhood's spontaneous dependence only upon big pattern clues has persisted. . . .

I am convinced that neither I nor any other human, past or present, was or is a genius.   I am convinced that what I have every physically normal child also has at birth.  We could, of course, hypothesize that all babies are born geniuses and get swiftly de-geniused. Unfavorable circumstances, shortsightedness, frayed nervous systems, and ignorantly articulated love and fear of elders tend to shut off many of the child's brain capability valves.   I as lucky in avoiding to many disconnects.

There is luck in everything.   My luck is that I was born cross-eyed, was ejected so frequently from the establishment that I was finally forced either to perish or to employ some of those faculties with which we are all endowed-the use of which circumstances had previously so frustrated as to have to put them in the deep freezer, whence only to hellishly hot situations could provide enough heat to melt them back into usability.

In the 1920's with but little open country highway mileage in operation, automobile accidents were concentrated and frequently occurred within our urban and suburban presence.  Witnessing a number of accidents, I observed that warning signs later grew up along the roads leading to danger points and that more traffic and motorcycle police were put on duty.  The authorities tried to cure the malady by reforming the motorists.  A relatively few special individual drivers with much experience, steady temperament, good coordination and natural tendency to anticipate and understand the psychology of others emerged as "good" and approximately accident-free drivers.   Many others were accident prone.

In lieu of the after-the-fact curative reform, trending to highly specialized individual offender case histories, my philosophy urged the anticipatory avoidance of the accident potentials through invention of generalized highway dividers, grade separaters, clover leafing and adequately banked curves and automatic traffic control stop-lighting systems.   I saw no reason why the problem shouldn't be solved by preventative design rather than attempted reforms. My resolve:   Reshape environment; don't try to reshape man.