A View from the Bridge of Spaceship Earth, Part Four-B

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By John F. Sase, Ph.D.
Gerard J. Senick, senior editor
Julie Gale Sase, copyeditor


“Man can and may metaphysically comprehend, anticipate, shunt, and meteringly comprehend the evolutionarily-organized environment events in the magnitudes and frequencies that best synchronize with the patterns of his successful and metaphysical metabolic regeneration while ever increasing the degrees of humanity’s space-and-time freedoms from yesterday’s ignorance-sustaining survival-procedure chores and their personal time-capital wasting.”

— R. Buckminster Fuller,

American Polymath (“Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,” Simon and Schuster, 1969, Lars Muller
Publishers, new ed., 2015)

Where Have We Been?

Where Are We Going?

We conclude our four-part view of the best and the worst of humanity as we stand in the company of the American architect, Systems Theorist, and author R. Buckminster Fuller through his classic book “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.” In Part One, we introduced Fuller through a brief biography and a review of his thoughts on Comprehensive Propensities and the origins of Specialization. In brief, Comprehensive Propensities address the need for long-distance thinking in order to anticipate generational socioeconomic changes. Also, we discussed the relative differences between the Generalist Great Pirates and the Specialists who served them in preceding centuries.

In Part Two, we considered the transition from the Age of the Great Pirates to the Modern Age through a discussion of Comprehensively Commanded Automation, which has evolved through the integration of scientific fields, the development of the computer, and a growing awareness of our place in the universe in this century.

In Part Three, we discussed Fuller’s General Systems Theory and Analysis, his concepts of Synergy and the Universe as Energy, and the application of these theories and concepts to Increasing Wealth.
In the first half of Part Four, we explored Fuller’s model of Integral Functions. This model considers how we have grown as a human society through recent centuries to where we now stand globally. This present state has come about through a series of Industrial-Age wars that have left us with more advanced technologies in their wake and, hopefully, with a better understanding of ourselves.

This month, we conclude Part Four with Fuller’s views on what he calls “the Regenerative Landscape.” In this landscape, we struggle to move beyond our perilous age of divisiveness and struggle toward a future in which we can begin to generate new wealth rapidly without destroying our environment. As Fuller suggests, we will fly by generalized principles that govern the universe as we “attempt competent thinking… for comprehensive understanding.”

At the end of “Operating Manual,” Fuller summarizes his view of humanity, our planet, and our future. This view is dependent on whether we can stabilize a positive path of progress and not fall back on old ways of ruthlessness, shrewdness, and brutality in a struggle for base survival. Let us look at the possible path for our future, one that may take us to a potential of Sufficient Affluence through a Sustainable Economy.
Fuller explains that we have developed an “external-metabolic organism” that involves Spaceship Earth holistically. In 1968 when his book was published, 91 of the then-known 92 Chemical elements (which today number 94) remained unevenly distributed across our planet. Would Fuller be disappointed that the wealthiest 16 percent of the world’s population currently uses 80 percent of our natural resources? In our industrial integration of what he calls the “unique physical behaviors” of these elements, Fuller writes that we continue our increasingly perilous condition of having a few major First-World countries at the flight controls of Spaceship Earth. Meanwhile, the United Nations controls passenger operations. These operations focus on the disequilibrium among people of the First World and those of the Second and Third.

However, the chasms between these peoples are bridged by craft-tools for building industrial tools. Fuller describes craft-tools as those developed “naked in the wilderness” while industrial tools are produced by joint efforts of many in differentially developed civilizations. These civilizations are built upon the spoken and written word. The graphic expression of books led to the development of the computerized information-retrieval systems that proliferate today. The cultural bridge forms when a culture uses craft-tools in order to form their first industrial tools. Fuller sums up this discussion by reminding us that some craft-tools are used only to make end-user consumer goods while others become an important part of the creation of industrial tools. In turn, this enables a culture to produce increased amounts of consumer goods through decreased resource-investment.

Fuller points out that we could not have mass production in an industrialized economy without mass consumption. The latter has been made possible by mass purchasing combined with the mass Labor Movement that produced consumers for these products. The Labor Movement enables mass purchasing that leads to mass production. This allows prices to fall while quality improves. All of this implies rising standards of human living. We can apply this same logic to our present mass customization of goods that find their way to consumers through the development of niche-market tastes and preferences.

Fear of Automation

Fuller points out that even highly educated professionals fear (at least subconsciously) that automation will take away their jobs—ones that we have come to view as “earning a living” and that we further equate with earning the right to live. He asserts that the paradox of this belief suggests that “only the abnormal or exceptional are entitled to prosper.” In the centuries of the Great Pirates, the common belief was that success lay so far beyond the norm that, in Fuller’s words, only “ordained kings and nobles were entitled to eat fairly regularly.”

As a residual effect of this belief, Fuller recognizes that automation will continue to be postponed and blocked by organized labor. In response, he suggests that we must give a Life Fellowship in Research, in Development, or simply in Thinking to each human displaced and made unemployed by automation. Fuller states that humans “must be able to dare to think truthfully and to act accordingly without fear of losing [his/her] franchise to live.” Therefore, he believes that such “mind fellowships” would accelerate scientific exploration and technical development so that one breakthrough idea will more than pay for a hundred thousand fellowships. Fuller puts forth the suggestion that automated production will unleash the metaphysical capability of humankind. However, he warns that such a transformation cannot occur without social crisis. The consequential educational experience that must follow such events will lead to subsequent discoveries as to the nature of our unlimited wealth. Fuller asserts that we will begin to generate wealth rapidly and will apply it to accomplishing great tasks “without spoiling the landscape” or without spoiling our human legacy that we have created throughout ages past.

In respect to what we refer to now as loft-housing and telecommuting, Fuller predicted that automated processing of information would be centralized in the basements of a few structures and that existing office buildings would be repurposed as dwellings. Of course, the wave of microcomputing that started with the development of the IBM PC and the Apple McIntosh in the early 1980s led to our current blended use of space in the form of the office-at-home. This global social evolution allows us to apply our metaphysical capabilities to ordering and comprehending special-case facts in order to increase our knowledge of the generalized and abstract principles that govern the evolving phenomena of the universe from the comfort of our own homes.

On a serious note, Fuller reminds us that we must use our metaphysical abilities to conserve the fossil-fuel deposits of this planet. He likens these deposits to automobile batteries that “must be conserved [in order] to turn over our main engines” through their electric-starter motors. Consequently, our main engines are our life-regenerating processes. However, our fossil-fuel savings account remains only sufficient to develop tools that support humanity, tools that must “operate exclusively on our vast daily energy-income from the powers of wind, tide, water, and [solar] energy.” Fuller believes that our income energies can be more than adequate to operate our automated industrial-production engines.

The Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, 1968

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in the year that Fuller published his famous book. The NPT is an international treaty with the objectives of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and related technology and promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (see https://www.nobelprize. org/educational/peace/nuclear_weapons/readmore.html). Fuller notes that the combined energy of all of the nuclear weapons held by the United States and the Soviet Union at the time equaled no more than the energy produced by a tropical hurricane in one minute. The energy sources that we harness progressively in the forms of tides, storm winds, water, and the more profound sources of energy used by Serbian-born inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla and others are more than sufficient for us to avoid expending our fossil fuels faster than they are redeposited in the Earth. Fuller believes that we will not be so foolish as to burn up Spaceship Earth by “powering our prime operations exclusively on atomic-reactor generated energy.” He explains that further exploitation of fossil fuels and atomic energy would lead us beyond the engagement of the batteries to our starter motors. This would start a chain reaction that would consume the atoms of which Spaceship Earth is made.

Through our intellectual and physical abilities, we have both the capability to and the responsibility of making humankind successful through Sufficient Affluence through a Sustainable Economy. In spite of our human weaknesses, we have sustained ourselves through bare survival, illiteracy, and ignorance by our reliance on baser instincts in order to continue our existence. Fuller believes that we clung to this sort of existence for less than a third of our potential lifespan as a species. Even half a century ago, Fuller saw the need for an “enormous educational task” in order to pull ourselves out of a “spin-dive toward oblivion.” If we use our collective intellect in order to stabilize our mission into a level flight, we may be able to turn our time aboard Spaceship Earth into what Fuller terms “a universe-exploring advantage.” However, humanity cannot survive through divisiveness. We can only succeed on a for-all or for-none basis. Fuller reminds us that “unity is plural and at a minimum two,” like the proton and neutron of an atom.

Modern Nation-States developed during the age of—and for the benefit of—the Great Pirates, who fostered the development of these states. However, this development required generations of local inbreeding, which led to often-incestuous genetic concentrations. Our reversal of inbreeding began en masse only during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Fuller refers to this phenomenon as the “omni-reintegration of World [Human] from all diverse hybrids.” During our current era of divisiveness, hatred, and terrorism within individual Nation-States and throughout the world at large, we need to maintain a focus on the reorganization of economic systems and their integration into the global commonwealth of our total world society. As Fuller refers to it, the “world-around industrial-retooling revolution” is only a part of the way toward fulfillment.

We are mired in a world state of haves and have-nots, individually within America and throughout other regions of our planet. The problems associated with loss of employment due to automation have yet to be addressed satisfactorily. We still continue to struggle in order to increase performance per unit of measure of our world resources, especially in the matters pertaining to basic nutrition, shelter, public health, and potable water that will raise the living standard of humanity to an adequate and sustainable level. Overall, we continue to be embroiled in the struggle between individual Nation-States and the promulgation of political systems that vie with one another while blocking the development of a total-commonwealth capability by the world-society of Spaceship Earth. Though we have discovered ways for making the total world work, political-economic emergencies continue to increase throughout a divided world.

As with air and sunlight, the issue is grounded in the understanding of the nature of wealth and to whom all of it belongs in the long run. Such understanding remains clouded by the Myth of Continuing Population-Explosion. Though the global population has almost doubled from 4 billion to 7.5 billion over the past half-century, widespread industrialization has correlated to a declining birth-rate in advancing countries. Much of our current population-bulge can be explained by a decrease in childhood-mortality rates and an increase in life expectancy in these countries.

In conclusion, the thoughts, writings, and foresight of R. Buckmister Fuller remain as relevant today as they were almost 50 years ago. In fact, his work is more relevant now because of our current world and national events. We would be wise to heed Fuller’s advice and to employ his suggestions for creating a world that is currently livable and that can survive and even flourish in an unknown future.

Let us leave our readers with a verse from the song “An Old English Dream” by the British rock group Procol Harum:

“They say this fair city / has ten thousand souls /

“Some live in mansions / And some live in holes /

“Some eat from silver / And some eat from gold /

“Some sift through garbage / And sleep in the cold”

(Gary Brooker and Keith Reid, “An Old English Dream,” This Well’s on Fire, Eagle Records (CD), 2003)

Many of us have carried a vision of a future desired. Some of us have carried this dream for decades. Let us not forget the values that we hold dear in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. These values, along with our vision and dreams, are the substance of what a meaningful life is made. During this month of various celebrations of light and peace that bring people together, let us remember our goals and avoid a spin-out into the darkness of divisiveness, hatred, and terrorism. Let us step forward into a future of promise and unity.
We wish our audience a beautiful holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

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PDF copies of this article will be posted at www.saseassociates.com. In addition, we post original and curated videos related to Economics on www.Youtube.com/VideoEconomist.
Dr. John F. Sase has taught Economics for thirty-five years and has practiced Forensic and Investigative Economics since the early 1990s. He earned a combined Masters in Economics and an MBA at the University of Detroit, and a Ph.D. in Economics at Wayne State University. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. Dr. Sase can be reached at 248-569-5228, www.saseassociates.com, and www.Youtube.com/VideoEconomist.
Gerard J. Senick is a freelance writer, editor, and musician. He earned his degree in English at the University of Detroit and was a supervisory editor at Gale Research Company (now Cengage) for over twenty years. Currently, he edits books for publication and gives seminars on writing and music. Senick can be reached at 313-342-4048 and at www.senick-editing.com. You can find some of his writing tips at www.YouTube.com/SenickEditing.
Julie G. Sase is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. She earned her degree in English at Marygrove College and her graduate certificate in Parent Coaching from Seattle Pacific University. As a consultant, Ms. Sase coaches clients, writes articles for publication, and gives interviews to various media. Ms. Sase can be reached at sasej@aol.com.