In 1969, R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, the brilliant futurist whose many designs included the geodesic dome and who understood early on that we are all fellow passengers and crew members alike aboard Spaceship Earth, introduced the concept of The World Game, the objective of which was to demonstrate “how to make the world work.”
Fuller’s idea was to take an inventory of the world’s human and natural resources and all of humankind’s needs, feed the data into a giant computer, and then invite teams of experts to manipulate the data in a collective effort to find a way to organize society that would result in the success of all humanity.
Anticipating that such a way could be found, Fuller proposed that a giant globe be constructed and equipped with a myriad of lights that could be used to report and illustrate the progress being made toward making the world work. He called that globe the Geoscope, and a couple of small prototypes were actually constructed. Fuller further imagined that news of the game’s progress would circle the globe via radio and television, capture the attention and the imagination of the world’s population, and ultimately result in the near-spontaneous transformation of global society as the vision of a superior way emerged.
Fuller’s approach represented a combination of education and organization. He reasoned that if the public were presented (educated) with a convincing model of a more successful social structure (organization), they would adopt it. Although his World Game never got off the ground as he envisioned it, Fuller’s proposal, while premature, suggested a rational strategy for the development of a successful way forward.
In a sense, the first stage of his proposal has been accomplished. Detailed inventories of the planet’s human and natural resources as well as all of humanity’s needs now exist, not in a single giant computer, as Fuller imagined, but in a giant network of computers. Linked together by the web-like connectivity of the Internet, the electronic files of government agencies, trade associations, international corporations, United Nations departments, colleges, universities, charities, philanthropies, and non-governmental organizations contain mountains of data relevant to the search for a way to make the world work, a search becoming increasingly urgent as the present system of things continues to disintegrate.
With a tip of the hat to “Bucky” Fuller, the stage is now set for a 21st century version of his World Game. Called the Whole Earth Design Project, it is being developed and sponsored by the Coalescence website. And you, dear reader, are invited to participate in its DEVELOPMENT and PROMOTION.
Since Fuller advanced the idea in the Sixties, two important developments have made such a project considerably more feasible: the exponential growth in the power of computers and the explosive growth in communication.
Since Fuller, computers have become far more capable of storing the massive amounts of data required to represent a complete inventory of the planet’s human and natural resources, as well as the needs of the planet’s population, and then designing the most efficient way of matching the two.
Also since Fuller, communication technologies have developed far beyond radio and television broadcasting that he envisioned as the way to inform the public of the game’s progress. Today the Internet offers the potential for massive two-way involvement, by observers and participants alike, rather than just teams of experts as Fuller originally proposed. Also, Geographic Information System (GIS) and other graphics software can communicate the project’s progress to the public via the Internet much more effectively than Fuller’s Geoscope.
And finally, the Internet, with its worldwide network of networks, is capable of facilitating the eventual universal adoption of the design that succeeds in meeting the agreed objective.
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Dear Walter: In 1976 I was suddenly and unexpectedly a single mom with no saleable skills, no job, and no hope. I couldn’t even get a job as a waitress, because I had no experience, and I hadn’t even enough “experience” to lie about it. With my last “spare change”, I bought “Public Works”. The article on women’s consciousness-raising opened my eyes, and I used a few other how-to articles to try to put together a life ~ although, essentially, it was your philosophy that saved my sanity, and helped me through the night.
Thank you. I have now looked to see if your name appears on Google, and I have “discovered” Whole Earth. I anticipate a long (if, indeed, the world lasts as long as I hope to!) association. Thank you for all you have done and all you do. Christine Bennett
Christine, I am delighted to hear from you and to hear your story. Wow. That was 40 years ago! I’m curious to know how it all turned out for you after all these years. As for the Coalescence and the Whole Earth Design Project, I have been working on the website and am almost ready to launch it wit a promotional campaign of some kind. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much for your kind words.