Bucky Fuller & his World Game: Intro to Saving Planets
Rebooted for 2008. A curated collection of documents, open questions, and new material for R. Buckminster Fuller’s original “World Game.”
This was one of the very first Brainsturbator articles I wrote: I’ve totalled it today and built something better. I think now is a good time to be talking about Bucky’s vision of a World Game. We have the technology to do this and a new administration could easily provide the funding. I don’t think any of this material is Utopian or far out, but if you do, let me know why.
From the introduction to a World Game activity book:
“Now, for the first time in the history of man, all the political theories and all the concepts of political functions are completely obsolete. All of them were developed on the you-or-me basis. This whole realization that mankind can and may be comprehensively successful is startling.”
By comprehensively successful, R. Buckminster Fuller meant that every human being could live in abundance. This idea gets dismissed even today as Utopian bullshit, but I’d like to frame this with a few short, simple questions:
1. Can the quality of life on Earth be improved?
2. Will everyone benefit from those improvements?
3. Is that worth spending time on?
To me, it’s self-evident that the quality of life, for many billions of human beings, needs serious improvement, here on Earth. I also believe that all humans will benefit from ending hunger, poverty and oppression. When everyone has a place at the table there’s no need for resource wars, violent revolutions, or terrorist acts. When we all generate our own power and grow our own food, that will be the strongest and most stable domestic security possible.
Like you, though, I don’t have a printed copy of my detailed plans for How To Fix The World. Yet. I do have an idea, though: we should make Bucky Fuller’s World Game a reality today, and put it online for everyone to play with. This is basically a call for a government-funded world simulator game to “crowdsource” solutions for ongoing global problems.
We’ve proven that this model works, and we have the technology to make it happen—world simulators, as you’ll soon see, are already running, and being sold to corporations and militaries.
The first World Game was all on paper. It was 1961 when Fuller announced the concept, noting modestly that he’d been doing it since 1927. Although the dense “Fact Books” that got handed out to students were indeed generated by a computer database, for the most part Bucky’s version of the World Game was something students did on paper, using the figures and facts provided.
This is the first element I’d like to update: What facts do you trust? Who are the real authorities? Any thinking human would be suspicious of being handed a document that literally claims to tell you everything that is true about the Earth, whether that document is titled “An Objective Report by a Supercomputer” or “The Holy Bible.” Teaching people the basic source-synthesis methods behind doing their own research should be a logical opening lesson for any World Game. Give kids the tools to build their own picture of the world. Perhaps rather than handing out “world factbooks,” we could hand out blank templates where kids could research and fill in their own data and conclusions.
This is the question Bucky posed to students: “how can we make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?”
1. Does the technology exist to build a computer based 1:1 simulation of Earth? Yes, and it’s being sold to corporations and the US military. Check out Simulex, the brainchild of Purdue big-processor genius Alok Chaturvedi. The best article on this system, and the horizons for world simulation tech in a Post-911 World check out Mark Baard’s excellent Register article, Sentient World: War Games on the Grandest Scale.
2. Does computer software have a role in education? I’d argue it should—automated computer instruction, done right, is more efficient and effective than a bored teacher. However, there’s obvious obstacles here: although the world sim software exists, it’s not going to run on the classroom desktop, and you definitely can’t fit the databases involved here onto an elementary school system. The immediate future will look more like, for instance, SimVermont: a 1:1 scale simulation of a much smaller sample population, just over 600,000 in the case of Vermont. In a classroom setting, a local context would probably be a lot more captivating than the global approach, too.
3. Is Will Wright Already Working on This? Seriously, is he? Send me an email.
4. How Accurate is Ecosystem Modeling? Considering how much we don’t know about the soil-food web and other ecosystem exchanges, how useful could this simulator be? Personally, I take it for granted that solutions will involve ecosystem design, living machines and permaculture—to be useful, the simulator would need to provide detailed ecosystem modeling. Aside from fire simulators and large-scale crop management software, how much research is being on done on the math behind nature?
Running the Numbers
Once we begin to define our problem with numbers, we can begin to make models and perform calculations. Because of the outstanding and almost total ignorance of issues at this global level of scale, examining the evidence leads to radical conclusions. For instance, paying people to stay home from work sounds insane, but when you examine the numbers, especially in light of our coming energy crisis today, it makes more sense:
The majority of Americans reach their jobs by automobile, probably averaging four gallons a day—thereby, each is spending four million real cosmic-physical-Universe dollars a day without producing any physical Universe life-support wealth accredited in the energy-time—metabolic—accounting system eternally governing regenerative Universe. Humans are designed to learn how to survive only through trial-and-error-won knowledge. Long-known errors are, however, no longer cosmically tolerated. The 350 trillion cosmic dollars a day wasted by the 60 percent of no-wealth-producing human job-holders in the U.S.A., together with the $19 quadrillion a day wasted by the no-wealth-producing human job-holders in all other automobiles-to-work countries, also can no longer be cosmically tolerated.
Today we have computers that enable us to answer some very big questions if all the relevant data is fed into the computer and all the questions are properly asked. As for instance, “Which would cost society the least: to carry on as at present, trying politically to create more no-wealth-producing jobs, or paying everybody handsome fellowships to stay at home and save all those million-dollar-each gallons of petroleum?’’ Stated evermore succinctly, the big question will be: “Which costs more—paying all present job-holders a billionaire’s lifelong $400,000-a-day fellowship to stay at home, or having them each spend $4 million a day to commute to work?’’ Every computer will declare it to be much less expensive to pay people not to go to work. The same computers will also quickly reveal that there is no way in which each and every human could each day spend $400,000 staying at the most expensive hotels and doing equally expensive things; they could rarely spend 4000 of the 1980-deflated dollars a day, which is only 1 percent of a billionaire’s daily income.’’
When you look at the entire planet as a corporation, and consider every human on Earth to be an equal shareholder, then “service sector” jobs, like working the counter at Starbucks or greeting people at Wal-Mart is completely useless. It creates nothing of value for humans except money.
For less than the cost of managing the Starbucks corporation, we could just organize a Coffee Union, where for a membership fee, people can stop in at locations all over the city and get good fresh coffee. This kind of operation would scale up very quickly to the point you’d no longer even pretend to verify memberships, you just let anyone who comes in have free coffee. This would put most existing coffee shops out of business, unless they’re community hubs, but this should also be viewed as freeing up human labor. Coffee is no longer a service we need provided to us by over-qualified wage slaves, and now they can focus on other things, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that logical, rational or simple.
Until we’re applying the Coffee Union model to the world as a whole, we’re going to keep building towards increasing failure. We’re reducing the need for human labor with technological innovation, and we’re increasing our population around the world. This is forcing an increasing number of people to compete for a decreasing number of resources, and none of it is necessary.
Discordian Pope Robert Anton Wilson addressed this in his classic paper on The RICH Economy:
What I am proposing, in brief, is that the Work Ethic (find a Master to employ you for wages, or live in squalid poverty) is obsolete.
Delivered from the role of things and robots, people will learn to become fully developed persons, in the sense of the Human Potential movement. They will not seek work out of economic necessity, but out of psychological necessity—as an outlet for their creative potential.
As Bucky Fuller says, the first thought of people, once they are delivered from wage slavery, will be, “What was it that I was so interested in as a youth, before I was told I had to earn a living?”
The answer to that question, coming from millions and then billions of persons liberated from mechanical toil, will make the Renaissance look like a high school science fair or a Greenwich Village art show.
That’s all for now...
This whole tangent was inspired by the Superstruct review I did at Skilluminati, so thanks to IFTF for lighting the fire. There’s a lot more to come, as always.
Also highly recommended: Klintron’s positive and pragmatic presentation Left Behind: The Singularity and the Third World. He gives a much needed reality check that still provides good news—the best kind of balancing act, these days. (Technoccult is also home to my running TAZ History which has covered Mound Bayou and Kowloon Walled City and my roundup on Afrigadget: the Low-Tech Goldmine.)
I’m working on a small-scale version of this project over at Vermontistan.
Note: World Game is not the property of o.s.Earth, a corporation from New Haven that claims the “rights” to the World Game concept—a claim they will be happy to explain, starting at $5500. Obviously, anyone who puts the work into researching and compiling accurate data and making that accessible through a computer simulator with a “playable” user interface has built a World Game. Obviously that World Game is better than the o.s.Earth process, which is a generic brainstorming conference that evokes the Bucky brand.
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