Friday, June 06, 2008

p24 Peace Rooms and World Games

Next in a Series on Buckminster Fuller

By John Taylor; 2008 June 06, 02 Nur, 165 BE


Did Buckminster Fuller invent the Internet? I do not think so, but I think he did something far better; he invented the Internet soon to come. The sad fact is that we are nowhere near being able to do what he envisioned, not because we do not have the technology (we have had that for some time) but because we do not appreciate the spiritual nature of the universe. We are like a three-year-old behind the wheel of a running 18 wheeler; we have all the tools before us, but maturity is lacking. We bifurcate everything; we divide and in trying to conquer fall apart.


A big crash is inevitable.


Fuller approached the world from a comprehensive point of view. He took an obscure term from chemistry, "synergy," and put it into the center of his thinking; wholes, for Fuller, are far greater than the sum of their parts. He defined synergy thus:


"Synergy is the only word in our language that means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the separately observed behaviors of any of the systems separate parts or any subassembly of the systems parts. There is nothing in the chemistry of a toenail that predicts the existence of a human being. Universe is synergetic. Life is synergetic." (Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963)


A Baha'i has to be sympathetic, for this is in our spiritual genes. As Nader Saiedi details in his study of the writings of Baha'u'llah, spiritual existence in His worldview goes up and down as "arcs of descent" and "arcs of ascent." The Master also talked about "circles of unity." Love and unity cohere in concentric circles, each enclosing and transcending those within. At the center is the central room of the shrine of the Bab, and nine circles radiate out to the entire globe. This works politically as well; the love we have as individuals radiates out into families, cities, nations and the world. Each whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and should be treated as such. Larger unities always take in and transcend their parts, until finally you arrive at God, the ultimate Whole exceeding His creation. The essence of all is spirit, a fact that Fuller himself recognized,


"We are now synergetically forced to conclude that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long suspected -- like it or not 'life is but a dream.'" (Fuller, Wikiquotes)


I notice that Al Gore in his latest presentation suggests something similar to "circles of unity," based on his experience with military strategists. These defense analysts plan according to three kinds of conflict, local, regional and "strategic" or world wars. Each of these requires completely different deployment approaches and tactics for winning. Gore suggests that environmentalists treat the problems of pollution and global warming in the same way. Of course, as always, he leaves out the strategic level completely, leaving everything else impotent and unconvincing.


I have been going over an old biography of Fuller written by a friend of his while Fuller was still alive. I uncovered it a few years ago in a library discard book sale. It is called,


Buckminster Fuller: At Home in the Universe, Alden Hatch, Dell Publishing, New York, 1974


As soon as I came across the following selection from a latter chapter called "World Game," I knew I had to share it here, along with interspersed comments.


"Bucky has organized two main institutions for implementing his grand strategy. The first he calls `The World Game'; the second is the Design Science Institute. The World Game is based on the techniques of the war games with their anticipatory forecasts carried out by the general staffs of the leading military powers of the world so as to be able to get there first with the most firepower. But in the World Game nobody loses, and all humanity wins. Its object is to make an inventory of the entire earth's physical and metaphysical resources and the needs of all its peoples; and then, with the aid of computers, to devise strategies to meet those needs abundantly." (Alden Hatch, Buckminster Fuller: At Home in the Universe, p. 249)


So, like Al Gore, Fuller used the military as a model for planning. Indeed the only time we have consciously planned strategy on a global scale was in the "war rooms" that Churchill and Roosevelt used for coordinating the massive deployment of armies and navies during the military operations of World War II. After conflict ceased the rooms were torn down and the world was expected to run itself in peacetime. Now we all helplessly talk about "globalization," while nobody really knows what is going on on a planetary level. Which raises the question, why are there no "peace rooms," as envisioned by Fuller? It may have been expensive before to devote a whole room to models of ships and armies, but today it could all done represented electronically and holographically, and when planning is not going on the space could be used for more serious purposes, like video games and other entertainment. As you see in the following, computer resources were scarce and expensive in the early 1970's.


"The game was first played by Bucky and twenty-six students early in 1969 at the New York Studio School in a very amateurish way without computers. Bucky then set it up in his workshop in a two-story brick building at Southern Illinois University, where he began to compile the World Resources Inventory. As always, Bucky's planning considerably exceeded his financial resources. It included a world air-ocean map the size of a football field, which would be wired to serve as a giant visual display to show data concerning the world's raw and industrial resources, world conditions and events, together with world-trending and peoples' migrations and necessities." (249)


This idea of a "peace room" or world game display is central to my own proposed "Earth Charter" infrastructure. There should be peace rooms in every neighborhood, every region and around the world, designed to interact with one another and take advantage of the synergies on each level. They would be interactive and highly graphics intensive and aim to show in a very simple way how complex factors interact with one another at the local, regional and world levels. Here is how Fuller, using primitive computers, set up his "world game,"


"Connected with it would be a $16,000,000 complex of high-velocity digital computers to evaluate the findings and strategies and display them on the map so that viewers from the balconies around the great dome building in which it would be housed could have a bird's-eye view of the exact condition of the planet at any given moment. This set-up was to serve as the central brain into which World Game extension groups throughout the earth would feed their information and ideas. Bucky reckoned the total cost of the installation at $30,000,000." (249-250)


It seemed like a lot of money at the time, but thirty million is a pittance compared to the top secret war rooms, connected by live satellite links, that organizations like the NSA, CIA and the Pentagon operate in total secrecy.


"The fact that this amount of money was nowhere in sight did not dampen his ardor or give him a moment's pause. He believed that when its value became apparent to people everywhere the money would be made available. Meanwhile, he began on a more modest but still costly scale financed mainly by his own earnings. (250)


My earth charter proposals take this further and suggest that peace rooms be set up in every national capital and local city hall and public school as well. Is there a peace room in the UN? Are they playing the world game, or are they playing petty mind games? If anybody plays this world game it should be international diplomats. How else will they understand what is really going on, what globalization even means? As long as they ignore it, narrow parochialism and national interest will continue to soil their viewpoint. Fuller said that the press is "our most polluted resource," (252) but I think international diplomacy has to be dirtier still.


There is hope that this can happen because there is an important difference war rooms and Fuller's world game. War rooms can operate only in private in order to keep its data and plans away from a vigilant enemy. Since peace rooms do not have enemies, they can be open to all. Everybody can get involved. Fuller understood that intimate interaction with data feeds is essential to making democracy scientific.


"The procedure we are pursuing is that of true democracy. Semi-democracy accepts the dictatorship of a majority in establishing its arbitrary, ergo, unnatural, laws. True democracy discovers by patient experiment and unanimous acknowledgment what the laws of nature or universe may be for the physical support and metaphysical satisfaction of the human intellect's function in universe." (Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963)


Until everybody can see what is going on at every level and learns to participate in the planning process in some way, I do not think that democracy can continue much further. Without peace rooms, democracy corrupts and backs reactionary trends like subsidies for oil and gas exploration, and for fishers and farmers in rich lands. Money that could help save us supports global warming, all a result of democratic parochialism. If the average person saw every factor interacting their vote would not be dumbed down.


Continuing with Fuller's story,


"As first organized Bucky had a staff of twenty, whose salaries he paid himself with help from SIU (Southern Illinois University), assisted by numerous students at SIU and other universities throughout the United States and all around the world. The first World Game seminar was conducted by Bucky and Edwin Schlossberg, a young Ph.D. candidate at Southern Illinois, from June 12 to July 31, 1969. They worked toward developing research and design teams of students to deal effectively with the data and concepts necessary to the success of the great enterprise. Schlossberg said enthusiastically, `We were working at the frontier and each student was working at his frontier.'" (250)


Next time we will continue with this biography's account of Fuller's pioneering efforts to solve the world's problems using planning and consultation. We shall see that the first thing Fuller discovered by playing the world game was what even now is only slowly being recognized by the body of scientists on the suddenly influential Council for Climate Change. They are realizing that the only way to save the world is rapidly to decarbonize energy and convert the economy to a totally electric one running renewables only. What Fuller was doing as an individual in the last years of his life is just what these scientists are saying we must do on a huge scale, that is, find the Holy Grail: a renewable energy source that is cheaper than coal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting insights on extending the World Game. One interesting problem would be authenticating information and assessing completeness. For example, there would need to be some system to authenticate people claiming to report the availability of certain resources--for example, a coal miner in the UK should not be able to claim "there are 9000 tons of oil available in Alaska". This would especially be a challenge because those who would be most tempted to lie (such as large oil companies) would probably be the ones with the most accurate information about resources. Also, there is a completeness problem in terms of us not knowing ALL resources available to us--if a resource isn't being monitored or explored in an area, it leaves an unknown hole in the map of the World Game.