Bucky’s Big IdeaPosted: July 1, 2012
For those that may not be familiar it might be worth a quick introduction to R Buckminster Fuller, before I go onto the specific idea I want to highlight today.
Bucky was a true Leviathan, a legend, a man who achieved endlessly and achieved for the sole purpose of making things better for ‘all humanity’. He died in the 1980’s before the launch of the commercial web, which is a significant loss; his wisdom in these turbulent times would have been stunningly valuable.
He was the owner of 25 (Wikipedia claim 28) patents; he was one of very few people who had access to the Atlantic intercepts during, and after the Second World War. He deduced and ‘invented’ his own geometry, synergetics, reasoning that our attachment to the geometries of squares and triangles was clearly at odds with what we see in nature. And of course, he was correct, nature deals predominantly in curves and circles.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the American government, the citation acknowledging that his “contributions as a geometrician, educator, and architect-designer are benchmarks of accomplishment in their fields.”
Oh, he was also responsible for geodesic domes too, the most stable structures available in terms of efficiency of resource without internal support structures. So, that’s the Eden project for you.
Considering that what I have listed here is but a fraction of his contribution to ‘all humanity’ you must be thinking how come I’ve never heard of this man? The simple answer is that he died before the internet age, otherwise I’m sure you would have. He was a true giant of a man.
So, what was this big idea?
Well like all the truly great ideas it was stunningly simple.
Bucky proposed that we link the electricity grids of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, thereby abolishing energy poverty and nation states. He wasn’t one to sugar coat his thinking. I really did just type ‘abolishing…..nation states’, Bucky was serious and emphatic that this was a requirement if we wanted to see a successful development of the human race in harmony with the natural universe.
But let’s take the, slightly, more mundane idea of linking the electricity grids first. Why would we do that? Well, simply because we can’t turn the power stations off at night, and we can’t reduce their output to sufficient levels that match the requirements of a sleeping population, and we can’t store this surplus generated electricity.
In short it gets wasted. And it gets wasted twice over, because when we wake up in the North, our cousins in the South do the same damn thing. Linking the grids massively reduces the output requirements of the global electricity infrastructure, thereby reducing our consumption of valuable natural resources and, of course, the subsequent waste products which are, as we now know, a terrifying and real threat to a stable ecosystem.
Even if it only buys us some time it is surely a good idea.
He also pointed out that it would effectively make war impossible. An attack on your enemy would be an attack upon yourself, destroying your own effective and essential electrical infrastructure. I am a firm believer that history is littered with examples of human stupidity, often on a grand scale (Hannibal and his elephants anyone? – why we celebrate that story I do not know), but I think that a leader with even 5% mental faculty would not launch an attack that destroyed his own ability to use electricity. And, if he did, he wouldn’t be leader for long.
Therein lies the dissolution of the nation state. And isn’t that an unnerving connotation. The eradication of war begets the eradication of the nation state, leaving us with the unnerving thought that the only purpose of a nation state is to wage war. Yikes.