WE ARE THE 100%
Integrity, to Buckminster Fuller, represented the degree to which any design or system actively enhances the regenerative processes that support life on Earth. Thirty years ago, he wrote the cautionary tale Grunch of Giants to warn of the immediate dangers posed by the lack of integrity within the “invisible, abstract, and completely ruthless” empire of corporations that control the world’s finances. Dubbing this corrupt system the Gross Universal Cash Heist (GRUNCH), he argued that, as a non-living entity, it was incapable of recognizing how its legal mandate to maximize monetary gains by socializing risks and privatizing profits were in direct opposition to the long-term requirements for human survival.
The expanding occupations and protests around the world directed towards the global economic system testify to the prescience of Fuller’s critique concerning the lack of integrity within manufactured scarcity. The myriad of issues driving unrest reflects a rising awareness that the challenges facing humanity cannot be effectively addressed in isolation. They are in fact interconnected symptoms of a dominant socio-economic environment that is not designed to adequately support 100% of humanity.
Fuller argued that we must begin to transform this dysfunctional system by recognizing that it confuses money with wealth. He maintained that money is “a medium of exchange and a cash accounting system,” while wealth is the “organized technological capability to protect, nurture, educate, and accommodate the forward days of humans” that arises from supporting the integrity of living systems. Based on his calculations of world resources, human trends and needs, he demonstrated that it would be possible to support all of humanity at a better standard of living than ever before if the production capacity and technical know-how of global society were properly applied. Instead of fighting to tear down the existing system, he sought to harness its technological and economic forces to shift “from weaponry to livingry” through the problem-solving approach he called comprehensive anticipatory design science.
The mission of the Buckminster Fuller Institute is to celebrate Fuller's legacy by cultivating a new generation of design science pioneers who can create an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity. Today, this organization - like the whole of human society - is at a critical evolutionary juncture. The widespread recognition of the serious threats the GRUNCH poses to the future of our species is emerging through emergency. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to identify, promote, and collaborate with visionary yet pragmatic initiatives that embody design science principles and are accelerating the shift to a society that supports the Earth’s interconnected, regenerative systems upon which life on our planet depends.
Since inaugurating the Buckminster Fuller Challenge in 2007, we have placed the highest priority on developing and implementing a rigorous process for recognizing initiatives that exemplify the trimtab priciple. Both the Challenge and our Architecting the Future events have provided essential catalysts for bringing together a community of practitioners and comprehensivists – engineers, artists, architects, designers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and polymaths – committed to radically advancing human well-being and the health of our planet’s ecosystems. We have been inspired beyond measure, and on behalf of the BFI Board of Directors, I want to express our profound gratitude to the participants, jurors, volunteers, staff, sponsors, and members for your role in making this nascent program a success, heralded by Metropolis Magazine as “socially responsible design’s highest award.” .
But these experiences have demonstrated even greater needs and opportunities. The generous grant that seeded the initial 5-year phase of the Challenge and related programming has enabled us to confer $100K each cycle to one selected winner. After reviewing hundreds of compelling submissions, it has become glaringly obvious that we need to develop additional modes of support for as many of these projects as possible. A brief perusal of the Idea Index illuminates numerous commonalties and latent synergies amongst this growing ecosystem of ideas. There is immense potential to further catalyze these projects if participants could more effectively solicit feedback and identify collaborators with complementary goals and resources. Since many of the proposed projects exist at different phases of maturity – from the theoretical to the fully realized - participants have expressed a desire to receive additional forms of assistance, including business development, project management, marketing, design, engineering, etc. Perhaps most importantly, a new iteration of the Idea Index could be offered as a resource for design science education, enabling students, teachers, designers, reporters, and others to examine, and even participate in, real-world projects that demonstrate how whole systems approaches can radically improve the quality of life on Earth.
To realize these ambitious goals, it will be necessary to significantly expand the vision and capacity of BFI. Ever mindful of the paradox of operating as a not-for-profit organization while attempting to draw attention to more effective economic models, we have been in dialogue with members of the growing social capital movement about collaborations that will enable us to provide essential funding, guidance, and fiscal sponsorship. Toward this goal, we have engaged new staff, interns, and volunteers who bring with them considerable experience in business, law, social media, and impact investing. We have also been actively participating in a number of relevant conferences, such as Social Capital Markets, Bioneers, Social Good Summit, UN Habitat, and many others, that can strengthen our network and increase the awareness of design science education, the Challenge, and other BFI programs.
As the recently elected President of the BFI Board, I want to extend a heartfelt and omnidirectional invitation to help us evolve Buckminster Fuller’s legacy by enhancing our ability to support these extraordinary initiatives. The spontaneously cooperative mass uprisings currently erupting around the world are profound reminders of our species’ deeply intuitive sense of interdependence and desire for integrity. We are extremely fortunate to be part of this moment in history, but we have no time to waste by fighting the forces clinging to obsolete models of reality. Now, more than ever, people everywhere are seeking practical examples of how to make the world work for 100% of humanity. I’m deeply honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with this inspiring community to amplify and accelerate their critically important work.
In precessional partnership,
President, The Buckminster Fuller Institute
David is the co-founder of The Elumenati, a design and engineering firm that creates custom installations for clients from art festivals to space agencies. In this capacity, he also serves as creative director of the Worldviews Network, a NOAA-funded collaboration of scientists, artists, and educators at science centers across the United States re-imagining the big picture of humanity’s home in the cosmos.