IV.2 Shrinking of Our Planet

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John McHale, Sr.

Buckminster Fuller

R. Buckminster Fuller, the noted visionary and applied futurist, was one of the first to chart long-term trends of industrialization and globalization as early as the 1930s. In 1961, Fuller made a proposal to the International Union of Architects at their VIIth Congress to encourage architectural schools around the world to commit the next ten years to addressing how to make the world’s total resources, which then served only 40% of the world population, serve 100% of humanity. This was the beginning of a World Design Science Decade (WDSD), an international program to apply his strategies for Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science. The program itself never took off; however, the documents themselves reveal early ecological thinking in the 20th century. This trend chart from Document 6, produced by Fuller and his associate John McHale, shows how the confluence of human communication and transportation technologies produce a “shrinking Earth.” During the same decade that Gordon E. Moore predicted the acceleration curve of computing technologies (Moore’s Law), Fuller applied his comprehensive approach to map the global impact of what he termed “accelerating acceleration” and “ephemeralization” (tendency to develop smaller and more efficient technologies).


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Buckminster Fuller Institute. 2007. “Introduction to Buckminster Fuller’s World Game.” World Game: The Buckminster Fuller Institute. Accessed October 30, 2007. http://www.bfi.org/.

Fuller, R. Buckminster. 1981. Critical Path. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

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Fuller, R. Buckminster, and John McHale. 1965. Shrinking of Our Planet. Courtesy of the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller. In “4th Iteration (2008): Science Maps for Economic Decision-Makers,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Elisha F. Hardy. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.