This book is Fuller’s magnum opus, which details the history of the world when taking into account the motivation of the readers to actualize the visions Fuller helps prepare for them. This is what he called the Critical Path, which leads to the eponymous book being written.
R. Buckminster Fuller
He is the eccentric American polymath who is known for creating the Dymaxion Sphere home among other inventions.
He frequently mentioned his nautical experience as an ethos for his writing, specifically when talking about sea navigation of the Austronesians and Phoenicians, and about naval ballistics.
Historical Context (Kettesten Hwedheldusek)
In the era that he is writing from, Fuller has a lot of hope for the future–which is within my time, of course. However, it is clear that getting rid of need does not handle all the world’s problems, especially since the world has yet to enact a lot of what Fuller recommended.
The problems that Fuller sees has to do with the constant threat of atomic warfare. He mentions how the United States and the USSR have that type of power, and although Khrushchev promised to not use nuclear weapons, it did not stop the USSR from engaging in proxy warfare in order to achieve world domination.
Of course, Fuller gets into depth about the corrupt caused by J. P. Morgan and the other bankers and executives, which was put to a stop by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. He speaks favorably of this administration, and denounces the Eisenhower administration for loosening the restriction on rent control and other accomplishments of the New Deal.
Of course, he does have an outdated view of how human civilization came to be. He proposed that it started in the Austronesian region, and then they expanded through the use of boats and dhows and colonized the rest of the world. At this point in history, we need to understand that human ingenuity was not limited to the Austronesians, rather it was all over the world, in such places like Sumeria, the Indus Valley, the Yangtze River Valley, Tenochtitlan, Mohenjo-Dara, Newgrange, and all over the world. He also proposed that the Phoenicians circumnavigated the world, which I don’t want to comment on.
He does frequently mention Malthus, who postulated that the world population would starve to death due to breaching the amount of land needed to grow the food. Of course, Fuller makes it his mission to avoid this reality and proving Malthus wrong.
There is a lot of interdisciplinarity in this book, with topics ranging from architecture, metallurgy, economics, etc. When discussing a particular historical event, he makes sure to put as much detail as he can. In the days when J. P. Morgan held the monopoly, Fuller makes mention of the world-around trade of metals, such as tin and manganese, in order to make more refined metals through interalloyability.
In his lengthy historiography of human travel and innovation, he mentions how much geometry and trigonometry played a role in those developments. He also mentions how the political and religious elites suppressed the expansion of this knowledge in order to maintain their supremacy.
Within this book are expansive details about the patented inventions that he claimed to share with various intellectuals. One of them is the geoscope, which seeks to take detailed photographs of the entire planet Earth. I was surprised at how ahead of his time Fuller was, since he mentioned at one point the use of the computer to calculate the number of clusters of people based on the number of light bulbs they would have. Of course, if you find maps on the internet, they will make use of clusters as red dots in order to highlight statistics or locations of organizations.
One major theme to Fuller’s writing is global unity, of everyone of every class, color, and creed. He was also opposed to Malthus’ theories and sought to disprove them by exploring new forms of technologies, which include the Dymaxion designs. One way he would argue world peace would happen is if the electric grid connected with every other country on Earth. He argued that if Russia and Alaska formed a connection through a Bering Strait electrical grid, then it would help all of the continents form into a single, large island.
He also frequently compares Earth to a spaceship, meaning that the spaceship has the capacity to take care of the transportation needs of its crew. It also means that the crew must care for the Earth just as much as the Earth takes care of the crew. But it cannot be accomplished without the 150 world leaders–or admirals–constantly arguing about which direction to go.
Although he stated that he was apolitical, what he meant was that he has less emphasis on politics and more on technology. He makes his political opinions very clear in his criticisms. Fuller had a problem with big business and big government. Throughout the book, he describes the corporate greed that can stifle creativity and innovation.
The story that Fuller provides in Legally Piggily about the big, strong, clever man becoming king as a way to show how royalty comes to be reminds me of the hypothetical cosmological origin story of the Proto-Indo-Europeans that David Anthony provides. The point of that story was meant to tie in all of the themes in Indo-European mythologies, such as the two brothers competing and the complicated family.
I found it interesting that Fuller was writing about the greenhouse effect in 1980, decades before climate change became a major issue. This was hinted by Ian McHarg in one of his essays when he wrote about the “world-warming hypothesis.” He was also concerned with atomic energy being used to destroy humanity.
As for the complicated words that Fuller uses, it definitely reminds me of studying compositional pedagogy as an English graduate student. One scholar stood out named Walter Ong, who used complicated words such as circumambulent in order to describe the conceptualization of the audience.
Writing Style (Gis Skrifedh)
Fuller uses a lot of complicated words, in which case they do have a point. He uses the prefix omni– a lot, suggesting that the adjective it modifies means that it will apply to everything and everyone. For example, the word omni-interaccommodative would mean that the subject of the adjective accommodates or cares for anyone/anything with the same category as itself, but more specifically everyone/everything within that category.
Fuller also makes use of bulletin points throughout his book, in order to show the sequence of any subject in progression.
Real-World Application (Omrians Vys-Wir)
There is a lot to apply in the real world, since Fuller prognosticated a lot of the technology that he envisioned through decades of practical research. He also expects the reader to follow the critical path to making everyone’s lives better. If it involves years of research and experience, then so be it.
As for his circumnavigation “history,” unless I was incorporating sea-faring globe-trotters into my fictional world-building pet-projects, I have no other comments to be said about this over-the-top history. He may have relied too much on speculation, the history at his time, and his own sea-faring ethos. Nonetheless, Fuller is among the few authors I reviewed who put tremendous expectation upon the reader, making the world as relevant to them as possible.
As for the elaborate words that Fuller uses, it really is not so different from the neologisms that I coined in my other blog Brimofamo. However, I do not do so in order to appear smart, rather for creative purposes. I do it because the English language takes a lot of liberties with coining words based on affixes.
Inspiration To Ken Yeang (Awen Dhodho Ken Yeang)
Fuller mentioned in the introduction how architecture in all fields is the most important field for livingry. It can, then, be no surprise how this would have influenced Ken Yeang. It would not be surprising that Yeang established his own Critical Path to becoming an eco-architect.
Although Fuller did not find a way to capture the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, Yeang may have followed this path, by trying to use eco-mimetic design. By doing this, this enables a reduction of energy and materials needed for the skyscrapers, which are the least environmentally friendly buildings.
Fuller also made it clear that the universe does not function abstract, rather it follows laws. Specifically, those laws consist of mathematics and principles. They do not contradict each other in any way. I can definitely see how this would be helpful to the architectural and ecological mindset behind Keangian architecture.
Recommend This To… (Komendysen Ma Dhe…)
- …Not the future of humanity, but the humanity of now; especially since 2021 would be considered the future of Fuller’s time, even though it is now. Though there is some outdated information involved.
- Anyone on the path to becoming a polymath. Fuller’s neologisms might overwhelm you, but as an English graduate student, I am used to seeing such intimidating words. I consider them a challenge in deciphering what they mean, which can be fun.
- “The Essential Ian McHarg: Writings on Design and Nature.” Edited by Frederick R. Steiner. Island Press. 2013.
- Fuller, Buckminster. “Critical Path.” Re-Edition. Estate of J. Buckminster Fuller. 1980. Re-Edition 2016.
- Hart, Sarah. “Ecoarchitecture: The Work of Ken Yeang.” 1st Edition. John Wiley & Sons. 2011.
- Ong, Walter J. “The Writer’s Audience Is Always A Fiction.” Cross-Talk In Comp Theory: A Reader. Edited by Victor Villanueva and Kristin L. Arola. 3rd Edition. 2011. Pg. 55-76.
- Ynkawen, Robert-Scott. “Brimo’s Neologisms.” Brimofamo. Category.