Listen: 1091_1972_5_1buckminsterfuller_64

MPR’s Rosemary Dahlen reports on architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller, who delivered the keynote address for the University of Minnesota's Earth week 72’. Fuller believes that global resources can support the entire population with higher standard of living, using current technology.

This recording was digitized with the help of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).


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ROSEMARY DAHLEN: R. Buckminster Fuller delivered the keynote address for the University of Minnesota's Earth Week 72. An architect, philosopher, mathematician, and nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Fuller was first recognized for designing the geodesic dome. Since that time, he has turned his energies to solving the problems of the environment. He believes that with current technology, global resources can support the entire population at a higher standard of living than ever before in history.

He advocates a design revolution in which everyone wins. He said this involves discovering and using universal principles. The first of these is synergy or the behavior of a system independent of the behavior of its parts. The second is specialization.

BUCKMINSTER FULLER: And talking about how we happen to be specialized, going back then the fact that we are born ignorant and helpless, we are going to observe wild horses, which are very complex, and every once in a while, a very big stallion is born. He didn't ask to be born bigger but he's just bigger. And there's an old bigger stallion and he has a battle right away. He takes on the young one and has a battle. And whichever one wins is the one that inseminates the herd.

And that's what Darwin was talking about, the way nature also then developed a drive, built-in drives by virtue of which the species would tend to be strengthened. The hardiest type would survive. I'm sure then early mammal man just as man being born absolutely ignorant and being born very hungry, every once in a while, a man is born much bigger than other guys. And being very big and quite strong and nobody knows much about how you get on, you're very ignorant.

So the big man can really-- has a longer reach. And the question is there not enough for two? Then for one, he's the one who gets it. So he finds that there's a big man already alive and he challenged the young big man to a battle. And whichever one becomes-- he becomes the local king. He's the one that everybody looks up to, who seems to have the most influence around it because he is the strongest. And we have them. Are they big ones?

Not quite as big as this new young big man who is the new king. And the other big ones say, I think I really could lick him. I'm a little smarter than he is, even though I'm not quite as big. And I'd like to take his job because he's the one who was going to eat the best. And he has everything his own way. So he's challenged. This young man is challenged by a number of these big fellas. And he finds that he can licks them. They don't come at him two at once because then they wouldn't be licking him, because the ego makes them come at him one at a time.

But he said, don't let two of those characters come at me at once because then I would be licked. But I realized the reason they're coming at me is because they each had ambition to be king, OK? Now divide and conquer becomes the most powerful kind of instinct of just the pure power structure. Nothing could be more so. That's fundamental. So we have this big man and he's been fighting a lot of these other guys and they said, well, we're very hungry now after all this fighting and you admit that I licked you and you admit that I licked you, so I'm king, OK?

OK? I'm King. Now we see all these people have been eating those mushrooms they die and they have been eating some of those berries. They die. But when the animal eat a thing that don't die, the animals discriminate and don't die and you kill the animal, then there's flesh and those who say-- and we find it very satisfying. So let us then reverse the divide and conquer and let's, a group of us men go out. This big animal by himself, I couldn't-- he'd lick me, but a group of us could lick him.

So they go hunting together and they eat fine. And they say, all right, all these animals here belong to these big guys here and all the other people eat roots. Now this is the way history opens up, you see? That's the story. The nobles and the king went hunting and did the fighting. And the other people had to make do with whatever roots there were.

Now I would then point out that the big man, biggest man says, I'd like you to stay around because I'd like you to-- because we have enemies that appear and other tribes appear. And I'd like to have you around here for the fighting. And I'd like you around for the hunting. But I'm going to make you duke. And I'm going to make you the Duke of Hill A and I'm going to make you the Duke of Hill B, but you boys stay good and far apart now. I'm going to have my spies watch out and be sure don't get together on me.

I have to be very frank with you, I understand that you are all ambitious to displace me. Now we have then the-- he's hunting and his fighting is going well now but every once in a while, there are a lot of little people around there. And every once in a while, there's a bright little one who begins to steal his things and makes trouble for him. So he said bring that character in and then he says, I'm going to cut your head off, the king says.

And the man said, better not because I understand the language of your enemy over the hill and you don't. And so the king says, you've got quite an idea there, so you'll report to me every day what my enemy is saying over the hill. And not only is your head going to stay on, but you're going to do something you never did before. You're going to eat every day. He's going to leave, so he says that's fine. And I'll check up on you every day. You have to check-- report to me every day. Now I ain't got to cut your head off and you say you better not because I know how to make better swords.

I understand metallurgy. I make better swords than anybody in the world. He says, all right, prove it to me. So you do. It's a beautiful sword. All right, you just make swords now. And you tell me I ain't going to cut your head off because you've been getting smarter. And he says, You better not cut it off because I understand arithmetic and mathematics and I can keep track of your accounts and you can't. I've been keeping track, and that's why I've been able to steal from you.


So he says, all right, you just do that mathematics and you're going to eat every day. And build those swords, you're going to eat every day. But you mind your business and you mind your business and you mind your business. I'm the only one who minds everybody's business. Is that good and clear?


So what he did was to take anybody who showed intellect and ingenuity and made them specialists. This way, you divide and conquer, you understand the physical divide and conquer. The intellectual divide and conquer was this way, the metaphysical. So then he then has such a beautiful group working for him now, all specialized. He overcomes all the enemies on the other sides of the hills. He got a big kingdom going.

Now he says, I'm getting pretty old and I got a young son here. I'd like him to take over. And I see you're getting very old in that language. I want you to teach somebody about that language--

ROSEMARY DAHLEN: At this point, Fuller was interrupted by a man in the audience who demanded to speak. When the man had been taken out, Fuller said both he and the protester wanted change but the design revolution could bring it about more quickly than shouting.

BUCKMINSTER FULLER: I'm sure this man has absolute conviction that he's doing exactly what he ought to do. But all I'm trying to get out is what are we all up against and how can we be effective? And I just don't think-- one of the things I learned long ago, if I'm going to be any use to my fellow man, number one, I'm not going to ask him to listen to me. I'm only going to talk to him when he asks me to talk to him. I think we really, really have to make some sense about that. And I'm certainly not trying to tell you I know what it's all about, but I am trying to do my best to explore and put together.

And I want to know then how it was that we got to be specialized. And I've got to telling you about the way then great kingdoms got up and going. And then the king said, because you have done quite well as a specialist and you've done well ass a specialist, I'd like to keep this going. I want you then to teach somebody else about that specialty of yours. And this is the way-- this is simply the basis of all of our educational system.

What I've given you now is a foundation of the university system, all the specialists. And so the specialists have all been turned into the intellectual men, turned into specialists. And the powerful man said, now you are so bright, I really am a little worried about you. And even though you're eating pretty regularly, I'm going to do something I'm not going to do with anybody else in my kingdom. I'm going to give you a tenure.



And I'm going to really give you a great honors. Now I don't want any of that poor applied science stuff. That's very cheap. I want you to be absolutely pure scientists and I want you to just lay eggs and never mind what I do with them. You know what I'm saying? This is the way the system is. So I'm simply saying to you, the specialization has come about as an inheritance from our early ignorance and the idea of the strong man wins.

And the strong man has been winning for a very long time. And that's one of the reasons why this boy then is excited because he feels that things have been very unfair and that you've got to-- he got to dare stand up and speak in public and he gets up his courage to do it. However, I'm confident that we are not going to change things just by words by themselves.

ROSEMARY DAHLEN: R Buckminster Fuller at the University of Minnesota's Earth Week. This is Rosemary Dahlen.


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