I have discussed, on occasion, my obsession with used bookstores; my habit of making a weekly circuit. It was in a used bookstore that I discovered my first worn copy of "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth", a book that changed my thinking, my process and, my life. Recently, I found one of my copies of the book and began reading. As I turned each page a greater and greater recognition of myself in his words welled up in me. It had been so long since I had last read the book, I'd forgotten where so much of what informed my world view had come from. It was nice to be reminded, and even nicer to be reminded that such a dearth of knowledge exists in such a compact book. I was so pleased by the end of reading I decided that this work was something that everyone in the world needed to read. Everyone. Not just science fiction writers. Every human should buy a copy and dedicate one afternoon to seeing what Fuller has to say. He starts out by talking about the lack of critical thought in America and how this is shaping discourse. This was published in 1969. What do you imagine this shortcoming in American thinking has lead to 50 years later? Then he talks about the unnatural state of overspecialization. This is still a highly controversial idea. I'm of the mind that some people are simply suited to specializing and others are more suited to polymathy. Just like some people are suited to tactical thinking and others are more suited to strategic thinking. That said, there are still merits to Fuller's point. Specialization does allow small groups to control the masses. How can a single person control the means of their own production if they only know how one part of their process functions. A more wholistic view is more likely to generate more freedom for the individual in terms of how he applies his labor and for how much. In subsequent sections, Fuller goes on to talk about climate change and global poverty. On the one hand, I am completely in awe of how cogent an argument he makes in 1969, and on the other hand, I am baffled by the number of people who espouse the same ideas without understanding that they aren't new. More importantly, Fuller takes a reasoned, factual, and scientific approach to explain some of the ills that beset man. This is the part I find most appealing about his work. I honestly believe that if every human read this book, much of the political divisiveness in this country would simply evaporate.
One final thought regarding Fuller: In 1927, at the age of 32, he almost leaped from a cliff into Lake Michigan and killed himself. Being unemployed and penniless, with a family, it was his hope that his wife would benefit from his life insurance policy. At the last moment, he changed his mind. He believed there was some possibility, no matter how remote, that his experience and knowledge could somehow benefit humanity. He went on to hold 28 patents and eventually invented the geodesic dome. He gave countless speeches at institutions around the world and has authored dozens of books and essays. If he had never done anything other than write "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth", his contribution to the public's way of thinking would have been enormous. READ this book. I've provided a link to a free copy below. It's on the UCLA website so I expect it is currently available under creative commons. However, I also recommend purchasing the book. And not just purchase, SHARE. Share the link. Lend the book to someone. This knowledge and way of thinking holds the key to stemming a very great and evil tide that is upon us.
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth