Saturday, June 19, 2021

CALL ME TRIMTAB: a brief introduction to Buckminster Fuller

Bucky's grave in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Massachussetts

Richard Buckminster Fuller is best known as the inventor of the geodesic dome. He also introduced concepts like synergy, syntropy, dymaxion, omnidimensionality, regenerative intertransformations and Whole Systems into our vocabulary and developed the World Game in 1961 to encourage us to aim for win-win instead of win-lose scenarios. 

Described as a "genial genius" Fuller was a humble soul who preferred to be addressed simply as Bucky. He described himself as a Comprehensivist - the antidote to overspecialization. He insisted that his epitaph read: CALL ME TRIMTAB. 

During a brief stint in the Navy, Bucky observed that a massive ship could be made to change course through the slightest movement of the trimtab - a tiny flap attached to the rudder which minimized the use of energy to effect maximal change of direction. Bucky saw himself serving as a trimtab, quietly unlearning erroneous beliefs inherited from culture and tradition and imagining a holistic vision of a world that works for everyone - not just a tiny handful at the top of the power pyramid.

Each individual who dares to dream the impossible, to strive for meaning and purpose in his or her own life, ultimately becomes a trimtab, with the potential to alter the evolutionary destiny of an entire species.


Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, perhaps Bucky’s most popular book, was published in 1969. He likened the planet to an ecosystemically designed vessel with everything required for the human crew and passengers to successfully traverse space and time while consciously evolving into planetary and galactic citizens. He noted, however, that Spaceship Earth appeared to have been hijacked by pirates with little understanding of the technical workings and even less of conserving resources. Eternal optimist that he was, Bucky was certain that ultimately common sense would prevail and that even the most recalcitrant among us would choose wisdom (livingry) over folly (killingry).


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