You are here

Geometry of Thinking for Sustainable Global Governance

Cognitive Implication of Synergetics (Part #1)

Produced in relation to The Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2010, organized by The Buckminster Fuller Institute, in support of the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems.

Systems as polyhedra
Challenge to comprehension
"Uprightness" and global geometry
Matrix representation of psychological types and their styles of categorization
Epistemological "body odour"
Self-reflexivity in global modelling
Integrating disagreement and dissent
Requisite variety of perspectives
Self-reflexivity through a "shadowy" dual
Keys to global governance "embedded" in synergetics as a meta-model
Implications for a "meta-model"
Cognitive engagement with globality
Challenge of cognitive geometry
Existential and experiential engagement with globality
Geometry as a metaphorical magic mirror of thinking
The secret within "Bucky's Ball"?

[Parts: Next | Last | All ] [Links: To-K | From-K | From-Kx | Refs ]


Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) is renowned for his innovations as designer, inventor and futurist. He is most widely known for his invention of the seemingly improbable geodesic dome. One of his key initiatives was the elaboration (in collaboration with E.J. Applewhite) of an understanding of synergetics (Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, 1975; and Synergetics 2: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, 1979). With his particular use of language and neologisms, he defined this as

A system of mensuration employing 60-degree vectorial coordination comprehensive to both physics and chemistry, and to both arithmetic and geometry, in rational whole numbers... Synergetics explains much that has not been previously illuminated... Synergetics follows the cosmic logic of the structural mathematics strategies of nature, which employ the paired sets of the six angular degrees of freedom, frequences, and vectorially economical actions and their multialternative, equieconomical action options... Synergetics discloses the excruciating awkwardness characterizing present-day mathematical treatment of the interrelationships of the independent scientific disciplines as originally occasioned by their mutual and separate lacks of awareness of the existence of a comprehensive, rational, coordinating system inherent in nature.

He was instrumental in encouraging a systemic global approach to use of energy and resources (Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1969) and the educational World Game which has now been developed into the Global Simulation Workshop (Thomas T. K. Zung, Buckminster Fuller Anthology for the New Millennium, 2002).

In what follows a distinction is made between Fuller's focus on:

  1. geometric and design innovations
  2. implications for use of energy and conservation of resources in a global context in the light of a systemic worldview underlying current approaches to sustainability
  3. cognitive implications associated with his philosophy and worldview
  4. existential implications

It is the last two emphases that are explored here, especially in the light of the expression "geometry of thinking" in the title of the two volumes of his magnum opus. Whilst his own interpretation of these may indeed be held to be implicit in that work and in other writings (I Seem to Be a Verb, 1970), most reference to his work focuses on the first and second emphases. It is the second emphasis that is typically the inspiration for proposals submitted to the annual Buckminster Fuller Challenge of the The Buckminster Fuller Institute "in support of the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems".

The argument in what follows is that it is the cognitive and existential implications from which the more tangible, material proposals emerge -- however much their understanding is conditioned by evident design constraints. It is these intangible factors that hold the key to understanding why psychosocial systems have proven to be more than inadequate in designing viable global responses to global challenges -- sustainable in their own right rather than as idealistic proposals for global sustainability. In this sense the more tangible preoccupations are secondary and derivative -- however viable and successful they may be as isolated initiatives, typically presented together as a list, rather than systemically configured.

There is therefore a case for exploring Fuller's Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking as though it might indeed concern what the words imply -- but in the light of richer understandings of psychology, epistemology and ecological philosophy than are evident in his writings. What might the "geometry of thinking" then imply if understood in this way?

The argument here follows from a long-term interest in the psychosocial implications of the design principle developed by Fuller and underlying the geodesic dome, namely that of tensional integrity (tensegrity). This permits the construction of structures with an integrity based on a synergy between balanced tension and compression components. These implications are discussed in a set of documents, most notably From Networking to Tensegrity Organization (1984). A particular interest is the possibility of enabling virtual organizations and conceptual structures through web technology ***. Such possibilities have been explored to some degree by management cybernetician Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute: the invention of team syntegrity, 1994).

d_Beer">Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute: the invention of team syntegrity, 1994).

[Parts: Next | Last | All ] [Links: To-K | From-K | From-Kx | Refs ]