What Blockchain Can Be taught from One Man’s Try to Save the World – Cointelegraph Journal

You by no means change issues by combating the prevailing actuality. To vary one thing, construct a brand new mannequin that makes the prevailing mannequin out of date.”

R. Buckminster Fuller


The world is beset by depraved issues. 

Attributable to their scale, complexity, interconnectedness, and the persistent lack of knowledge which makes it troublesome for us to see all of their aspects and implications, depraved issues solid a big shadow on the world. 

These embody local weather change, meals safety, poverty, politics, economics, healthcare, pandemic flu, nuclear weapons, waste, and lots of others. How can we even try to take care of problems with such epic scope? All through human historical past, we’ve relied on a mix of know-how and social coordination to drive our success as a species. However what know-how, and what social construction? 

In his groundbreaking e-book The Construction of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn originated the phrase paradigm shift to explain the historic progress of science and know-how. Main shifts in consensus pondering don’t occur simply, as novel concepts that essentially problem the norm are sometimes met with fierce resistance by the keepers of the established order earlier than they’re generally accepted after additional research and discourse. And so it goes. 

A key section of technological or scientific change is the disaster interval wherein consensus thought or design is unable to take care of anomalies or failures throughout the present paradigm, thus permitting a brand new paradigm to achieve traction and even take its place. Typically, disaster is solely the conclusion of issues as they really are. The Copernican Revolution, for instance, perpetually modified our understanding of our place within the cosmos.    

There are an rising quantity of people that imagine that cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain information infrastructure will inevitably launch a financial revolution and catalyze international political and financial change. In any case, the cryptocurrency paradigm was cast within the crucible of the 2008 monetary disaster with the arrival of Bitcoin and the promise of a monetary system “based mostly on cryptographic proof slightly than belief.” 

Nonetheless, as a substitute of revolutionary world change we obtained a decade plus of unbelievable wealth switch vastly disproportionate to its precise social influence. Can the crypto financial system mature earlier than it repeats the sins of the previous and easily turns into a stranger breed of central banking? Will or not it’s co-opted and cannibalized by the institution?

World-changing for the higher requires fixing depraved issues, however blockchain know-how isn’t an island; it would require a dedication to alter that’s plain and irresistible.

A humanitarian technologist from the 20th century who launched into his personal scientific revolution to assist steer humanity in the direction of a greater future embodies a few of the classes for the blockchain trade. He gives a compelling narrative for an trade searching for to create significant systemic change; he developed a singular methodology that would profit blockchain growth and implementation; and but his story is a cautionary story for a self-identifying tech revolution which believes in its personal inevitability. 

The Leonardo Da Vinci of the 20th Century

Born in 1895, Buckminster Fuller was an inventor, architect, engineer, methods thinker, futurist, and self-proclaimed “complete anticipatory design scientist” who labored tirelessly over the course of his profession to construct the methods obligatory to alleviate human struggling and supply for the fundamental survival wants of everybody on the planet. Depraved issues, certainly. His hope was to set in movement a globally coordinated effort to make the world work for everybody in it inside a brand new technological paradigm which he known as a “design science revolution.” 

“Technologically we now have 4 billion billionaires on board Spaceship Earth who’re solely unaware of their success. Unbeknownst to them their legacy is being held in probate by common ignorance, worry, selfishness, and a myriad of paralyzing skilled, licensing, zoning, constructing legal guidelines and the like, as bureaucratically maintained by the incumbent energy buildings.

R. Buckminster Fuller, Important Path


After a 1927 awakening expertise, Fuller totally dedicated himself to designing different methods for significant world change utilizing a primary ideas method to tackling depraved issues akin to useful resource shortage, shelter, transportation, and power poverty. Fuller understood that to be able to clear up these issues, we should first have the ability to see them. 

Fuller’s obsession with information and info, to see issues as they are surely, pervades his work. From the age of 12 to his dying at age 88, he maintained what could be the most documented document of a person’s life which he dubbed the “Chronofile.” Each letter, reference, and thought painstakingly rendered in an archive of 737 volumes of 300-400 pages every. To Fuller, the satan (and maybe God) was within the particulars.  

Early in his journey, Fuller realized that a lot of the battle all through human historical past was rooted within the mismanagement of shortage. He rejected the economist Thomas Malthus’s influential concept that human progress will inevitably exceed the productive capability of the earth, leading to atrocities akin to battle and famine if strict inhabitants controls aren’t applied. 

He was additionally essential of the enduring pressure of Social Darwinism that arose when everybody from enterprise magnates to world leaders misconstrued Darwin’s unique idea of evolution to imply that solely the sturdy will survive, with competitors prevailing over cooperation in any respect turns. Fuller noticed each of those world views as false justifications for infinite cycles of violence and different zero-sum video games. 

Fuller noticed all this as a basic design drawback. A radical reengineering of society with exact data and allocation of the world’s assets may enable us to attain equilibrium on this pale blue dot and permit us to reclaim our “planetary fairness” — an final egalitarian imaginative and prescient of the long run. 

One in all Fuller’s psychological fashions was to view our planet as an exploratory house vessel with billions of crew members working with restricted assets, which he known as Starship Earth



Fuller typically used this framework to deal with international issues round useful resource allocation and sustainable power provide. How can we preserve the life help methods of Starship Earth (power provide, meals provide, shelter, and many others.) such that nobody is excluded? How can we notice a post-scarcity world? 

Instruments for a Design Science Revolution

Whereas a full exegesis of Fuller’s work is past the scope of this text, you will need to outline his reasoning and methodology and describe a few of his “artifacts,” innovations which have been simply as a lot a conduit of concepts as they have been purposeful objects. 


A typical thread all through Fuller’s work is his propensity towards entire methods pondering, which is the holistic evaluation of complicated methods as an interrelated community of particular person elements wherein the components can’t be correctly analyzed to the exclusion of the entire. Fuller known as this mind-set “synergetics.” By taking a holistic view, we are able to higher perceive how our essential methods truly work and account for any externalities that may in any other case go unnoticed (labor circumstances, air pollution, and many others.). This can be a basic precept that Fuller used to know depraved issues. 


A portmanteau of “dynamic”, “most”, and “stress”, Fuller used the time period “dymaxion” to determine his numerous innovations, from housing to transportation. He outlined dymaxion as being on the coronary heart of a mission to attain “most achieve of benefit from minimal power enter.” This obsessive pursuit of eliminating waste in society, to enhance the standard of life for all, was Fuller’s raison d’être. 


Fuller outlined ephemeralization as our capability “to do increasingly more with much less and fewer till finally you are able to do all the pieces with nothing.” This has typically been in contrast with Moore’s regulation, which states that the processing energy of computer systems doubles roughly each two years as extra transistors may be constructed onto an built-in circuit, thus enabling computer systems to progressively do extra with much less. 

Geodesic Dome

The Geodesic dome is maybe Fuller’s most recognizable invention. The core concept behind a geodesic system is to equally distribute energy and stress inside a bodily system to take care of structural integrity with no central basis. The geodesic mannequin may be utilized past bodily structure to fields akin to economics, biology, and even international monetary networks (extra on this later). 


Buckminster Fuller Geodesic Dome

The Montreal Biosphère, previously the American Pavilion of Expo 67, by R. Buckminster Fuller, on Île Sainte-Hélène, Montreal, Quebec / Eberhard von Nellenburg – Artistic Commons


The World Recreation 

“World Recreation comprehensively particulars that which particular person people should do to understand whole success for all and accomplish that throughout the essential time restrict, earlier than humanity passes the purpose of no return en path to self-extinction.”

R. Buckminster Fuller, Important Path


In 1969, Fuller kickstarted a globally-coordinated analysis and growth effort he known as the World Recreation. The mission assertion was a query: 

“How can we make the world work for 100% of humanity within the shortest attainable time by way of spontaneous cooperation with out ecological harm or drawback to anybody?” 

An antithesis to the “battle video games” performed by the world’s militaries in anticipation of armed battle, the World Recreation was an effort to deal with the world’s depraved issues by shifting human ingenuity from creating instruments of “weaponry” to instruments of “livingry.” 

Whereas he initially undertook the World Recreation with associates “longhand” i.e. by way of laborious telephone calls, paperwork, and visits to data clearing homes, Fuller early on realized that such a course of would have to be performed “shorthand”, automated with the usage of computer systems. Again when the earliest conception of the Web was barely a glimpse in ARPA’s eye and entry to mainframe computer systems was costly, Fuller envisioned a “world-around, satellite-relayed, and world-integrated laptop accounting system” for the exact, real-time administration of the world’s assets. 

One of many profound conclusions of the World Recreation within the twenty years it was performed was the need of a globally-connected power grid. 

The proposed planetary accounting system can be built-in with the power community and facilitate a digital forex denominated in kilowatt-hours, a world forex past borders tied on to the productive capability of the earth slightly than the whim of central bankers. 

The World Recreation was meant to be a persistent R&D initiative that may produce the mandatory methods for fixing depraved issues that incumbent energy buildings are unable or unwilling to deal with. 

So what occurred to Fuller’s design science revolution? 

It by no means occurred. Or slightly, it has not occurred but.

In his final e-book, Important Path, Fuller predicted that the design science revolution to make the world work for everybody in it could be in full impact by 1989 and positioned the edge for efficient implementation of planetary accounting on the yr 2000. 

Whereas Fuller’s affect may be discerned in areas such because the renewable power sector, his successors put aside the rhetoric of world-changing revolution and changed it with the promise of power effectivity and value advantages to make it extra palatable within the market. 

It seems that saving the world struggles with product-market match. Sound acquainted? 

Now, what can the blockchain trade study from the design science revolution that by no means got here to cross? 

Adapting Crypto’s Narrative for World Change

Probably the most highly effective social methods on the planet are held collectively by a shared story of how issues are and the way issues ought to be: religions, politics, enterprise. Equally, know-how actions are additionally pushed by narrative. 

The free and open-source software program motion was efficient not solely as a result of it produced unbelievable software program that contended with the cathedrals of centralized, company growth but in addition as a result of it was pushed by a shared imaginative and prescient of a extra democratic and egalitarian future realized by open entry to know-how. It gave builders a North Star to information them within the face of adversity and uncertainty, even when that direction was uncodified

Over time, the fashionable cryptocurrency motion has been pushed by a core set of narratives which intend to provide the know-how that means. The waxing and waning of those narratives point out that the trade continues to be attempting to cement its id and function, to search out its seat on the international desk. 

The early years of Bitcoin, for instance, have been pushed by a name to motion to “Finish the Fed” with the specified results of upending the fiat banking system and the state together with it. This story is sort of bold and nonetheless prevalent amongst the crypto neighborhood. 

Fuller was there first. 

A long time earlier than the invention of public-key cryptography and earliest experiments in digital money, Fuller envisioned an entire reengineering of the worldwide financial system facilitated by a synchronized accounting system built-in with a world power community. The US greenback, the worldwide reserve forex since WWII, would get replaced by an energy-backed digital forex system denominated in kilowatt-hours, minutes, and seconds. 

Value discovery out there can be expressed in kilowatt-hours for the reason that common accounting system may issue within the exact quantity of power (or work) that went into the manufacturing of every particular person operate or merchandise. Fuller believed that such a “time-energy world accounting system” may put off unreliable financial methods topic to the manipulation and whims of the bankers and governments that oversee the central mints. World finance might be tied intrinsically to manufacturing and fewer prone to exploitation and rampant hypothesis. 



Additionally, each particular person on the planet would have the ability to see his or her share of planetary fairness by way of the usage of “pocket-computer bank cards.” 

Fuller made it clear that such a system would want to exist exterior the constraints of current energy buildings. As he writes in Important Path:

“There may be no planetary fairness till all of the sovereign nations are abolished and now we have however one accounting system–that of the one household of people aboard Spaceship Earth.” 

Each Fuller’s motion and (arguably) the crypto trade have to date failed to achieve important traction. Why? 

For probably the most half, any proposed system of world-change constructed with eschatological overtones akin to that posited by Fuller (and presumably the cypherpunk narrative for Bitcoin) shall be met by extreme resistance by not solely the powers-that-be but in addition the very folks these actions are attempting to save lots of. 

As Morpheus tells Neo in The Matrix

“You need to perceive, most of those individuals are not able to be unplugged. And lots of of them are so inured, so hopelessly depending on the system, that they’ll combat to guard it.” 

There’s an extremely unsettling paradox in world-changing endeavors in that radical propositions may be perceived as “too early” or “forward of their time” when in actual fact the depraved issues in query are too extreme to attend for mainstream adoption. The important thing query right here is that this: how can we roll out the methods obligatory for dealing with crises earlier than we discover ourselves throughout the crucible of 1 (or many)? It’s a query that appears extra related than ever as we dwell by way of pandemics, social unrest, and the rise of authoritarianism.

To begin, the blockchain trade can undertake the mindset of Fuller’s World Recreation: “to make the world work for 100% of humanity within the shortest attainable time by way of spontaneous cooperation with out ecological harm or drawback to anybody.” Not solely may the blockchain trade use its appreciable assets to advance the World Recreation or some comparable initiative, it may additionally proceed utilizing Fuller’s core ideas. 

Blockchain: The Geodesic Dome of World Finance?

From April 1998 to December 1999, monetary cryptography advocate and Cypherpunk Robert Hettinga wrote a series of articles that explored how a brand new type of accounting utilizing a digital bearer transaction settlement protocol (what we’d now name a blockchain) may create highly effective, decentralized capital markets with a community topology much like Fuller’s iconic Geodesic dome. This new period of worldwide, borderless, peer-to-peer monetary know-how would enable us to not solely correctly replace current monetary devices for the Web age but in addition notice experimental and unique methods.

Whereas Hettinga was an enthusiastic proponent of this disruptive change to the worldwide monetary order, he was cautious of the nonsensical merchandise that would come up just because they have been now attainable (“gold-denominated Burmese opium futures”). 

Quick ahead twenty years and there’s no scarcity of gold-denominated Burmese opium futures within the blockchain house. Whereas the precept of doing “increasingly more with much less and fewer” defines Fuller’s work, the trade seems to lack readability on the place capital and expertise should be allotted for the larger good. 

The ICO craze of 2017-2018 was an unbelievable show of wealth switch (actually billions of {dollars}) with little-to-no social influence. If the ethos of the World Recreation have been to grow to be a tenet for the blockchain trade, then all market members (the builders, traders, and shoppers) must stare into the abyss of worth technology and are available to phrases with what stares again. 

The framework of triple bottom line accounting (TBL), which elements in not solely income but in addition environmental and social influence, has been round for many years, but there nonetheless isn’t a typical protocol which establishments can undertake to correctly maintain themselves to account.

Blockchain, as a credibly-neutral system for monitoring commerce, may spur adoption of TBL with the lure of exponential effectivity good points by way of cryptographically safe and verifiable transaction data, and international worth settlement. Whereas this appears comparatively benign and non-revolutionary, the long run prospect of such a development would bode properly for the worldwide high quality of life. 

Think about an open-source model of Fuller’s Geoscope with a protocol stack consisting of digital Dymaxion maps, blockchain-based synchronized accounting of company and regional provide chains, and machine studying for simulating developments in markets, pure phenomena, and useful resource administration. 

Such a tool can be a technological Holy Grail that may safe crypto’s function throughout the working system of humanity, a basic software for fixing depraved issues. 

Blockchain, in brief, may assist rebalance the ledger of Spaceship Earth. 

“After I’m engaged on an issue, I by no means take into consideration magnificence. I feel solely learn how to clear up the issue. However when I’ve completed, if the answer will not be stunning, I do know it’s mistaken.”

R. Buckminster Fuller


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