Critical Path Analysis
by R. Buckminster Fuller

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Critical Path Analysis

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

The selfless, high-minded, almost spiritual pursuit of science and technology for the betterment of mankind has been the lifelong activity of Buckminster Fuller. He had unquestioning faith that it can be the lifetime activity of all humanity because of the natural benevolence of man and his continually evolving rational mind. He presents arguments proposing that technology is the vehicle by which such success may be attained. Technology can, in fact, overcome the king-of-the-hill order of social groups—most important, of governments. Rulers, he suggests, hold power through skill, wit, and brawn which create fear in the masses.

He further believes that rulers maintain power by encouraging specialization among bright people. Such specialists are thereby kept apart and cannot gather sufficient power themselves because of their very separation and narrow focus. Yet since human beings become actively aggressive only when “what they have relied on is no longer working,” it follows that if they are given enough material goods and are offered enough opportunities to help their fellowman, they will become peaceful, and the avariciousness inherent in national governments will dissolve. Such satisfaction of human needs is achieved through technology. This thesis has been praised for its originality by Guy Murchie and dismissed by James Traub, who claimed that Fuller “wanders off the deep end of optimism.”

Fuller willingly acknowledges that prognostication is a subjective science. Still, he predicts a startlingly provocative critical path for humanity based on synergy, the union of several scientific systems, which, when united, create a sum greater than the parts. Fuller consistently attempts to step back and gain broader perspectives in order to explain existence.

He combines technology with other disciplines to produce artifacts that will induce proper behavior in mankind, all of which are dependent upon already existing technologies. He suggests a world energy network so that the nations of the world can share the same system fairly and equitably. This, he asserts, will be in full operation, thanks to computers, by the end of the 1980’s. His confidence in computers and video equipment for home instruction is enormous. He predicts that home video and computer equipment will be the source of a highly educated and trained populace, since the only real education is self-education. Furthermore, this population may anticipate a career requiring only 35,200 hours of lifetime production during a total of 13.5 years because of the efficiency of a world organization for society.

Fuller also unhesitatingly addresses the question of why man was created. He believes it is self-evident that actions and creations on Earth can never be considered unnatural, only unfamiliar. If nature permits a substance or an organism to exist on Earth, it must therefore be considered natural, never synthetic. Man, then, functions as a part of nature. His purpose in nature may be exemplified in his tilling of the soil, raising animals, creating art, inventing technology. He is intended by God to be “primarily syntropic,” that is, to conserve, produce, support, and regenerate through his generous and compassionate propensities. Ephemeralization operates to this end. Still, Fuller laments that big religious, industrial, or ideological interests are corrupting influences. He offers his proposals for the industrialization of Brazil, commissioned in 1943, as an example of ways to improve conditions for a large portion of the world’s population.

The final portion of Critical Path is a determination of the order in which to begin using the various...

(The entire section is 847 words.)