Got a Big Idea? Take the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for 100K
“Revolution by design and invention is the only revolution tolerable to all men, all societies, and all political systems anywhere. Every nation welcomed the invention of the airplane, and refrigeration.” - R. Buckminster Fuller, Utopia or Oblivion: the prospects for humanity 
When imagining what the world might be like in one hundred years, it is useful to remember how radically different the world was just a hundred years ago. In 1913, vitamins were just being discovered, stainless steel was invented, and the first electric refrigerator for home use was sold. It would be years before anyone owned a radio.
R. Buckminster Fuller, one of the most visionary thinkers and inventors of the 20th century, was convinced that the history of humans aboard “Spaceship Earth” is best understood by charting our scientific discoveries, inventions and resources. In doing so, we are also able to identify trends useful in anticipating future developments and needs.
Bucky was ahead of his time. As early as 1917, his research disclosed an “accelerating acceleration” of technological evolution with a clear trend of “doing ever more with ever less”. An ever-increasing number of inventions were rapidly transforming and shrinking the world, while vastly improving the standards of living of increasing numbers of people. He saw this increasing ability to support life as the true measure of “wealth” and realized that for the first time in history, humans had the ability “to make the world work for 100% of humanity,” but only if the focus of technological development shifted from "weaponry to livingry."
This realization led him to commit his life to developing a vast range of “life-protecting and supporting” designs. He is best known for inventing his Dymaxion house (1927), car (1933), map (1943), and most famously geodesic domes (1948). However, his most lasting impact may be his tireless encouragment of others, particularly younger generations, to think about global problems and seek design solutions. He was an early advocate of whole system thinking, renewable energy sources and a pioneer in sustainability. In the 1960s and 70s, he developed the World Game with students as a tool for exploring “design science” solutions “to provide a higher standard of living for all of humanity…on a continually sustainable basis for all generations to come.”
The annual Buckminster Fuller Challenge carries on his legacy and “design science revolution” by awarding $100,000 to support the development of sustainable comprehensive, anticipatory design solutions for critical problems now facing our planet. The call for entries to this year’s challenge opens March 1st. Recommending projects is welcome.
Idea photo via Shutterstock