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GOOD Guide: R. Buckminster Fuller (4 of 6)

Guinea Pigs and Billionaires: Underpinning all of Fuller's work was the steady hum of optimism.

Fuller devoted his life to exploring one question: What can one average man do to change the world? He called himself "Guinea Pig B" (the "B" is for Bucky). His was "an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively of behalf of all humanity."Underpinning all of his work was the steady hum of optimism. Studying 19th-century philosophers like Malthus, he concluded that they had gotten it wrong: Mankind wasn't "an inherent failure." In fact, we were becoming an inherent success. He believed we could use human ingenuity and existing resources to solve global problems, as long as we committed "egocide." "Selfishness", he declared, "is unnecessary and … unrationalizable. … War is obsolete."Fuller was one of the first thinkers to publicly identify the global crisis of unbalanced resources that remains today. He set out to put that imbalance right by inventing models for efficiency based on nature. His motto was: "Do more with less." He firmly believed that technological advances, if applied correctly, could allocate and manage the world's resources in such a way that every member of the human race could live the luxurious life of a billionaire. "Technologically," Fuller wrote in 1981, "we now have four billion billionaires onboard Spaceship Earth who are entirely unaware of their good fortune."


Geodesic DomeAn enclosure composed of self-bracing triangles, the geodesic dome is the only man-made structure that becomes proportionally stronger as it increases in size. No other form of enclosure covers so much area without internal supports. Fuller hoped to eventually create a geodesic membrane as sensitive and adaptable as human skin.BuckminsterfullereneAlso known as a "Buckyball," this highly unusual carbon molecule is distinguished by a triangulated surface like the geodesic dome. Buckyballs are being researched for their potential to be used as superconductors, lubricants, synthetic diamonds, a rocket propellant, and an AIDS vaccine, as well as countless other applications. The scientists who discovered it (and named it in Fuller's honor) were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

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