THE WORLD PEACE GAME
“Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”
Such ideas of Buckminster Fuller’s were not utopian fantasies, but realizable projects that are taken seriously, at least at Southern Illinois University, where Fuller held one of his more lasting positions as a research professor – a position that enabled him to work outside the usual faculties and to develop interdisciplinary projects, such as his program for managing the earth. What students needed to learn was, he believed, the art of ‘World Planning’, and he initiated a series of interdisciplinary courses covering the economic, technological, and scientific aspects of world planning. In his curriculum, Fuller emphasized that ‘The design scientist would not be concerned exclusively with the seat of a tractor but [with] the whole concept of production and distribution of food’.
The media theorist Gene Youngblood, an early advocate of the World Game, called it ‘technoanarchy’, a bottom-up, decentralised experiment to repurpose computational and communicational technologies for human benefit. Time will tell how Fuller’s vision – or any other – will save the planet and keep Earth on course.
Fuller’s 1964 World [Peace] Game proposal to the United States Information Agency was his most inspired attempt to overcome that impasse. By directly involving the people who could enact the results of gameplay, he cast the world game as a political system, a completely democratic alternative to voting in which people collectively played out potential solutions to shared problems. Granted, he never articulated it in those terms. He was too deeply invested in anti-political rhetoric. (“War is the ultimate tool of politics,” he wrote with characteristic zeal in his 1967 manifesto, Utopia or Oblivion .) Nor was there any chance of implementation by a governmental organization chartered to promote the national interest. His world game depended on “desovereignization,” a point he illustrated with a vivid military metaphor. “We have today, in fact, 150 supreme admirals and only one ship— Spaceship Earth,” he wrote in Critical Path . “We have the 150 admirals in their 150 staterooms each trying to run their respective stateroom as if it were a separate ship.” Those supreme admirals embodied geopolitics for Fuller, and his world game was indeed an alternative to their warring— or might have been if only he had a global platform.
The platform he got was more parochial. At the New York Studio School, there were no world leaders or computers. Instead, over a six-week period in the summer of 1969, Fuller assembled twenty--six college students from sixteen disciplines–including biology, anthropology, and physics–to game the greatest problems facing the world.
“I think all the world is on its way to world citizenship. Just in my lifetime, I have noticed my pattern of yearly travel is increasing in range and velocity. I now find my life one in which I literally live around the earth. Now then, if man’s great function in the universe is that of anti-entropy, then I would say that all his functioning I have given you is anti-entropic, which was really powerful and has to do with formulations of the mind, none of which are weighable. Therefore, they are entirely metaphysical.“-Buckminster Fuller, WORLD MAN (October 5, 1966)
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