Synergetics: Buckminster Fuller Revival

Peter JonesDialogic Design, Innovation, Transformation Design

Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently held the Synergetics conference, a symposium revival of Buckminster Fuller’s work, faculty, and former students at his last major home institution. Invited speakers included former Design students and faculty Bill Lunderman (Colgate) and Larry Busch.

Invited speakers included me, Jennifer Rice (Fruitful Strategy),  and Steelcase’s Melissa DeSota.  Keynote was Thomas Zung, Fuller’s architect collaborator and archivist. This year they are also saving domes and putting a large one up at his former residence, and recovering his legacies. placing our current sustainability thinking in line with his lifelong dream of a world that works for everyone.

A slide in my talk  Collaborating for Complexity credits Fuller as the first philosopher of Thrivability, the reach beyond sustainability that we strive for in socially systemic innovation.

In Critical Path Fuller said:

“The success of all humanity can be accomplished only by a terrestrially comprehensive, technologically competent, design revolution. This revolution must develop artifacts where energy-use efficiency not only occasions the artifacts’ spontaneous adoption by humanity, but also occasions the inadvertent, unregretted abandonment and permanent obsolescence of socially and economically undesirable viewpoints, customs and practices.”

Fuller always pushed the boundaries of the possible and created the models and technology to  prove his points.  He would have been unimpressed with the progress we are collectively (not) making on global sustainability for human habitation, ecology, and economy.  The conference also engaged participants directly in cluster groups to work directly on product development sustainability exercises (rethinking emergency shelter, consumer electronics, and mobility). An exciting diversity of creative thinking was brought to the 2 half-day sessions, and as I left Friday afternoon the conference was still in full gear. The real treasure of a small engaged conference like this was the ability to really meeting and converse with people from so many other design backgrounds than mine.