"Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" (Book-Based Topic)

Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society
Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society
Public group

Classic Cake Bakery & Cafe

1617 John F Kennedy Blvd (One Penn Center/Suburban Station) · Philadelphia, PA

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Entrance near the NW corner of JFK Blvd & 16th ST. Enter Classic Cake, go through cafe to the lobby. Use the 4 tables near restrooms. The accessible entrance is through the door to the left of Classic Cake on JFK. If locked use the building phone.

Location image of event venue


In R. Buckminster Fuller's compact, accessible book "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth", published 50 years ago in 1969, we are invited to reimagine humanity's role in Universe from a cosmic perspective. Our group conversation will focus on the main line of argument in the book. Namely, the importance of comprehensivity, the realization that our Spaceship did not come with an operating manual, the realization that general systems theory, cybernetics, and synergetics provide insights into global industrialization and the vast wealth it has produced, and the realization that we and our Spaceship are part of a regenerative landscape, an evolutionary process.

"We have not been seeing our Spaceship Earth as an integrally-designed
machine which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and
serviced in total." — R. Buckminster Fuller in "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth"

● What is the problem with over-specialization?

● Is comprehensive thinking, comprehensivity, desirable? Is it possible? Is it innately human?

● What is the significance of the fact that Spaceship Earth came with no instruction book?

● Does our comprehensivity require us to start our thinking with Universe including both its physical and metaphysical components? Why? Why not?

● What other aspects of comprehensive, synergetic, and general systems thinking seem to you important?

● What is the purpose of humans in Universe? What is wealth? And what does it have to do with our function in Universe?

● What is the role of global industrialization?

● What is meant by the concept of the regenerative landscape (Chapter 8)? Is that the same idea as comprehensively commanded automation (Chapter 3)?

● How does comprehensivity, synergy, general systems theory, comprehensively commanded automation, humanity's integral functions, and the regenerative landscape combine to explain the purpose of humans in Universe? What do you like and dislike about this vision of humanity's role in the Universe?

Notes on reading the book: Many of Bucky's assertions will seem wrong at first. Indeed, there are interpretations of some passages which are, in fact, not true. However, I would submit that when seen from the right perspective, each of his statements is at least partially true (modulo a few factual errors such as "Reiman" which should be Riemann and who was German not Hindu).

Bucky's writing has a poetic quality: the full meaning cannot be grasped by looking just at what is said, but it evokes, if you work at it by thinking through many possible interpretations, a deeper integrated meaning that is worth considering. It is a visionary account attempting to evoke a new way of perceiving and conceiving of our relationship with Universe, not a collection of assertions subject to a mere factual analysis. So I invite you to exercise your imaginative faculties to see each idea from a perspective in which you can recognize at least a hint of truth. Strive to identify the perspective the author is inviting you to consider.

For a first reading, I recommend trying to glimpse Bucky's world view, to see if and how his big picture approach has some intriguing insights temporarily setting aside those places where you think he is off base. If you are interested in a deeper dive, read it multiple times using the methods of a hermeneutic circle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutic_circle).

This copy of "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" is a 44 page PDF (the PDF is missing at least one image and two formulas): http://designsciencelab.com/resources/OperatingManual_BF.pdf

Here is a web-based copy: https://web.archive.org/web/20041028062223/http://www.futurehi.net/docs/OperatingManual.html

Another web-based copy: https://web.archive.org/web/20100717141812/http://bfi.org/about-bucky/resources/books/operating-manual-spaceship-earth

Wikipedia has a summary of the book at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_Manual_for_Spaceship_Earth