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Mini Book Review: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller

This is an odd little book. Parts of it are easy to read and understand. Other parts are very dense, language-wise and content-wise, and hard to comprehend. Some parts seem overly optimistic, while others are very pessimistic. There are passages that have me nodding along in agreement and sections that make me question the author's sanity.

With the latter, I'm mainly referring to the bit about what Buckminster Fuller calls the "Great Pirates". These, as I understand it, were the real rulers of the world for a large part of human history, from the advent of sailing boats to about the first World War. Conveniently, they lived in secrecy and so, since they died out, we cannot find any direct evidence of them ever having existed. It's only the structure of our society and political systems that was influenced by them, and some oddities of said system, like the reliance on and importance of gold as the foundation of monetary systems and wealth, that can be traced back to them. At least by the author. As a reader, this sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy theory, if not paranoia, to me.

In the optimistic parts, Buckminster Fuller comes to the conclusion that humanity could easily support each and every human being currently living on this planet, i.e. end world hunger and poverty. If only we would get rid of the remains of the system left to us by the Great Pirates (amongst other things).

In the pessimistic parts, he poses an interesting theory: For most of human existence on the planet, mistakes that the human race made, in big or in small terms, didn't really matter. There was enough of a buffer in the entire system of Spaceship Earth so that humanity could still survive. This buffer, or margin for error, is getting smaller. Meaning that we cannot afford to make huge mistakes in our development any longer or risk extinction. Which made me think of global warming. Did we run over the margin of error there? Can we recover from our mistakes? Or is that the beginning of the end of humanity? The current trend back towards ideas and concepts that we thought were starting to become less and less important, such as nationality and territorial claims, and a general "me/us first" attitude makes me further question the direction humanity is taking.

The book feels like the author has an important message for the reader, but it doesn't quite get through. I guess it has to be re-read a few times to really grasp the more dense chapters. Maybe then the message can be understood.

Creative Commons Licence "Mini Book Review: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

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