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Buckminster Fuller, "World Game", 1961

"There should be no losers in world game, only winners. To win everybody had to win."

Designer, inventor, philosopher and engineer Richard Buckminster Fuller was born in 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts near Boston and died in 1983.
Altough already a very practical, inventive and imaginative child he experienced his time in the US Navy as very inspiring.
There he developed the theory that seafarers were the originators of our cultures and governments, of trade, specialisation and currencies. This had a considerable influence on his view of the world and view of responsibility; That one had to take "whole systems" into account and learn from nature ("synergetics") which included "doing more with less" and developing elegant means of production the would not produce any waste ("Ever-Progressively-Accelerating Ephemeralization"CP, p.216). He developed and propagated this systemic worldview in his many books, one of them being "Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth" (1969).
Although Buckminster Fuller is best known for his provocative designs today it is less well known that all these artefacts and concepts where developed upon a systematic and extensive philosophical theory.

"World Game is a continuing scientific research and physical-prototyping development. It is devoted to progressive discovery of how most efficiently and expeditiously to employ (1) the total world-around resources, (2) total accumulated knowledge, and (3) the total already-produced technological tooling of Spaceship Earth, all three to the ever-advancing equal advantage of all its present and future passengers." "Critical Path", p. 202

Areas: global awareness, global consciousness, dialogical, communication, engagement, simulation, "bigger picture thinking"

The "World Game" was created by Fuller from 1964 on as a suggestion for the US pavilion at the 1967 world fair in Montreal (image above). "World Game" originated upon a related concept developed over 10 years earlier in 1954, for the southern tip of Roosevelt Island just across from the United Nations in New York City. This "Dymaxion Sphere" or "Mini Earth" should automatically display realtime information on the earth's resources. Just as the "Dymaxion Sphere," "World Game" was declined by the decision makers yet Fuller developed the idea further. His suggested strategy was on one hand to improve the increasingly bad international reputation of the U.S.A.1 with a strong humanistic project, and on the other hand make a bold visionary statement in favour of computer technology for its trustworthiness and reliability. This was a provoactive idea as most people were sceptical towards computers.

The computer-controlled game should take place around a large dynamic display of Fuller's Dymaxion world map (see image). Starting point would be the current state of the world resources. The distribution of natural resources, population, infrastructure, education and knowledge determined by UN standards. Individual participants or teams should have the possibility to exert own ideas and concepts–and to experience their effects on a global scale.

Fuller's intention was to give participants a hands on experience of how wealth, population, energy, resources and education were distributed in the world–and how this effected peoples lifes. Aim of the game was to play for the "best strategy for the benefit of all humanity." and "To win everybody had to win."

Buckminster Fuller's (different) definitions of wealth:
"Wealth consists of physical energy (as matter or radiation) combined with metaphysical know-what and know-how." "Critical Path", p.198

"Wealth is our organised capability to cope effectively with the environment to sustain our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives." from Operating manual for Spaceship Earth

Another definition of wealth is "What we have organised to take care of how many lives for how many forward days." from Sieden, 2011, A Fuller View, p.79

"World Game" today

The non-profit organisation "o.s.Earth" (Operating System Earth) 2 based in New Haven, Connecticut, has developed the game further and organises sessions for interested educational institutions, corporations and organisations.
The playing field is Fullers Dymaxion-Sky-Ocean Map and the size of a basketball field, considerably smaller than the 1964-67 version. There are 100 dots on the map each representing one percent of the current population of humans on Spaceship Earth. Each dot is placed in the geometrical centre for the millions of people it represents and it immediately becomes clear the ninety percent of the human population is living in the northern hemisphere. Rivers provide potential to create electricity. Wind provides electric energy. Resources as tin and oil provide additional wealth.

In this version only teams participate and they represent governments or companies among "health teams" and "environment teams." During the three hour game the next thirty years of global economic development are simulated. Teams trade resources and know-how. Each team starts of with different state of "wealth" which can either be money, resource wealth, infrastructure wealth, technology and solution strategies determined by UN statistics. Regions have regional resource cards, health teams "health strategy' cards. Regions have infrastructure levels from 1=low over 4=superpower to 5=responsible these determining the "solution strategy" cards they require from corporations and organisations. There should be no losers in "World Game" but only winners; Fuller: "To win everyone had to win."

A large part of the learning effect consists of the after-game discussions as teams explain their strategies and outcomes. This results in a learning effect of the global economies, the interconnectedness of markets and how these effect their daily lives. Learning fairness, compromises and good-will among leadership, teamwork, responsibility, strategies, communication, problem solving, complexity and big picture thinking are the aims of the exercise. There is also a news team which reports once an hour on the world state.

Comment of a player:

""Even though some games have their flaws I can't think of any in this; Sadly the time / space was limited. It gives us a better picture of the world today and that picture changes every year!" 3


With "World Game" or "World Peace Game" as it is sometimes called Buckminster Fuller attempted to create one of the first interactive computer simulations that were to model the real world in 1967. On personal computers this has become with "Sim City" or "The Sims" an everyday experience of leisure, but in the sixties this would have been a major event. It would have allowed multiple participants an engaging, involving and cognitively stimulating experience. It was intended to result in an increased global consciousness and understanding of local actions and their global effects and the interconnectedness of global markets. Or global actions and their local effects.
Based on actual data and "realistic" computer controlled modelling of behaviours of the markets and effects on health, infrastructure, education in an augmented media spectacle.
On the other hand it is questionable if this highly abstract, rational and protracted three hour spectacle would have been able to fulfil the promise of being entertaining, engrossing and holding the attention of a large number of people for this extended period of time.
"Operating System Earth" emphasise the role and crucial importance of instructors/counselours that support, encourage and consult teams during their three hour sessions. In an unguided setting during the sixties with semi-interactive multimedia this would have been even more in demand.
Images: augmented global data, bucky on map


1. "I reported to USIA in 1964 that the reputation of the United States had declined in the rest of the world to an all time low, lower then any time in the decades before, perhaps even since the founding days 200 years ago." "Your private sky" p.472
3. ibid.
The Buckminster Fuller Institute
LLoyd Steven Sieden (1989), Buckminster Fuller's Universe His Live And Work, Perseus Pub., Cambridge, Mass.
Buckminster Fuller (1981), Critical Path, St. Martin's Press, NYC
Krausse, J., Lichtenstein, C. (1999), "Your Private Sky R. Buckminster Fuller", Lars Müller Publications Baden/Switzerland

Transformation in "World Game"

There is no vivid, quick feedback loop, but laborious and conscious manual entering of the Decisions. The system correlates these with the stored statistical data from the database which again is visualised on the large display.

Classification of World Game as an interactive installation

As world game has not been realised we have to conclude its functions from BF's cursory allusions.

The game is taking place at a single location.

Alterations of the system become immediately visible.

It is taking place on a floor projection and thus in physical space.

The interface is tangible as a NASA command desk.

It is interactive displaying all possible states of the world.

The game rules are heavily complex - as the world is.

Multiple people contribute data and decisions but probably only one person was meant to enter them into the system. This point is unclear.

It can't be played alone it is collaborative.

The data are current statistics of the UN upon which dynamic rules are applied which effect and countereffect the system state.

Local data are the decisions of participants.

There is one single display, the floor projection.

Lightfull Fullight

full of light, lightweight, de-lightful, light-fuller. This drawing was made by Buckminster Fuller in 1928. It is already depicting a heavily interconnected and globalised world with skies full of aeroplanes, air ships, motor cars and other means of transport beside and modern housing.
It is also highly symbolic.
In the corners symbols for the foundations of this world: heart, baby, sun, spirituality.
The inner circle contains everydday items that are foldable, mobile, collapsable: umbrella, tennis racket, motor car, wardrobe trunk, airplane, sailing boat, folding chair, bird.
Outer circle: pagoda, the world tree, a high voltage pylon, a landing mast with air ship
In between: skyscraper, obelisc, light house.

Excerpt from r. Buckminster Fuller, "Critical Path" p.199-200, "World Game":

"The quantity of physical, cosmic energy wealth as radiation arriving aboard planet Earth each minute is greater than all the energy used annually by all humanity. World Game makes it eminently clear that we have four billion billionaires aboard our planet, as accounted by real wealth, which fact is obscured from public knowledge by the exclusively conceived and operated money game and its monopolised credit system accounting. [...]
The success of all humanity can be accomplished only by a terrestrially comprehensive, technologically competent, design revolution. [...]
Scientifically faithful, synergetically integrated, time-energy, electrochemical process accounting shows that it costs energetic Universe more than a million dollars to produce each gallon of petroleum when the amount of energy as heat and pressure used for the length of time necessary to produce that gallon of petroleum is charged for at the New York Con Edison Company's retail kilowatt-hour rates for that much electricity.
About 90 percent of all U.S.A. employment is engaged in tasks producing no life-support wealth. These non-life-support-producing employees are spending three, four, and more gallons of gasoline daily to go to their non-wealth-producing jobs–ergo, we are completely wasting $3 trillion of cosmic energy per day in the U.S.A.
In real, energy-time, know-how accounting of wealth the planet Earth's four billion billionaires have not yet been notified of their good fortune. Their heritage probating is being postponed by the lawyers for the now inherently obsolete power structures of all kinds–religious, political, financial, professional, and academic–all of which exploitive systems are organised only to take biased advantage of all scarcities, physical and metaphysical.
Evolution has now accelerated into revolution, which, if it goes bloody, will render all humanity extinct, but if ti goes via the design revolution, all humanity will win. This is a new kind of revolution; it is one that, instead of revengefully pulling down the top fortunate few, will elevate all the heretofore unfortunates and the fortunates alike to new and sustainable heights of realised life far superior to those previously tenuously attained by the privileged few."

The "World Game" institute:
"If the Earth’s population consisted of only 100 people (with all existing human ratios unchanged), it would lbe comprised of:

  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 North and South Americans (only 6 from the US)
  • 8 Africans
  • 52 females/48 males
  • 70 non-white, 30 white
  • 6 people in possession of 59% of the world’s wealth
  • 1 owner of a computer
  • 1 person with a college education"[..ul]

  • last update: 5/17/02012 16:34

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