Buckminster Fuller was a self-proclaimed “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist.” What this meant to him changed over the course of the years, but one thread ran through it all: he wanted to identify the world’s problems and find a fix for them. To be clear, this was for the entire world’s population, not just his neighbors, not just his country – everyone.
He tried to look forward, to see what problems may arise in the future, beyond the problems of his day. Jonathon Keats, experimental philosopher and conceptual artist, admires the ambitious thinking of Fuller and his outlandish inventions that seemed a little far off in Buckminster Fuller’s day, and in some ways still could be seen to be so now. One of the best known ones is the geodesic dome. While Fuller hoped that this could be used as an outdoor planetarium, it became more than that. He wanted it to be a functional display tool for UN, completely lit and displayed with changing data streams, used to remind the UN how big their decisions were, and to visualize war and climate and migration live across the globe.
It never happened, because in Fuller’s day, as Keats points out, there was no way to get the big data for the kind of visuals he wanted. Today, that problem seems miniscule. Most people in first world countries have a smart phone that can retrieve all kinds of information. But even though so many people have the ability to navigate a world’s worth of intel, most use it to navigate only a narrow and self-interest-driven stream of data, rather than exploring outside their known world and using data as a tool for communication and actionable change.
Keats imagines that the geodesic dome isn’t so far off now, but in his view it would be a data park in every city in the world. The park could be shaped and contoured like the city it’s in, and at night, it would glow with LED data visualizations of all the things happening in and to the city. As Buckminster Fuller wanted, Keats strives to make a place that not only links its users to their homes and neighbors, but to the world around them.