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Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

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Title: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Critical Path (book), Buckminster Fuller, Family planning, Emissions Reduction Currency System, Dymaxion house
Collection: 1968 Books, 1968 in the Environment, Books by Buckminster Fuller, Environmental Non-Fiction Books, Sustainability Books
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
Author Buckminster Fuller
Publication date
Media type Print

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth is a short book by R. Buckminster Fuller, first published in 1968, following an address with a similar title given to the 50th annual convention of the American Planners Association in the Shoreham Hotel, Washington D.C., on 16 October 1967.[1]

The book relates Earth to a spaceship flying through space. The spaceship has a finite amount of resources and cannot be resupplied.


  • Chapter Synopsis 1
    • Comprehensive propensities 1.1
    • Origins of specialization 1.2
    • Comprehensively commanded automation 1.3
    • Spaceship earth 1.4
    • General systems theory 1.5
    • Synergy 1.6
    • Integral Functions 1.7
    • The regenerative landscape 1.8
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • External links 4

Chapter Synopsis

Comprehensive propensities

Describe how people perceive his prognostications, and the conclusion that fairly reasonable forecasts can be made of approx 25 years.

The idea that specialization is society's vehicle, but perhaps unnatural.

The concept of the Great Pirate also emerges as the first peoples to undertake sea vessels and first sea traders.

Origins of specialization

The Great Pirate concept is explained in depth, and the source of their power is that they are the only masters of global information in a time where people are focused locally. Specifically, the Great Pirates are aware that resources are not evenly distributed around the world, so that items which are abundant in one area are scarce in another. This gives rise to trade which the Great Pirates exploit for their own advantage.

Power struggles for waterways ensue, requiring people like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to design better defenses for the Great Pirates. The Pirates establish governments in various areas and support leaders who will defend their trade routes.

As engineers become involved with the Great Pirates many new concepts appear, but the main one was of the Navy. As the size of the people in the Great Pirates' employment grow, training becomes a necessity, and the beginnings of schools and colleges ensue. Monarchs are encouraged to develop civil service systems to provide secure but specialized employment for their brightest subjects, which prevents them from competing with the Great Pirates in their lucrative global trading. Thus the Great Pirates guarded the advantages that their unique global perspective revealed.

Comprehensively commanded automation

World War I emerges as the struggle between the 'out-pirates' (electronic and chemical warfare) and the 'in-pirates' (electromagnetics). This change from the visible to the invisible forced the Great Pirates to rely on experts, which causes the end of the Great Pirates (who previously had been the only ones that were truly multi-disciplined).

The public is unaware that Great Pirates have been ruling the earth, and the role falls back to kings and politicians, though the frameworks of trade, rating and accounting remain.

Spaceship earth

This chapter sets up the idea that the earth is a spaceship, with the sun as our energy supplier. "We are all astronauts" says Fuller.

The idea of the earth is as a mechanical vehicle that requires maintenance, and that if you do not keep it in good order it will cease to function.

General systems theory

Likens humanity to a chick that has just broken out of its shell and is now ready to enter the next phase of its existence. Suggests "How big can we think?"


Where the whole of a system is greater than the sum of its parts. "Ergo, only complete world desovereignization can permit the realization of an all humanity high standard support."

Integral Functions

Wealth is expanded by the development of tools which go beyond what was integral to man. States that the highest priority need of world society is a realistic accounting system, instead of one where a top toolmaker in India gets paid in a month what he would make in a day in Detroit.

The regenerative landscape

Defines tools as either craft tools that can be invented by one man such as bows and arrows and industrial tools that can not be produced by one man such as the S.S. Queen Mary. Finds language to be the first industrial tool. States that craft tools were used to create industrial tools. States that to take advantage of potential wealth we must give life fellowships to each person who is or becomes unemployed, and states that for every 100,000 fellowships given out one person will come up with something so valuable that it will pay for the remaining 99,999 fellowships. Predicts that soon the great office buildings will be turned into residences and that all the work that had been done in them will be done in the basements of a few buildings. States that we "must operate exclusively on our vast daily energy income from the powers of wind, tide, water, and the direct Sun radiation energy".

Ends with anecdotal comments about his travels using three watches to keep track of time, at the office, where he is, and where he is going next, and an admonition "So, planners, architects, and engineers take the initiative".

See also


  1. ^ WorldCat list of editions including 1967 speech and 1968 Carbondale Southern Illinois University Press edition

External links

  • Copy of the manual at Design Science Lab
  • Copy of the manual at
  • Another copy from the Buckminster Fuller Institute
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