The Wonderful Prophets of the Twenty First Century
September 25, 2009
Buckminster Fuller, Abraham Maslow, Russel Ackoff, and Douglas Engelbart all envision(ed) the future in the same vein. And I believe they make a circle of thinkers who are the most idealistic and holistic when it comes to their forecasts and methodologies.
In the chart below I have shown these thinkers in a larger landscape of thought. All of these individuals operate along the ideal, the alternative, and the systematic. What other thinkers occupy the same vein for the other branches of knowledge?
Fuller constructed a world of Design Science where invention was consistently refined to create ephemeralization, where devices become more and more efficient. So a house needs less and less mass and resources than it used to. A car less and less fuel. He believed there were no crises of resources, only of intellect and will to engineer solutions.
Maslow constructed a world of individuals and organizations climbing a ladder of different needs, ultimately culminating at self-actualization, where a person is constantly approaching the limit where all of his or her skill and knack is resulting in a state of flow characterized by peak experience.
Ackoff constructs a world of synergistic institutions, where organizations operate for the betterment of their constituents and crisis are dissolved (not resolved) through lateral shifts in management thinking. All of this is characterized by a focus on effectiveness at solving the right problems, and not just doing the wrong things right.
Engelbart constructs a world where our tools can be used to improve those very tools, creating a loop of endless human augmentation. This manifested in work on human-computer interaction computer-computer interaction that demonstrated things like the mouse, internet, and hyperlinking, in a united system. These very improvements serving to create even more improvements.
These are all people who have seen the world in what seems to be a third alternative. When others are casting situations as dichotomies, the solutions these thinkers propose seem to blow past the arguments at hand.