Because I am writing a book about digital innovation, I find myself immersed in the digital utopians of the 1950’s. The MIT Rad Lab, Marvin Minsky, Norbert Weiner, J.C. R. Licklider, Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan and E. F. Schumacher. They may not have all self-identified as “digital utopians”–but thats what they were. One of the hurdles we face on this blog is that we all have separate sources of data and so we often find ourselves in the “you’re right from your side and I’m right from mine” framework. Bucky Fuller had a better idea and he called it The World Game and of course he imagined it long before the creation of the personal computer and the Internet.
Fuller wanted a tool that would be accessible to everyone, whose findings would be widely disseminated to the masses through a free press, and which would, through this ground-swell of public vetting and acceptance of solutions to society’s problems, ultimately force the political process to move in the direction that the values, imagination and problem solving skills of those playing the democratically open world game dictated. It was a view of the political process that some might think naive, if they only saw the world for what it was when Fuller was proposing his idea (the 1960s)–minus personal computers and the Internet. The playing field was not to be so much as leveled, or expanded, but the good ‘ol boy political process was to subverted out of existence by a process that brings Thomas Jefferson into the twentieth century. In order to have this kind of power, the game needed to have the kind of information and tools for manipulating that information that empowers. It needed a comprehensive database that would provide the players of the world game with better data than their politically elected or appointed counterparts. They needed an inventory of the world’s vital statistics–where everything was and in what quantities and qualities, from minerals to manufactured goods and services, to humans and their unmet needs as well as capabilities. They also needed an information source that monitored the current state of the world, bringing vital news into the “game room” live.
We probably have the capability to put Fuller’s vision into reality today. It would be fun to try. How would we start?