New Circuit Designs for Motherboard Earth

By Kirby Urner
4 June 1995

I propose we look at Starship Earth (Buckminster Fuller’s metaphor for our planet) using another metaphor as well: that of Motherboard Earth.

I tip my hat to the criticism that this is another off-base nerdy engineering lens through which to misperceive a living planet and that, although the “mother” part is apt, linking to circuit boards is just more Newtonian mechanism, more of which we simply don’t need.

But I don’t see it that way myself. I think of the powerful film images I’ve seen linking urban-scapes from high altitudes with microchips. Good native American-sounding titles like Powaqqatsi and Koyanisqaatsi come to mind (both interesting films). And the energy bathing our motherboard is more than metaphorically electrical.

In sum, I don’t see “motherboard” as necessarily whiteman talk at all, but a clear-eyed snapshot of what, in fact, our eco-economy is: a set of spherical circuits, layer upon layer, some phased in with humans just a split second ago, on the geologic timescale.

BANKING: THE FEAR OF ‘LEAKAGE’

Moving on, I look at the psychology of banking, which seems to view this pool of liquid capital, called gold or currency or whatever it is that’s convertible to just about anything of value, as the one thing we cannot afford to “leak” away. The whole investment banking circuitry is about wiring up projects and programs and powering them with “juice” (liquid capital) only if it appears the return will exceed the investment. The only electronics on the motherboard that interests bankers is the kind that “nets a return” meaning it has to return all the juice received, and then some.

If I think of my computer as the motherboard, and the wire plugged into the wall as my umbilical link to the sun, then I start to wonder about the intelligence of microcode which plans to starve motherboard assets which are not designed to amplify and return juice. I mean, the way a computer is designed is like a water wheel: current flows downhill to the ground, in the meantime turning wheels which turn other wheels and so on. Yes, the liquid electricity all drains out the bottom, but serious work got done in the meantime. Capacitors and storage batteries pool current for a time, before allowing it to surge onward (the banking idea of savings). But nowhere is the motherboard (the computer I’m using) designed to return juice to the wall let alone “with interest.”

I look at TV images of human skeletons, either getting a little charity, or dying in droves, or both, with economists off to the side shaking their heads: no way to organize these humans into projects which will net a return to the bankers, and we can’t allow our precious “juice” to just “leak away.” So we let our human families starve to death.

That’s just the way it is … but is nature our model here, or banking? The sun is broadcasting terawatts of energy in our direction, second by second. What we do is insert our programmable circuitry, our gizmos, our wheels turning wheels, and reap the benefits. Within this game, we have liquid asset accounts, and transactions, and trade. But the overall big picture is of a motherboard plugged into the sun and human circuitry that is designed to starve large portions of the motherboard based on some dogma about needing to retain precious liquid, currency, without regard for the true state of affairs, which is that the great global ecosystem is not about returning juice to the sun, anymore than my computer is about returning juice to the wall socket. Doing useful work, yes. Keeping energy from flowing downhill, no way.

NEW CIRCUIT DESIGNS

So that’s why I propose General Systems Theory, which has a clear view of the sun-powered motherboard, the humanly programmable circuitry which interlayers with nonhuman circuitry, and the pain and suffering of numerous humans who are left out because they don’t have magic ‘juice returning powers’ — why I propose that GST build itself as antithetical to the juice-worshipping tribes who use their primitive ‘economics’ to justify the status quo media programming.

GST takes inventory of human inventions, artifacts, and storyboards multi-media deployment scenarios, casting humans in new, interesting, intelligent roles, and sees that we have the props, and the actors necessary, to make the real-world scenario entitled: Humans Make a Success of Themselves (lots of subplots). But instead, the old curriculum directors continue to produce episode after episode of The Great Tragedy, claiming that they are the sophisticated ones, whereas we, the success-oriented directors, are naive, because we don’t properly understand their Theory of Juice.

GST has a different view of juice, it’s true. I say we can afford to drive programming, using solar inputs, that will not only prevent starvation, but enroll the starving in new distance education programs that nets them lots of other relevant assets besides food: medical care, shelter, information, entertainment, vehicles for self-expression, opportunities to see more of the planet before they die. I say we don’t have to expect our global university students to pay back their scholarships in any silly literal kind of way, but that the work of learning a living, of demonstrating competence, of being a star in world game scenarios worthy of high caliber acting, is repayment enough.

Do the work of Making Humans a Success, and forget about ‘netting a return’ in the traditional bankers’ sense. Create wealth (life support), not just more money, and find out how much better off we will all find ourselves in short order. Lets co-invent General Systems Theory to light the way forward. And lets leave Economics behind, in the current Dark Age, where it belongs.


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Category: literature