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Amy C. Edmondson
A Fuller Explanation
Chapter 16, "Design Science"
pages 258 through 259


"Design Science"

"I did not set Out to design a geodesic dome," Fuller once said, "I set out to discover the principles operative in Universe. For all I knew, this could have led to a pair of flying slippers." This playful declaration stands as a concise summary of the philosophy behind Fuller's life's work and introduces the relationship of synergetics to design. "Design science," in the most general terms, maintains that faithful observation of Universe is the basis of successful invention. The idea therefore is not to invent some strange new gadget, hoping there will be a market for it, but rather to tap into the exquisite workings of nature. While the significance of scientific discoveries is not always immediately understood, the accumulated "generalized principles" have been applied in innovative ways throughout history, producing artifacts which have gradually transformed the physical environment. Therein lies the key to humanity's success aboard Spaceship Earth, explains Bucky Fuller.

"Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science"

Characteristically, his title expands—to embrace the full significance of this vital human endeavor.

      Fuller defines design as the deliberate ordering of components. Thus distinguished from randomness, design implies the presence of intellect. His definition is worth our serious attention, for the word is too often associated with the concept of decoration-secondary or superficial embellishment as opposed to thoroughly developed systems. Fuller was quick to point out that Universe overflows with evidence of design; unimaginably intricate and reliable energy patterns reveal "eternal design interrelationship principles." Technology, to Fuller, is principle in action, and so "Universe is nothing but incredible technology." Its awesome complexity is the inspiration for Fuller's phrase "Intellectual Integrity of Eternally Regenerative Universe"—a weighty title attempting to convey a nonanthropomorphic respect for a greater (in fact all-encompassing) divine intelligence.

      Combining this newly defined word with "science," to describe a new discipline or field, further enriches its significance. "Science" hints at the necessary rigor, suggesting a systematic new study. Fuller thereby expands the realm of "design"; the scientific method is essential, for "design science" involves the application of principle. He points out that "generalized principles" are eternal truths, as opposed to special-case statements or transient facts, and as such are inherent aspects of reality waiting to be discovered. Only human beings are able to discern such truths (science) and thereby participate in their own evolution (design). "Design science" is thus saturated with meaning: humanity alone has access to the design laws of Universe, and that has determined our unique evolutionary function. Just as bees are meant to cross-pollinate, we are meant to solve problems. Without specialized long beaks or wings or other role-specific physical traits, human beings have learned to exploit mechanical advantage, discipline the electron, travel more quickly than the fastest leopard, and fly farther than the strongest bird. Our unique advantage is a faculty called "mind," which can integrate disparate facts of experience. We are therefore deliberately designed to be "comprehensivists" while all other creatures are specialists. This brings us to the next aspect of Fuller's wordy title.

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