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Amy C. Edmondson
A Fuller Explanation
Chapter 1, Return to Modelability
pages 12 through 14

Generalized Principles

      The principle of leverage is a scientific generalization. It makes no difference of what material either the fulcrum or the lever consists.... Nor do the special—case sizes of the lever and fulcrum... in any way alter either the principle or the mathematical regularity of the ratios of physical work advantage...

      Mind is the... uniquely human faculty that surveys the ever larger inventory of special-case experiences stored in the brain bank...from time to time discovers one of the rare scientifically generalizable principles running consistently through all the relevant experience set. (Synergetics, p. xxvi)

      Fuller spoke frequently and ponderously of the "generalized principles": those statements—be they verbal or in the shorthand of mathematical equations—that have been proven to always hold true. In other words, generalized principles are rules with no exceptions. From the very simple (the mechanical advantage allowed by leverage) to the highly profound (E = mc ², equating matter with energy and quantifying the rate of exchange), these principles, taken all together, describe our Universe. Applying a generalized principle in a novel way is called invention. In the broadest sense, synergetics is the search for generalized principles. ("Design science" is the application, as will be discussed in Chapter 16.)

      Fuller placed enormous stock in these principles, and saw humanity's role in Universe as discoverer and utilizer of the progressively uncovered truths. Endowed with "minds" (in contradistinction to "brains," which are merely able to coordinate sensory input), humans are uniquely able to survey successive experiences and detect reliable patterns, thereby discovering over time such subtle workings of Universe as gravity. Utterly invisible and unpredicted by the investigation of separate objects, gravitational force represents a profound discovery and is certainly without exception. More remarkable still, human mind was able to express the magnitude of this force in precise terms: F = GMm/r ². (10) A fantastic leap beyond sensory-based information, this discovery places tiny humans in contact with great Universal motions.

      That the human mind is able to detect eternal truths amidst "special-case" experiences, explains Fuller, is the wealth of humanity and our hope for the future. Many of these Universal laws are widely known and applied, as for example the principle of leverage, but other equally reliable truths are all but completely unfamiliar, such as the geometric discoveries described in this book. Fuller, convinced that an inventory of yet to be explored applications had the potential to solve humanity's problems, was the ardent champion of unfamiliar principles.

      Universe is thus the total web spun by all generalized principles and their interaction. As rules without exception, they are necessarily "interaccommodative." Fuller's terminology takes some getting used to: "eternally regenerative Universe" is an ongoing event governed by "the omni-interaccommodative complex of unique and eternal generalized principles." The principle of synergy, described in Chapter 3, accounts for the incalculable complexity of the whole web despite thorough comprehension of many of the separate parts. And finally, "God is the unknowable totality of generalized principles."

Return to Modelability

      Synergetics is a product of Fuller's passionate concern with models. Concerned that society's ignorance of science is seriously destructive, he devoted years of thought to ways of alleviating the resulting crisis. In the twentieth century, we suddenly find ourselves confronted with an "invisible" atomic reality in which the average person understands very little about how things work. Although confronted daily with "incredible technology," which to Fuller includes the natural phenomena of Universe as well as the ever-expanding inventory of human invention, the vast majority assume such phenomena to be out of their reach. Fuller attributes this widespread discomfort to both the "invisibility" of science and the devastatingly complicated mathematics without which, scientists claim, their findings cannot be described. The dangerous chasm between scientists and lay people, with the truth guarded by an élite few and the rest resigned to ignorance, thus seems inevitable.

      The origin of this troubled state of affairs? An incorrect mathematical system! Long ago human beings surveyed their environment and, seeing a never-ending flat earth, decided upon cubes and orthogonal planes as the appropriate measuring system. Today, says Fuller, we're still stuck with that uninformed early guess, and as a result, nature's behavior has seemed irrational, perverse, and difficult to explain because we're using the wrong kind of yardstick. With accurate models, he claims, this ignorance can be eradicated. The purpose of synergetics is to make the invisible events and transformations of Universe visible, through tangible models that elucidate the principles behind our energy-event Universe. Human beings will thereby be able to "coordinate their senses" with a new understanding of reality.

      Synergetics is full of tantalizing models; the difficulty comes in assigning them to aspects of physical reality. However, a number of notable examples, in which a newly discovered scientific phenomenon is described by one of Fuller's previously developed models, suggest that there may be many more such successes to come. The immediate goal therefore is to unravel and study the geometric system itself.

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