Utopia or Oblivion?

David Houle
5 min readSep 20, 2020

“Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment… Humanity is in a final exam as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe.” — R. Buckminster Fuller, Utopia or Oblivion

Fuller wrote this back in 1969, an incredibly productive year for him as both “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” and “Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity” were published.

These two books shape the essential thinking for humanity in the Age of Climate Change and the disruption of the 2020s. These two books, along with Alvin Toffler’s and Marshall McLuhan’s, supplied the foundation of my thinking as a futurist. I have frequently shared from stages around the world that “I stand with honor on the shoulders of the three greatest futurists of the last 75 years: Toffler, Fuller and McLuhan, to better see into this new century.”

The books written by these three deep thinkers are perhaps more relevant today than almost anything that is currently being published… at least from the macro point of view. Fuller looks at the big picture of the future of humanity. McLuhan provides us with the reality of living in an electronic village. Toffler predicts how culture, business and society will change.

All three are still the most accurate, big picture visionaries in print. Most of the rest of us live in the worlds they envisioned.

This column will focus solely on the challenges that Fuller laid out for us 50 years ago.

Major concepts:

1. We need to think of planet earth as a spaceship. It is the only place that humans live. It is a spaceship that will not be resupplied, so we must work within the resources of the spaceship.

2. We need to develop an operating manual for Spaceship Earth, and that manual must be developed using systems thinking. Spaceship Earth is a large, interconnected, complex system. Only systemic thinking, elevating all human endeavor into a single overarching cohesive manual, will secure the planet for all living things on it.

3. The future as seen from 1969 is one where, if humanity does not design a systemic planetary operating system, it will come to a fork in the road, and will need to choose between utopia or oblivion…

David Houle

Futurist / Writer/Speaker //Author of 13 books // “CEOs Futurist”// Futurist in Residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design