Saturday, June 27, 2009


Ephemeralization is a term coined by R. Buckminster Fuller in 1922. It refers to the ability of technological advancement to do "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing." Fuller's vision was that ephemeralization will result in ever increasing standards of living for an ever growing population despite finite resources.

Fuller referred to Henry Ford's assembly line as an example of how ephemeralization can continuously lead to better products at lower cost with no upper bounds on productivity.

Fuller saw ephemeralization as an inevitable trend in human development. The progression was from "compression" to "tension" to "visual" to "abstract electrical" (i.e. non-sensorial radiation, such as radio waves, x-rays, etc.). Length measurement technologies in human development, for example, started with a compressive measure, such as a ruler. The compressive technique reached an upper limit with a rod. For longer measures, a tensive measure such as a string or rope was used. This reached an upper limit with sagging of the string. Next was surveyor's telescope, a visual measure. This reached the upper limits with curvature of the earth. Next was radio triangulation, an abstract electrical measure. Since then, our technological progression has constantly reached greater and greater length-measuring ability per pound of instrument, with no apparent upper limit.

Moore's Law is another example of ephemeralization. Moore's Law says that the number of transistors in a microprocessor doubles every eighteen months.

Metcalf's Law is another example of ephemeralization. Metcalf's Law says that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of the nodes connected.

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