Ephemeralization, a term coined by R. Buckminster Fuller, is 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. The concept has been embraced by those who argue against Malthusian philosophy.
Fuller uses Henry Ford's assembly line as an example of how ephemeralization can continuously lead to better products at lower cost with no upper bound 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., nonsensorial radiation, such as radio waves, x rays, etc.).citation needed
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 a surveyor’s telescope (visual). This reached an upper limit with curvature of the earth. Next was radio triangulation (abstract electrical). The technological progression is a continuing increase in length-measuring ability per pound of instrument, with no apparent upper limit according to Fuller.1
Heyligen,2 and Alvin Toffler have written about how ephemeralization, though it may increase our power to solve physical problems, can make non-physical problems much worsecitation needed. Increasing system complexity and information overload make it difficult and stressful for the people who must control the ephemeralized systems. This can negate the advantages of ephemeralization.
- R. Buckminster Fuller, Nine Chains to the Moon, Anchor Books  1971 pp. 252–59.
- Heyligen, Complexity and Information Overload in Society: why increasing efficiency leads to decreasing control http://web.archive.org/web/20070103091059/http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/papers/Info-overload.pdf
- Essay on ephemeralization (worldtrans.org)
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