Ephemeralization is a term coined by R. Buckminster Fuller. It refers to the ability of people to use technological advances to continuously do more with less. Fuller’s vision was that ephemeralization will result in ever-increasing standards of living for an ever-growing population despite finite resources.

Fuller refers 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., nonsensorial 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 a surveyor’s telescope (visual). This reached an upper limit with curvature of the earth. Next was radio triangulation (abstract electrical). The technological progression was constantly greater length-measuring ability per pound of instrument, with no apparent upper limit.


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