A proposal for the Living Systems Art + Design Collaboratory presented by Design Science Studio at the Buckminster Fuller Institute in partnership with habRitual + The Emergent Media DesignLab at the University of California, Irvine.


A proposal for the Living Systems Art + Design Collaboratory presented by Design Science Studio at the Buckminster Fuller Institute in partnership with habRitual + The Emergent Media DesignLab at the University of California, Irvine.

Design Challenge

This new program provides funding for artists and designers to support the development of creative projects that explore living systems. The Collaboratory will work with a cohort of up to 20 designers and artists to design projects that aid people in perceiving the biological, cognitive, social, ecological, philosophical, spiritual, mathematical, political and technological dimensions of life as a unified whole as inspired by living systems.

A proposal for a UI to navigate a model for metaphysical gravity

Our evolving understanding of the universe features complexity as nested systems that can be conceptualized in simple terms:

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Matter

These metaphysical concepts correspond to these physical living processes:

  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry

From the Particular to the Universal

Human-centred design is anthropocentric, leading us into the anthropocene.

  • Desirable (human)
  • Feasible (technology)
  • Viable (business)

The Earth is not a business model. The Earth is an organism, so our model for life-centred design must be organic.

  • Biological
  • Physical
  • Chemical

How might we validate the Mental Models for Human Experience?

A mental model: builder
Story 1: Collaboration – Exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together

How might we explore the scales of metaphysical gravity, similar to Ray and Charles Eames Powers of Ten?

How might we conceive of our place in the universe as part of a process of cultural evolution, social physics, and metaphysical design?

Cultural Evolution, Social Physics, and Metaphysical Design

How might we build a creative, collaborative, self-organizing learning community that can use a better model of reality as the foundation for a set of values and aspirations to build a world that works for 100% of life?

Some friends of mine holding an ultrasound picture of their sweet baby
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

At this time of the awakening of a new consciousness (my daughter is in the pains of childbirth, in the process of giving birth to our grandson at this moment), the micro mirrors the macro, as we awaken to a global awareness and consciousness of the gravity of our situation.

Metaphysical Powers of Ten

  • At the biological scale of human experience, we have habits.
  • At the personal scale, we experience the world through annual cycles as seasons of change.
  • At the social scale, we experience the world through generations of family and community interactions and social movements.
  • At the economic scale, we experience the world through the successes and failures of corporate and organizational change, using Kate Raworth’s model of a network of flows.
  • At the political scale, we experience the world through the rise and fall of successive empires that alter the physical landscape through the expansion and contraction of territories.
  • At the ecological scale, the earth has moved through ages of geological and biological evolution, but our technologies have accelerated change by exponentially amplifying the impact of human capacities to global scales.
A network of flows: structuring an economy as a distributed network can more equitably distribute income and wealth amongst all those who help to generate it.
Minimalist Journal
Minimalist Journal: Developing habits through intentionality

User Interface Design for Metaphysical Gravity

  • How might we imagine the daily cycles of habits through a minimalist journal?
  • How might we view the cycles of the concentric circles of our values, personal habits, and social interactions as they work toward the outer boundary of metaphysical aspirations?
  • How might we explore the complex interactions of relationships within our social spheres of influence?
  • How might we use the model of social physics offered by Alex Pentland to visualize the patterns of the exchange of ideas that spark innovation?
  • How might we explore the exchange of ideas and the sparks of innovation in the context of the history of the Bauhaus and how we now live in a Bauhaus world?
  • How might we explore a similar exchange of ideas and the devolution of social, economic, and political thought through the influence of authoritarian fascist ideologies and propaganda from Hitler’s Germany to Trump’s America?

In this way, we can explore the metaphysical model of ideas and values (philosophical, spiritual, mathematical, technological) embodied by the mental models for human experience and how personal habits have implications at the biological, personal, social, economic, political, and ecological scales by mapping these changes to the collective organization and coordination of human actions.

Neither right nor left, but a full spectrum of human experience.

What does success look like for you in your project?

Describe the different milestones that would make you feel like you did an outstanding job

The community is the artifact: a creative, collaborative, self-organizing, learning community.

We need to build the community by inspiring, empowering, and celebrating human beings as designers of a regenerative future.

  • Personal: Resilience
  • Social: Influence
  • Economic: Capacity
  • Political: Agency
  • Ecological: Harmony

Transformation will take place through a redesign of our personal habits and our information ecology. By reimagining our social architecture, we can reshape our metaphysical reality, our habits, which will reform our digital systems and physical architecture. We must give ourselves permission to redesign our social systems to build a regenerative world.


What medium/s are you thinking to work in?

In the midst of multiple systemic crises from the micro to the macro:

  • Biological
  • Personal
  • Social
  • Economic
  • Political
  • Ecological

We create change by transcending the helplessness of the individual by embracing the power of the collective: a creative, collaborative, self-organizing, learning community.

Social Architecture

Social Architecture

We focus on the things that we can change. We focus on the metaphysics.

  • Personal
  • Social
  • Economic
  • Political

The physical world is out of our control.

  • Biological
  • Ecological

The Earth has the ability to regenerate on its own. Earth has already evolved its own self-regulating systems and will take care of itself, if we let it.

We are creating new design deliverables to document what we are observing to better understand the emergent properties of our social organization and transformation.

  • Data Visualization
  • Graphic Design
  • UI Design
  • UX Design
  • Service Design
  • Systems Design
  • Social Architecture
Design for Resilience Magazine
Brand design for a builders collective: building leaders to design a resilient society (BLDRS)
Redesigning Education
Reinventing Design Education: A Laboratory for the Future of Humanity
Coding Challenges
Coding Challenges: A synthesis of technology and design
The Resilience Podcast theme music by Caleb Chan
United Nations Leaders on Purpose 3rd Annual CEO Summit: A mental model for metaphysical gravity

I would welcome any additional input you might have for this concept and proposal for the Living Systems Art + Design Collaboratory.


Stephen Bau
Social Architect
Builders Collective

Building a world that works for 100% of life.