The Suez Canal Digger, Trimtabs, Levers, and Fulcrums


1/ This fantastic image of the Suez Canal digger reminded me of the concept of #trimtab defined by Buckminster Fuller.

2/ A trimtab is basically a tiny rudder for the actual rudder of a ship or plane. Turn the trimtab a little, it turns the rudder, which in turn turns the ship. The person driving the excavator is basically a trimtab.

3/ The driver pulls a small lever, which in turn activates the long arm of the excavator, which then digs the sand around the boat, which then frees up the boat, which then opens up the canal, which then restarts the flow of world trade.

4/ But I think there is more to this story than that. Of course, the driver should get a lot of credit for working tirelessly under such high pressure and maybe even danger. He is doing an extremely essential task without which none of the rest would happen.

5/ In reality, though, most of the credit should go to the long chain of inventions and product building that went into making and running that excavator.

6/ It took millennia of work by thousands of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and workers to get to the point where you have such an excavator that can amplify a small movement of the driver’s arm into a big pile of sand being dug out.

7/ Without that whole chain of inventions, the driver would be using just his/her bare hands to dig out small amounts of sand at a time! That wouldn’t make them a “trimtab” at all!

8/ Archimedes said “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” This is true, but it puts all the focus on the person pulling the lever. What gets missed is the entire lever and the fulcrum!

9/ It takes a huge amount of effort and brainpower to make the long and strong lever and make or find the right fulcrum placed at the right place. Without that, the lever puller has no power. So let’s not give all the credit to the lever puller.

10/ We see this phenomena occurring in many places in society. The person cutting the ribbon gets all the credit, those who built the structure itself get barely a mention.

11/ Even within your own body, most of the credit for your achievements goes to your brain, very little to the heart which kept the blood flowing, lungs that kept you oxygenated, stomach that provided nutrition, even the nose hairs that stopped bugs from entering your nose!

12/ Just making sure credit is given where credit is due, that’s all.

Cheers! Happy trimtabbing and lever building and fulcrum finding! And blood pumping, oxygen breathing, food digesting, and bug stopping!

(Corresponding tweetstorm)