Building a MuRatopian Future

Kaoru Yamaguchi

This paper is written for The Knowledge Base of Futures Studies Vol.4 , Futurists: Theories, Methods and Visions, by DDM Media Group. As of June 20, 1999, however, it is not yet published.

1 New Economics for the Third Wave

In the early 80's I was struggling to synthesize three economic paradigms whose mutual antagonism seemed to me to have been a main cause of world conflicts between the East communist and the West capitalist countries. These paradigms are neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxist schools of economics. This synthesis, if successfully completed, was supposed to be my Ph.D. thesis in an advanced economic theory at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. By synthesis it was meant to build a unified general equilibrium framework from which neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxist theories are derived as its special case. My intention was to show that different worldviews were nothing but a special case of a unified economic paradigm.

It was on December 23, 1982, when I happened to pick at the book which was piled up in a textbook section of sociology at the Berkeley campus bookstore; The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler. The next day, I flew to New York to attend the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, and kept reading the book in the airplane without knowing how to calm down my excitement.The most unimaginable idea to me in the book was the one that both capitalism and socialism were the two sides of the same coin in the industrial age. I had been partly under the influence of a Marxist tradition of economics in Japan (where almost half of economics professions were Marxists in 60's and 70's) and used to be instructed repeatedly that socialism and communism are higher stages of economic development following capitalism. Accordingly I had been working on my synthesis modeling along this line of thinking.

What's an economic system of the Third Wave, then? As my reading the book proceeded, I kept asking this question many times in vain. Tollfer failed to present an economic system of the information age in a formal and theoretical fashion. My excitement gradually turned into disappointment. Being convinced by Toffler's basic idea, however, I immediately decided to develop a simple economic model which could be a foundation of new economic framework of the information age. In this way, the Third Wave became a turning point of my academic research in economics, and since then my work has been focused on the new economic system of the information age. In 1985 my thesis was completed with an additional chapter of a new economic model of the information age. I called it a co-pastoral economy, and later renamed it as a MuRatopian economy in the book based on my thesis[3]. For the latest development of the economy, see Sustainability and a MuRatopian Economy [4, Chapter 5]

Footnote: The Japanese word mura literally means village. The one character word mura may also be regarded as consisting of two different characters: Mu and Ra. Mu implies nothingness or emptiness-- the most fundamental concept of Zen Buddhism, while Ra means being naked or having no possessions. Accordingly, the implications of Mu (nothingness) and Ra (dispossession) are associated with mura (village). Topia is from the Greek topos, which means place. Hence, the word MuRatopia was coined to signify a global village of Gaia-nature in the information age.

2 An Invitation to Futures Studies

In summer 1986, I moved to the Univ. of Hawaii and began teaching economics at the department of economics on Manoa campus, Honolulu. One of the courses I taught in the fall quarter was economic development. One day, one of the students in my class came to me at the end of the lecture and said, ``Professor, what you are teaching is very futuristic. There is a famous futurist professor in Hawaii. Would you like to see him?'' Futurist professor---I've never heard of such an academic title in my profession, but become very curious about `futurist profession' and replied ``Sure, I'm pleased to.'' Then he immediately took me to the professor's office on the political sciences faculty floor which turned out to be just above my office on the economics faculty floor in the same building. This is how I met Dr. Jim Dator, a futurist professor in Hawaii. He was at that time serving as a secretary general of the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF). I had a brief, but indeed joyous talk with him, without knowing at that time that this talk would later begin to change my academic career from a pure economic theorist to an academic wanderer.

I left Hawaii in the fall of 1987 for Berkeley to complete the book (1988), and came back to Japan in January 1988. In our last chatting in Hawaii, he inspired me to be active in futures studies in Japan, because, he said, Japanese futurist activities were almost dead and had to be reactivated.``I'll do my best, Jim.'' I replied.

3 The Birth of FOCAS

With a high expectation I attended the 10th World conference of WFSF in Beijing, Sept. 1988 for the first time, and made an proposal nervously but successfully in the general assembly to host an Asian-Pacific regional conference of WFSF on the campus of the Nagoya Univ. of Commerce (where I was an associate professor in economics) in the fall of 1989. This regional conference was the first international conference of futures studies I have ever organized in Japan. It was an indigestible experience for me to explain what futures studies were and how important they were for the information age, because at that time I had very few knowledge of futures studies myself. Anyhow, this conference turned out to be successful with almost 100 participants, among whom more than 50 futurists were from about 30 countries. Dr. Sam Cole and I edited the papers presented in the conference as a special issue of FUTURES[2].

Encouraged by the success of this conference, I gradually began to feel a necessity to hold this type of future-oriented conference or seminar on a regular basis with a hope that futures studies would become one of the major fields of interdisciplinary studies at a higher educational institution in the coming complex age of information.

An opportunity to propose this idea visited me three years later when I was invited to attend the UNESCO seminar on ``Teaching about the Future'', Vancouver, Canada, June 21-23, 1992. At the seminar, I proposed a series of World Futures-Creating Seminars to be held every summer in Goshiki town, Awaji Island, with a hope that this seminar series will evolve into a core program of a higher educational institution for futures studies (We called such a higher institution the Network University of the Green World. See Establishing a Higher Institution for Future-Oriented Studies. [4, Chapter 20]) At the time of this proposal a financial support for the seminar series was already secured with an endorsement by the mayor of Goshiki town, Mitsugu Saito.

With an enthusiasm among local communities, the first World Futures-Creating Seminar was held on August 16 through 19, 1993 under the main theme: Renewing Community as Sustainable Global Village. I took pains of several years to re-type and edit the papers presented in the seminar, during which I came across a very sad news of Dr. Roger Sperry's sudden death in the Japanese evening newspaper on April 18, 1994. Dr. Sperry, a Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine in 1981 and one of the participants of the first seminar, encouraged us from the beginning to establish this seminar series, saying ``Should there be anything further I might do --- (in a background role) --- that might be of any help in your laudable effort, please do not hesitate to let me know.'' The book[4] was finally published in 1997. With the approval of all contributors, it was dedicated to Dr. Roger Sperry.

The second seminar took place in August 7 through 11, 1994, under the main theme of ``Non-Linear & Chaos-Theoretic Thinking - New Scientific-Visionary Paradigm.'' Following the seminar, an intensive live-in workshop was held for 3 days, Aug. 11 - 13, 1994, to discuss a further development of this seminar series and the Network University project itself. Participants of this workshop were 12 resource people from the second seminar, namely, Steven R. Bishop (UK), George Cowan (USA), Nadegda Gaponenko (Russia), Jerome C. Glenn (USA), Jerome Karle (USA, Nobel Laureate for Chemistry in 1985), Pentti Malaska (Finland), Kazuo Mizuta (Japan), Linzheng Qin (China), Tony Stevenson (Australia), Terushi Tomita (Japan), Theodore J. Voneida (USA), and Kaoru Yamaguchi (Japan). On the last day of the workshop, all agreed that the seminar is renamed so as to reflect the content of what we want to pursue in this seminar series of future-oriented studies. In this way, a new research field is born for futures studies; that is, Future-Oriented Complexity and Adaptation Studies (FOCAS). The FOCAS aims to

  1. understand the interrelated wholeness and interdependence of future-oriented complex phenomena (such as environmental, socio-economic, and natural phenomena) which cannot be linearly predicted, and

  2. use our brain and technology such that human beings (individuals, communities, and societies) will be able to get well adapted to them.

Ever since, the FOCAS seminar continues to be held every summer in Awaji Island, thanks to many devoted futurists, scientists and local volunteers. Simultaneously, we are steadily developing a methodology of the FOCAS, whose latest development is included in the homepage of the Network University of the Green World (

4 Building a MuRatopian Future

As I continued to polish the idea of the MuRatopian economy in the information age, I gradually felt a strong necessity to build a MuRatopian future in a personal environment of my daily life by living an ecological and global-village life. Motivated this way, I organized a project team for building an ecological solar log home (which was dubbed as the MuRatopian solar eco-home) in Goshiki town, Awaji Island, in the fall of 1994. The eco-home is aimed to be

More detailed information of this home-building is included in the MuRatopian homepage (

Building a solar eco-home was also a realization of my personal dream I obtained while studying in Berkeley in early 80's. In those days I had a chance to talk with several people who got involved in building `the Integral Urban House' in the city of Berkeley. Their aim was to derive ``the potential of integrating principles of biology, food and energy production, and the design of living space and community to create places where one might function without total dependence on an `artificial,' centralized technology [1, p.viii]''

Although the eco-home is still under construction, my family moved in the house in April 3, 1997, as my workplace is relocated from Nagoya to Osaka. In this new place we are now beginning an MuRatopian experiment at a personal level with a hope that our life-style as well as our ecological living environment would be a model for creating an ecological MuRatopian future in the 21st century.

In conclusions, futurists are obliged, I believe, to influence futures for a better future through their visions and practices. The FOCAS is our vision and solar eco-home is our practice for building a MuRatopian future.


1. Farallones Institute. The Integral Urban House -- Self-Reliant Living in the City, Sierra Club Books, 1979.

2. Cole, S. and Yamaguchi, K. A Special Issue: Paradigms of Human Development, FUTURES, Vol. 22, No. 10, Dec. 1990.

3. Yamaguchi, K. Beyond Walras, Keynes and Marx -- Synthesis in Economic Theory Toward a New Social Design. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York, 1988.

4. Yamaguchi, K. ed. Sustainable Global Communities in the Information Age -- Visions from Futures Studies, Adamantine Press Limited, England, 1997.