"A term invented by R. Buckminster Fuller to describe the process of "doing more with less" as a continuing process of redesigning technology and structures of the physical world through more effective uses of existing natural resources, recycled materials and energy sources. In terms of binary economics, ephemeralization refers to the process of increasing the productiveness of capital relative to that of labor." (http://www.cesj.org/definitions/glossary.html)
Buckminster-Fuller (in: Critical Path):
"As a long-time student of foreign investment I saw a pattern developing. Between 1938 and 1940 I was on the editorial staff of Fortune magazine as its science and technology consultant, and my researchers harvested all the statistics for Fortune's tenth-anniversary issue, "USA and the World." In that issue I uncovered and was able to prove several new socioeconomic facts -- for the first time in the history of industrial economics:
1. the economic health of the American -- or any industrial -- economy was no longer disclosed (as in the past) by the total tonnage of its product output, but by the amount of electrical energy generated by that activity; tonnage had ceased to be the criterion because
2. we were doing so much more given work with so much less pounds of materials, ergs of energy, and seconds of time per given function as to occasion ever newer, lighter, and stronger metallic alloys, chemicals, and electronics.
Though at that time universally used as the number-one guide to the state of economic health of any world nation, tonnage no longer represented prosperity. The amount of energy being electrically generated and consumed became the most sensitive telltale of economic health....
There is not a chapter in any book in economics anywhere about doing more with less. Economists traditionally try to maximize what you have, but the idea that you could go from wire to wireless or from visible structuring to invisible alloy structuring did not occur to them at all. It was outside their point of view -- beyond their range of vision. Economists are specialists trained to look only at one particular thing.
In my Shelter magazine of 1930-33 and in my 1938 book Nine Chains to the Moon, I identified this progressive doing-more-with-less as ephemeralization. Though Fortune magazine also published my 1922 concept of ephemeralization in its tenth-anniversary issue of 1940 in a prominent manner, and despite ephemeralization having subsequently wrought epochal advancements in the standard of living for two billion previously deprived humans, ephemeralization is a phenomenon that in 1980 is as yet largely unknown to or overlooked by the world's professional economists. Nonetheless, the combination of accelerating acceleration and ephemeralization has now elevated 60 percent of all humanity from its year-1900 99-percent poverty level into realization of an everyday standard of living superior to that enjoyed by any kings, tycoons, or other power-commanding humans prior to the twentieth century." (http://www.whywork.org/rethinking/leisure/bucky.html)