Wednesday, December 31, 2008


And here we are...the last hours of 2008 have dawned and with them come the usual introspection and anticipation of transitioning into a new year. That it was a year of enormous impact and vast change, is beyond question. So, we all know what went wrong; but where to from here? As usual, there are more prophets and prognosticators than you can shake a stick at. Alas, scratch off the veneer and its the same old retreaded sales pitches disguised as solutions. There is, however, a movement that's asking some interesting questions about humanity's future. What will happen when we move from a monetary system to a resource based economy or apply technolgy on a massive scale without a profit motive, ensuring abundant resources that obviates the need to compete for them and negates the concept of trading labour for income?

Jacque Fresco is a visionary scientist who has actually set about proving these concepts. He has worked as both a designer and inventor in a wide range of fields spanning from biomedical innovations to totally integrated social systems. The Venus Project, and the non-profit organization Future By Design, reflects the culmination of Jacque Fresco’s life work: the integration of the best of science and technology into a comprehensive plan for a new society based on human and environmental concern. It is a global vision of hope for the future of humankind in our technological age. It is timeous, succinct and presents a clarity of vision that is undeniable:

It is now possible to achieve a society where people would be able to live longer, healthier, and more meaningfully productive lives. In such a society, the measure of success would be based upon the fulfillment of one’s individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power. Although many of the concepts presented here may appear as unattainable goals, all of the ideas are based upon known scientific principles. The social direction being proposed here has no parallel in history with any other previous political ideology or economic strategy. Establishing the parameters of this new civilization will require transcending many of the traditions, values, and methods of the past. The answers do not lie in debate or philosophical discussion of values, but rather in methodology. Thus what is needed is an operational definition of a better world, which is as follows: To constantly maximize existing and future technologies with the sole purpose of enhancing all human life and protecting the environment.

Science is replete with examples of experiments that have failed, as well as those that have been successful. In the development of the airplane, for example, there were thousands of failures before the first workable model was produced. All of the technology we use today, such as computers, cellular phones, the Internet, aircraft, and automobiles, are in a constant state of improvement and modification. Yet our social system and values remain largely static. The major reason for resisting change is that it tends to threaten the established interests. Actually, the fear of social change is somewhat unfounded when we consider that the entire history of civilization has been, in a sense, an experiment. Even the free-enterprise system, during its earliest stages, faced a multitude of problems much more severe than they are today. These included long work hours, exploitation of child labor, inadequate ventilation in industrial plants, lack of rights for women and minorities, hazardous conditions in mines, and racial prejudice.

It has often been observed that common crises create common bonds. While people seek advantage during the times of prosperity, shared suffering tends to draw people closer together. Once the threat is resolved, however, scarcity patterns once again begin to steer people back to their behaviors of seeking individual advantage. Indeed, it seems that the only force that would mobilize the world in a unified direction would be one that poses a common threat, such as a colossal meteor hurling towards the earth, or some other major catastrophic event. If such an event were to occur, all border disputes would become irrelevant in the face of impending disaster. While many would call upon divine intervention for salvation, all nations would surely combine their efforts and call upon science and technology to deal with this common threat. Bankers, lawyers, businessmen, and politicians would all be bypassed. Every resource would be harnessed and mobilized, without any concern for monetary cost or profit. Under this kind of threatening condition, most people realize where the key to their survival lies. As the amount of scientific information grows, nations and people are coming to realize that even in today's divided world there are, in fact, many common threats that transcend national boundaries. These include overpopulation, energy shortages, pollution, water shortages, economic catastrophe, the spread of uncontrollable disease and so forth. However, faced even with threats of this magnitude, which are common to all nations, the direction of human action will not be altered so long as powerful nations are able to maintain control of the limited resources available.

Many citizens throughout history have taken their politicians to task for actions that have not been entirely in society’s best interest. The reasons for this become clearer when one realizes that even in modern democracies, these leaders do not benefit the lives of the average person. Rather, they maintain the preferential positions of much of the established order. There are growing indications of awareness on the part of the people in many areas of the world that events have gone beyond the control of their political leaders. Everywhere we see political figures and parties come and go, political strategies adopted and discarded for their inability to satisfy the demands of one faction or another. The reason that its pointless appealing to your political representative, or any number of governmental agencies, is that they lack the necessary knowledge to deal with our problems. Their focus is to preserve existing systems, not to change them. It appears that there are few within present-day societies who want to phase themselves out. In modern industrial societies the cause of inaction lies within the cumbersome political process itself, an anachronism in an era when most decisions can be made on any important issue in a split second by the objective entry of relevant data into computers.

The ultimate survival of the human species depends upon planning on a global scale and to cooperatively seek out new alternatives with a relative orientation for improved social arrangements. If humankind is to achieve mutual prosperity, universal access to resources is essential. Along with the introduction of new paradigms towards human and environmental concern, there must be a methodology for making this a reality. If these ends are to be achieved, the monetary system must eventually be surpassed by a world resource-based economy. In order to effectively and economically utilize resources, the necessary cybernated and computerized technology could eventually be applied to ensure a higher standard of living for everyone. With the intelligent and humane application of science and technology, the nations of the world could guide and shape the future for the preservation of the environment and humankind. What is needed to attain a global society is a practical and internationally acceptable comprehensive blueprint. Also needed is an international planning council capable of translating the blueprint and the advantages that would be gained through world unification. This proposal could be presented in the vernacular, in a way that non-technical people can easily understand. In actuality, no one should make decisions as to how this blueprint will be designed. It must be based on the carrying capacity of our planet, its resources, human needs and the like. In order to sustain our civilization we must coordinate advanced technology and available resources in a total, humane, global systems approach.

There is no doubt that many of the professions that are familiar to us today will eventually be phased out. With the rate of change now taking place, a vast array of obsolete occupations will disappear more rapidly and more extensively than at any other time in history. In a society that applies a systems approach, these professions will be replaced by interdisciplinary teams – the systems analysts, computer programmers, operation researchers, and those who link the world together in vast communications networks that are assisted by high-speed digital computers. They will eventually lead us to large-scale computer-based methods of social operation. The process of social change must allow for changing conditions that would continuously update the design parameters and allow for the infusion of new technologies into emerging cultures. Design teams utilizing socially integrated computers could automatically be informed of new developments. As this process is continuously updated, it would generate a more appropriate code of conduct. By appropriate conduct we mean the necessary procedures to accomplish a given task. All the limitations imposed upon us by our present-day monetary system could be surpassed by adopting a global consensus for a worldwide resource-based economy, in which all the planetary resources are viewed and treated as the common heritage of all the earth's inhabitants. In this manner, the earth and our technological procedures could provide us with a limitless supply of material goods and services without the creation of debt or taxation whatsoever.

Although skillful advertisers lead us to believe otherwise, in today’s monetary-based economies, whenever new technology is introduced, the human consequences are of little concern to those introducing the technology - except, of course, as customers. In a monetary-based system, the major concerns of industry are profit, maintaining a competitive edge, and watching the bottom line, rather than the wellbeing of humanity. The social problems that arise from mass unemployment of people, who are rendered obsolete by the infusion of automation, are considered irrelevant, if they are considered at all. Any need that may be met is secondary to acquiring a profit for the business. If the profit is insufficient, the service will be withdrawn. What industry seeks to do is improve the competitive edge to increase the profit margin for their shareholders. It does not serve the interest of a monetary based society to engage in the production of goods and services to enhance the lives of people as a goal. With rising public concern regarding the greenhouse effect, acid rain, polluted air and water, etc. some companies are also beginning to realize that for sustained market presence it is in their best interest to heed social and environmental concerns.

Until the last few decades, the monetary system functioned to a degree. The global population of three billion was not over consuming world resources and energy, global warming was not evident, and air and water pollution were only recognized by a relative few. The start of the 21st century however finds global population at an exponentially rising six billion, with resources and energy supplies dwindling, global warming a reality, and pollution evident worldwide. Planet earth is in crises and the majority of world population cannot meet their basic needs because people do not have the means to purchase increasingly expensive resources. Money is now the determinant of people’s standard of living rather than the availability of resources. The monetary system is now an impediment to survival rather than a means of facilitating individual existence and growth. This imaginary tool has outlived its usefulness. All of the world's economic systems - socialism, communism, fascism, and even the vaunted free enterprise capitalist system - perpetuate social stratification, elitism, nationalism and racism, primarily based on economic disparity. As long as a social system uses money or barter, people and nations will seek to maintain positions of differential advantage. If they cannot do so by means of commerce they will resort to military intervention. The replacement system is therefor logically a resource-based economy. This global resource based economy would be gradually phased in while the monetary system is phased out.

To further clarify the concept of a resource based economy consider this example: A group of people is stranded on an island with enormous purchasing power including gold, silver and diamonds. All this wealth would be irrelevant to their survival if the island had few resources such as food, clean air, and water. Only when population exceeds the productive capacity of the land do problems such as greed, crime, and violence emerge. On the other hand, if people were stranded on an island that was abundant with natural resources producing more than the necessities for survival, then a monetary system would be irrelevant. It is only when resources are scarce that money can be used to control their distribution. One could not, for example, sell the air we breathe, the sand on the beach, or the salt water in the ocean to someone else on the island who has equal access to all these things. In a resource-based economy all of the world's resources would be held as the common heritage of all of the earth’s people, thus eventually outgrowing the need for the artificial boundaries that separate people – this is the unifying imperative. We must emphasize here that this approach to global governance has nothing whatsoever in common with the present aims of a corporate elite to form a world government with themselves and large corporations in control, and the vast majority of the world's population subservient to them. Globalization in a resource-based economy empowers each and every person on the planet to be the very best they can be, not to live in abject subjugation to a corporate governing body.

In a resource-based economy, the human aspect would be of prime concern, and technology would be subordinate to this. This would result in a considerable increase in leisure time. In an economy in which production is accomplished primarily by machines, and products and services are available to all, the concepts of "work" and "earning a living" would become irrelevant. Cybernation, or the application of computers and automation to the social system, could be regarded as an emancipation proclamation for humankind if used humanely and intelligently. A resource-based economy calls for the redesign of our cities, transportation systems, and industrial plants so that they are energy efficient, clean, and conveniently provide the needs of all people both materially and spiritually. These new cybernated cities would have their electrical sensors' autonomic nervous system extended into all areas of the social complex. Their function would be to coordinate a balance between production and distribution and to operate a balance-load economy. Decisions would be arrived at on the basis of feedback from the environment. Despite today’s mania for national security, and subsequent intrusions into everyone’s personal affairs, in a world-wide resource-based economy where no one need take from another, it will be considered socially offensive and counterproductive for machines to monitor the activities of individuals.

To further understand the operation of cybernation in the city system for example, consider the agricultural belt where the electronic probes imbedded in the soil would automatically keep a constant inventory of the water table, soil conditions, nutrients, etc. and act appropriately without the need for human intervention. This method of industrial electronic feedback could be applied to the entire management of a global economy. All raw materials used to manufacture products can be transported directly to the manufacturing facilities by automated transportation "sequences" such as ships, monorails, trains, pipelines, and pneumatic tubes, and the like. All transportation systems are fully utilized in both directions. There would be no empty trucks, trains, or transport units on return trips. There would be no freight trains stored in yards, awaiting a business cycle for their use. An automated inventory system would be connected to both the distribution centers and the manufacturing facilities, thus coordinating production to meet demand and providing a constant evaluation of preferences and consumption statistics. In this way a balanced-load economy can be assured and shortages, over-runs, and waste could be eliminated. The method for the distribution of goods and services in a resource-based economy without the use of money or tokens could be accomplished through the establishment of distribution centers. If all the money in the world were to suddenly disappear, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we chose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need, but rather it is freedom of access to most of their necessities without ever having to appeal to a government bureaucracy or any other agency. In a resource-based economy money would become irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources, manufacturing, and distribution of the products.

With the infusion of a resource-based, world economy and an all-out effort to develop new, clean, renewable sources of energy, (such as geothermal, controlled fusion, solar heat concentrators, photovoltaics, wind, wave, tidal power, and fuel from the oceans), we will eventually be able to have energy in unlimited quantity that could serve civilization for thousands of years. Take the automobile. In order to service conventional automobiles today we have to remove a great deal of hardware before we can get to the engine. Why are they made so complicated? This reason is simply because ease of repair is not the concern of the manufacturers. They do not have to pay to service the car. If they did rest assured they would design automobiles that consist of modular components that could be easily disengaged, thus facilitating easier access to the engine.

Such construction would be typical in a resource-based economy. Many of the components in the automobile would be easily detachable to save time and energy in the rare case of repair, because no one would profit by servicing automobiles or any other products. Consequentially all products would be of the highest quality, and they would be simplified for convenience of service. Automotive transport units engineered in this way can easily be designed to be service-free for many years. All the components within the car could be easily replaced when needed with improved technologies. Eventually, with the development of magnetically suspended bearings, lubrication and wear would be relegated to the past. Proximity sensors in the vehicles would prevent collisions, further reducing servicing and repair requirements. This same process would be carried out for all other products. All industrial devices would be designed for recycling. However, the life span of products would be significantly increased through intelligent and efficient design, thereby reducing waste. There would be no "planned obsolescence," where products are deliberately designed to wear out or break down. In a resource-based economy technology intelligently and efficiently applied will conserve energy, reduce waste, and provide more leisure time. During the transition, the workweek could be staggered thus eliminating traffic jams or crowding in all areas of human activity including recreation areas.

It is claimed that the so-called free-enterprise system creates incentive. This may be true, but it also perpetuates greed, embezzlement, corruption, crime, stress, economic hardship, and insecurity. In addition, the argument that the monetary system and competition generate incentive does not always hold true. Most of our major developments in science and technology have been the result of the efforts of very few individuals working independently and often against great opposition. Such contributors as Goddard, Galileo, Darwin, Tesla, Edison, and Einstein were individuals who were genuinely concerned with solving problems and improving processes rather than with mere financial gain. Actually, very often there is much mistrust in those whose incentive is entirely motivated by monetary gain, this can be said for lawyers, businessmen, salesman and those in just about any field.

Some may question that if the basic necessities are accessible to all people, what will motivate them? This is tantamount to saying that children reared in affluent environments, in which their parents provide all the necessary food, clothing, shelter, nutrition, and extensive education, will demonstrate a lack of incentive or initiative. There is no evidence to support this fallacious assumption. There is overwhelming evidence to support the facts that malnutrition, lack of employment, low wages, poor health, lack of direction, lack of education, homelessness, little or no reinforcement for one's efforts, poor role models, poverty, and a bleak prospect for the future do create monumental individual and social problems, and significantly reduce an individual’s drive to achieve. The aim of a resource based economy is to encourage and develop a new incentive system, one no longer directed toward the shallow and self-centered goals of wealth, property, and power. These new incentives would encourage people to pursue different goals, such as self-fulfillment and creativity, the elimination of scarcity, the protection of the environment, and the alleviation of suffering in their fellow human beings. People, provided with good nutrition in a highly productive and humane society, will evolve a new incentive system unattainable in a monetary system. There would be such a wealth of new wonders to experience, explore, and invent that the notion of boredom and apathy would be absurd.

With the enhanced level of sociability that would naturally come from not having to compete for access to goods and services, we would see a tendency toward extension of the family unit into the community. As may already be observed in other cultures, the rearing and development of children would become the responsibility of both the family and the community at large. With the elimination of debt, the fear of losing one's job will no longer be a threat; this assurance, combined with education on how to relate to one another in a much more meaningful way, could considerably reduce conflict and stress both mentally and physically. When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential.

The fear of uniform behavior in a cybernated resource-based economy of the future is unfounded. The only uniformity one would find would be a concern for the environment and the importance of extending maximum courtesy to all nations and to one another. All would likewise share an intense curiosity for all that is new and challenging. With a better understanding, people could possess a flexibility of outlook unknown in previous times, free of bigotry and prejudice. In addition, the people of this innovative society would have concern for their fellow human beings, and for the protection, maintenance, and stewardship of the Earth’s natural environment. Additionally, everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed would have equal access to all of the amenities that this highly productive culture could supply. In more advanced and humane systems of education people would acquire this new type of value system. They would also realize the many advantages of cooperation rather than competition. In a society without vested interest it would be impossible to harness the talents of scientists and technicians to engage in weapons research or any other socially hostile endeavor. We call this approach "functional morality." This newer, more humane, and more productive approach would advocate finding non-military solutions to international differences. This calls for a global view, which would be a considerable improvement over narrow national and self-interests. We could use knowledge and information as tools that would be surrendered when evidence of more appropriate methods are introduced. As we enhance the lives of others, protect our environment, and work toward abundance, all our lives can become richer and more secure. If these values were put into practice it would enable all of us to achieve a much higher standard of living within a relatively short period of time--one that would be continuously improved. At a time when commercial institutions no longer exist, the necessity for prisons, lawyers, advertisements, banks and the stock exchange will serve no useful purpose.

In the society of the future, in which the monetary system of scarcity has been surpassed by a resource based economy and most physical and creative needs are met, private ownership as we know it would cease to be a necessity to protect one’s access to goods and services. The concept of ownership would be of no advantage whatsoever in a society of abundance. Although this is difficult for many to imagine, even the wealthiest person today would be immensely better off in the highly productive resource-based society. Today in developed countries the middle class live far better than kings and the wealthy of times past. In a resource based economy everyone would live richer lives than the powerful and wealthy of today, not only materially but spiritually as well. People would be free to pursue whatever constructive field of endeavor they choose without any of the economic pressures, restraints, debts and taxation that are inherent in the monetary system of today. By constructive endeavor, we mean anything that enhances the lives of the individual and others while protecting the global environment. When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential. With these major alterations people would be able to eventually live longer, more meaningful, healthier and productive lives. In such a society, the measure of success would be based on the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power.