Notes on the Venus Project

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Warn icon.png Commentary
The following comments are by Mark J Norton and do not represent the views of the Open Source Ecology organization.


Overview

The Venus Projectis aimed at changing global economics by declaring that all resources are held in common by humanity. It is an attempt move towards a "economy of plenty" that is similar in some ways to the Open source ecology community idea. They propose to eliminate our current monetary system and replace it with an "economy of resources". The Venus Project seems to think that a global scale is more effective than the village scale envisioned by OSE.

The notes below examine an essay by Jacque Fresco, principle founder of the Venus Project. It can be found at [1].

See also the Zeitgeist Movement.

Beyond Utopia

we will assign more and more decision making to machines

While this is certainly one view of the future, the OSE viewpoint is that people are very much in the loop. The GVCS is designed to leverage automation at a small, open source scale to bootstrap a village into being a self-sufficient community. Abdicating decision making to machines may not be in the best interests of society, in the long run.

We believe it is now possible to achieve a society where people would be able to live longer, healthier, and more meaningful productive lives.

Perhaps, but our society, as it currently exists, is extremely unbalanced. Only the top few percent of the wealthy will actually lead a longer, healthier life.

the measure of success would be based upon the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power.

This will require some radical shifting of the rules by which we run our civilization. Acquisition of wealth, property, and power is at the very heart of the game of western civilization. It is a worthy goal, but how do we get there?

Although many of the concepts presented here may appear as unattainable goals, all of the ideas are based upon known scientific principles.

Being based on scientific principles is not enough. People do not act according to "scientific principles". Sociology is a very complex subject and only starting to be understood as a scientific discipline.

Establishing the parameters of this new civilization will require transcending many of the traditions, values, and methods of the past.

How will this be done? It's easy to say, but how exactly will we transcend our history, culture, and current values (including the negative ones)?

In 1898, Edward Bellamy wrote the book Looking Backward.

Mr. Fresco seems to imply that Bellamy's writing is key to his thinking. See [2]. Mr. Fresco states Bellamy and other writers of his time lacked a comprehensive set of blueprints, models, and a methodology for implementation ... they lacked competent individuals to bring about such a transition. Presumably we have such things now.

what is needed is an operational definition of a better world

Define it and shall come into being. To be fair, a definition of the goal is essential to attaining it. Here is Mr. Fresco's definition:

To constantly maximize existing and future technologies with the sole purpose of enhancing all human life and protecting the environment.

I can agree that technology can be used to enhance human life and used correctly, it can be used to protect the environment. However, people are going to have very different views on what this means. Bringing a larger number of people around to the same shared vision is very difficult, especially on a large (national) scale.

It is now possible to relieve humanity of many of its unresolved problems through the humane application of technology.

How? Show me how.

In all established social systems it is necessary to devise different approaches to improve the workings of the system.

In some ways, this reflects one of the core philosophies of Open Source: explore possibilities and don't worry about failure. Good solutions to a problem will emerge out of the seeming chaos of forking, tinkered designs, re-used designs, etc. However, it is much easier to accept the failure of a piece of software or a badly designed piece of equipment than it is to admit that a social experiment failed. Social designs have a direct impact on people's LIVES. If OSE would attempt similar social experiments, the well being of it's participants must be first and foremost in it's requirements.

Fresco goes on to talk about failed science experiments, such as the search for a cure for syphilis. I note that in this process, only microbes were harmed.

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.

This statement is a bit too broad for my tests. Even in high tech, there are examples of very static technology. QWERTY keyboards come to mind. While it has been true of the past 50-80 years, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Even Moore's law will require radical design change if we are to continue a doubling of computer performance every two years or so. In my view, exponential grown is inherently unsustainable over the long term.

Yet our social system and values remain largely static.

This is a simplistic statement. Social systems and values change as well, but societies - especially large ones - have a kind of social momentum that makes change on a large scale difficult. That said, there can be single instants in time which have profound effects on a society. The bombing of the World Trade Center on 9/11 had an absolutely profound effect on the United States ... and not all for the better, either. The problem comes in trying to plan and execute such a pivotal event with an end in mind. Asimov examines some of these concepts in his "Foundation Trilogy".

The future does not depend on our present-day beliefs or social customs, but will continue to evolve a set of values unique to its own time.

This statement doesn't make sense to me. The future MUST depend on present conditions for it to evolve. There can be no change, without a pre-condition. To disregard present day beliefs and social customs seems like a recipe for failure to me.

However, the survival of any social system ultimately depends upon its ability to allow for appropriate change to improve society as a whole.

I note that the Egyptian Bureaucracy lasted for thousands of years in part because they eliminated the possibility of change. It was quite successful and "survived" a long time. I think by their very nature, social systems change - sooner or later. Whether or not they "allow for change" will not alter the fact that change will happen. It could be stated that societies survive because it's members "react" well to change. Also, the definition of "to improve society as a whole" is subjective.

New Frontiers of Social Change

common crises create common bonds

I agree with this phenomenon, to some extent. How can it be used to evolve society in the directions proposed by The Venus Project? Mr. Fresco points out several threats that transcend national boundaries:

overpopulation, energy shortages, pollution, water shortages, economic catastrophe, the spread of uncontrollable disease

These are big problems and actually quite abstract for most people. I'm not sure that they are the kind of crisis that creates a common bond in people, else it would have happened by now. I suppose that we can take Planned Parenthood, The Sierra Club, Earth First, and similar organizations as people with a common bond joining together to deal with these crises. Some of them have had a profound impact on our society and culture, but I think is has been a slow, arduous process.

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.

This serves to introduce the "resources must be shared in common" premise.

in a monetary-based economy the full benefits of these developments (advances in transportation, housing, medicine, etc) continue to be available to a relative few

Well, I can agree with that. Even those with some money do not receive a commensurate amount of the wealth being generated by the system as a whole. Hidden behind this are the concepts of societal control and power. Who has control in our society? Who has power? How can that be changed. The OSE approach is to gather a small group of people and change the rules of society-at-large within it. At a small scale, the GVCS might very well create an economy of abundance. Can this scale to larger groups of people like cities, nations, or the whole world? Unknown and we will likely not live to see if it is so. That shouldn't prevent the attempt, however.

What is not touched upon is how these new technologies of the future can be used to organize societies and economies efficiently and equitably, without the necessity of uniformity, so that everyone would benefit from them.

Still waiting for Mr. Fresco to explain how technology can be used to organize society.

Neither are there any overall social plans in government or industry to totally eliminate the negative effects of the displacement of people by machines

No, I wouldn't think so. As long at the rich get richer, why should our society care about people being displaced by machines? This is one reason why the GVCS is important. The 50 machines that enable a high civilization to be constructed do NOT displace people in the process. Rather, the empower them to better their own, individual lives. They are tools that can give meaning to life, used well.

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.

This is something that the OSE should bear in mind. While creating an OSE Community to be completely self-sufficient, some outside of that community may view it as a threat, especially to the established order of things. Expect to see legal action, enforcement of byzantine legal codes (building codes, for example), negative publicity, etc. It would do well to prepare for that eventuality.

The prime conditions that would really effect social change will come about when conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that governments, politicians, and social institutions no longer have the support and confidence of the people.

Waiting for that to happen seems like a bad idea to me. Let's see what can be done before everything goes to hell.

True social change is not brought about by men and women of reason and good will on a personal level.

This is something that I cannot accept or believe. It suggests that individuals can do nothing. I disagree in part because it depends on the scale at which one acts. If I convince a few of my friends to get together and build a LifeTrac that we share in common, change has happened in at a micro level of society.

If the person one is talking to does not have the fundamental knowledge of the operation of scientific principles and the processes of natural laws, it is difficult for them to understand how the pieces fit together on a holistic level.

Again, I don't agree with this. In part, it is a matter of education, but it's also a matter of how change is presented and in the ability of a person to trust. Indeed, I think that much of our current societal train wreck is the result of people gaining the trust of those who do not understand the underlying principles and consequences.

The solutions to our problems will not come about through the application of reason or logic.

This leads one to wonder what will lead to solutions. Emotional appeal?

Unfortunately, at present we do not live in a reasonable or logical world.

No, of course not. We live in a world that includes emotions and the spiritual. Societal change must include the emotional and spiritual.

There appears to be no historical record of any established society's leader who deliberately and comprehensively redesigned a culture to fit the changing times.

Hmm. Wouldn't the American Revolution count?

the real factors responsible for social change are brought about by bio-social pressures

We need more definition here. His list includes limited resources, war, overpopulation, epidemics, natural disasters, economic recession, downsizing on a mass scale, technological displacement of people by machines, and the failure of elected officials to overcome such problems..

The introduction of the medium of money to the exchange process brought about a significant change in society, as did the introduction of mechanized agriculture and the Industrial Revolution.

Money and technology.

the world's outmoded social, political, and international order is no longer appropriate to these times

While I'm included to agree, I want to know why. I want to understand the details, lest we set up a new system that leads to the same end.

These obsolete social institutions are unable to grasp the significance of innovative technology to achieve the greatest good for all people

I think they understand it all right. The problem is that the "greatest good for all people" doesn't necessarily lead to the most wealth, control, or power for the elite. Those in power are not altruistic.

Competition and scarcity have caused an atmosphere of jealousy and mistrust to develop between individuals and nations.

True, but how do we fix it?

The concepts of proprietary rights, intellectual property, copyrights, and patents manifested in corporate entities and in the sovereignty of nations, preclude the free exchange of information that is necessary to meet global challenges.

Such things are mechanisms of control. We should be very careful to respect that control (and power). We may not agree with it and seek to change it, but the power is very real. For example, should a large corporation decide that one of OSE's open source designs infringe on one of their patents or IP, a lawsuit would wipe out all that OSE has accomplished - regardless of the merits of that suit.

We cannot regress to traditional values, which no longer apply. Any attempt to retreat to the methods of the past would condemn untold millions to a life of needless misery, toil, and suffering.

Untold millions are already suffering. I am not prepared to abandon all traditional values. Indeed, I'd like to see some return such as personal integrity, the value of inquiry, intelligent discourse, etc.

The challenge that all cultures will encounter in this technological age - some more than others - is that of providing a smoother transition, which would introduce a more appropriate way of thinking about ourselves, the environment and the management of human affairs.

More appropriate ways to think imply education of some kind. I have long been of the belief that education is essential to social change. Indeed I think the erosion of our educational system has contributed greatly to our decline.

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.

This is extremely naive. Humans have trouble cooperating in groups of 10, much less billions. I give the example of both the United Nations and the European Union as examples of attempts to plan things on a very large scale that has had only moderate success.

Along with the introduction of new paradigms towards human and environmental concern, there must be a methodology for making this a reality.

I'm all for methodology. I'm interested in hearing what it might be.

If these ends are to be achieved, the monetary system must eventually be surpassed by a world resource-based economy.

So now we coming to it: eliminate money. Money is a means to coordinate action in the world. It is a way to keep track of work, value, and exchange. So the follow on question is: what will replace money?

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.

It could be, perhaps, but how do we actually move to providing a higher standard of living for everyone? Eliminating money won't do it without something to replace it.

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.

Do they really want to? Seriously, do they even care? I mean in the aggregate. Individuals may care.

What is needed to attain a global society is a practical and internationally acceptable comprehensive blueprint.

Hopefully open source and available to all.

Also needed is an international planning council capable of translating the blueprint and the advantages that would be gained through world unification.

A high level cabal? An Illuminati of powerful men? I have absolutely no faith that such a thing could come to be. Change must be bottom up. It will not happen top down.

This proposal could be presented in the vernacular, in a way that non-technical people can easily understand.

Ironically, this directly contradicts a statement that Mr. Fresco made earlier in his essay. He state that such things could not be explained to people who don't understand the underlying principles. Fortunately, I think it could be explained, presented properly. If only I knew what was going to be presented.

In actuality, no one should make decisions as to how this blueprint will be designed.

So we have a committee that will translate the blueprint, but no one will actually design it.

It must be based on the carrying capacity of our planet, its resources, human needs and the like.

So the blueprint will emerge naturally out of the carrying capacity? I suspect the Club of Rome has already drafted this blueprint and it calls for Malthusian drops in population.

In order to sustain our civilization we must coordinate advanced technology and available resources in a total, humane, global systems approach.

There seems to be vacillation between proposing a group of people to coordinate the changes needed and expecting that it will emerge naturally out of the actions of all. Seven billion people can't get together and decide to coordinate technology and available resources. Scale matters.

the systems analysts, computer programmers, operation researchers ... will eventually lead us to large-scale computer-based methods of social operation.

Whew! Good news at last. I am part of the cognoscenti. Geeks shall save us all. Well, we let politicians, businessmen, and lawyers have first crack at it, so perhaps it's reasonable that the technoratti have a chance at lasting social change.

Social operations are far too complex today for any elected politicians to handle.

Oh, they are going to LOVE hearing that.

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.

What does a "resource based economy" mean? Money can be a symbol for resources. Should we lug around the real things, instead? I truly believe that money is NOT going away. It might became more abstract than it is now. Hard currency is disappearing, for example.

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.

This is not a justified conclusion based on the argument presented so far.

The Obsolete Money System

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.

True enough. The primary motive is profit. Introducing new technology is often purely a means of getting more money out of people by encouraging them to replace working gadgets with the latest and greatest. This is promulgated even further by planned obsolescence, machine designed for a limited lifetime, and are essentially unrepairable. OSE is rightly opposed to these practices.

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.

Market hype, for the most part. While some contributions are made, I often suspect the true motives.

While such trends are commendable, they are insufficient as a method of solving the overall problems of waste, environmental degradation and unnecessary human suffering.

I quite agree.

The monetary system has been a useful, but interim tool, it came into being as a means of placing a value on scarce objects and labor.

I don't completely agree with this definition. Wikipedia defines it as "any object or record, that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context.[1][2][3] The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally in the past, a standard of deferred payment.[4][5] Any kind of object or secure verifiable record that fulfills these functions can serve as money." The main point here is that any attempt to replace the existing monetary system with another system that relies on symbols for labor, value, and exchange are essentially still money.

I think what Mr. Fresco is attempting to get at here is the imbalance and inequities that our current economy has engendered. Money is just a tool. If it has been misapplied, we need to address those concerns rather than the medium of exchange. Our current economic system funnels wealth into the hands of a shrinking number of people. It encourages the rest of us to take on debt that is difficult or impossible to repay. It encourages consumption for it's own sake. Finally, it has shifted the benefits of society from the good of all to the good of an elite few.

This is something I recognized about ten years ago. I gave the matter a great deal of thought, did some research and came to the conclusion that it was possible to re-define what prosperity was for me (and my family). Personally, I make a very decent salary and I enjoy the freedom that money gives me, but I am quite aware that my situation is temporary. My view of retirement (about 15 years away at the time of this writing) was bleak. So my wife and I decided to change the rules. We decided to determine what things about our life we could control and then attempt to take control. This included growing our own food, making our own clothes, having the tools we need to build what we need, having a place that we own ... in short, we are attempting to achieve self-sufficiency.

Along the way, it became quite obvious that isolation is too much work. Better, in fact, to be embedded in a small community of like minded people. Our choice of location to re-settle to was based on that, in part (Ithaca, NY). It is also a big reason why I was so attracted to OSE and the GVCS. OSE seeks to provide the tools a small community needs to build and maintain a high quality of life.

However, just as there was no universal-bartering standard in the past, there is no global monetary system today.

True, but there are mechanisms in place for global exchange. Money is just a tool. National monetary systems have been adapted to work together. It's not perfect. I've still got 50,000 Armenian Dracma kicking around because I have no way to convert them to USD.

The unequal distribution of skills, resources and materials throughout the world necessitates global trade.

That's actually true regardless of scale. If I have something you want, we can negotiate an exchange. Introducing money merely simplifies the process. So if we propose to a resource based economy, how can we cause distribution of skills, resources, and materials to be uniform and equitable?

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.

Money is not the problem - consumption is.

In a monetary system purchasing power is not related to our capacity to produce goods and services.

I think Mr. Fresco meant to say "capacity to purchase goods and services". "Produce" is used in the sense of "cause to appear". That said, I don't agree. The value of money is directly related to its purchasing power. He states that in a recession, there are CD's in a store window, but people do not have the purchase power to buy them. I would respond by saying that is in effect of recessions - the value of money has changed. He is trying to get a the concept of inequitable distribution of wealth, but money is still not the problem. The problem is that the system has been successfully gamed by a very small number of people. We have two choices to the situation (as I see it): re-distribute wealth (which is often the reason for revolution) or change the rules (see above for my person views). I think that OSE is attempting to provide a way to "change the rules". The GVCS gives a small group of people the ability to change the rules concerning personal affluence.

In today's culture of profit, we do not produce goods based on human need. We do not build houses based on population needs. We do not grow food to feed people. Industry's major motivation is profit.

The "WE" in that statement can be changed. WE can produce goods based on our own, immediate needs. WE can build houses (shelter) to meet our own needs. WE can grow good food to feed ourselves. Finally, our motive is not profit, but the benefit of ourselves and the community we have chose to associate with. Again, scale matters. This cannot be done on any kind of large scale. It must happen in small groups and grow from there (or not).

This imaginary tool (money) has outlived its usefulness.

What will replace it?

The limitations on earth's population now caused by the monetary construct can be phased out.

Anarchy and chaos would descent on all of us. In theory, money is not needed in a village. I grow food and swap it for tools made in the local fab-shop. She makes baskets and swaps them for pots made by the potter. Etc. Even if that were so (and money is still vastly convenient even on a village scale), there would still be a need to trade with other villages. Skills, resources, and goods cannot be made uniform by fiat.

It is not money that people need but the access to goods and services.

How???? Barring a universal replicator and functional nano-technology I do not see how this is achievable.

Since humanity requires resources to exist, the replacement system should provide those resources directly to people without the impediment of financial and political interest for their private gain at the expense of the lives and livelihood of the populous. The replacement system is therefor (sic) logically a resource-based economy.

There are problems like distribution and manufacture to consider. How are resources moved from one place to another? All resources do not exist everywhere (at least, not yet).

War represents the supreme failure of nations to resolve their differences.

That seems like a pretty obvious statement. The implication is that war is always fought over resources. Ideology must be considered as well.

Resource Based Economy

Presented here is a straightforward approach to the redesign of a culture, in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt, and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but totally unacceptable.

Well, that would be good.

This new social design works towards eliminating the underlying causes that are responsible for many of our problems.

I'm not sure we've identified the underlying problems by this point in the discussion.

But, as stated previously, they cannot be eliminated within the framework of the present monetary and political establishment.

Perhaps, but we haven't stated a replacement yet, either.

Human behavior is subject to the same laws that govern all other physical phenomena.

Yes, but do we understand what those laws are?

These aspirations cannot be accomplished in a monetary based society of waste and human exploitation.

The monetary system keeps track of the waste and human exploitation. Money doesn't exploit people, other people do.

Automation will continue to replace people well into the foreseeable future, resulting in the lack of purchasing power for these displaced workers. Despite expanding global markets, the human cost in terms of displaced workers and a disenfranchised populous, will inevitably bring about massive and unmanageable social problems.

Automation isn't the problem. The people causing automation to displace people without regard to how they will live IS the problem.

We live in a culture that seems to work collectively only in response to a crisis.

Actually, we might be able to argue that this was once the case, but is no longer. The will of the American people has descended into apathy. I would love to be proven wrong, however.

The Earth is still abundant with resources.

While I agree with this in the abstract, easily accessed resources (oil, coal, uranium, iron, etc.) has largely been consumed.

Today our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter-productive to the well-being of people.

Sigh. It is NOT rationed by monetary methods. It is a result of how wealth is distributed. It is the underlying system, not the symbols of exchange.

Simply stated, a resource-based economy utilizes existing resources rather than money, and provides an equitable method of distribution in the most humane and efficient manner for the entire population.

How are resources distributed? The argument is becoming quite circular.

It is a system in which all natural, man-made, machine-made, and synthetic resources would be available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of symbolic exchange.

The technology to make this so doesn't exist. Personally, I don't see it as coming into existence any time soon, either. Furthermore, the technology basis of universal resource distribution is dangerous (see Gray Goo). I really wish that Mr. Fresco would actually say what technology would be used to create this resource based economy. I am assuming he means nano technology and replicators, but he never comes out and says that. I know of no other theoretical technology that would produce the results he is claiming that we need.

To further clarify the concept of a resource based economy consider this example

Interesting example, but it assumes that people could actually USE the resources on that hypothetical island to improve their lives. At least OSE has a plan to produce the tools needed to process resources into useful, consumable things.

A resource-based economy would use technology to overcome scarce resources by utilizing renewable sources of energy; computerizing and automating manufacturing, inventory and distribution; designing safe, energy-efficient cities; providing universal health care and relevant education; and most of all, by generating a new incentive system based on human and environmental concern.

Cool. What technology? Please be specific.

In a resource-based economy, the human aspect would be of prime concern, and technology would be subordinate to this.

Actually, that doesn't follow. It would have to be a shared set of values for that to happen. It is not a logically consequence of a resource based economy.

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.

As long as computers don't become intelligent and decide that humans are a threat to their existence.

The essential difference is that in the future, each of us will command more than a million slaves - but they will be mechanical and electrical slaves, not fellow human beings.

Oh, the computers are not going to like that.

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.

Yep, just as soon as we get that new technology figured out.

To further understand the operation of cybernation in the city system, for example, in the agricultural belt 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.

It hasn't worked yet and the technology is already here for this application of cybernation.

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.

This at least is an actual description of how resources are allocated, moved around and distributed. The problem is in the "last mile". We already have ships, trains, truck, etc. that move resources around.

All transportation systems are fully utilized in both directions. There would be no empty trucks, trains, or transport units on return trips.

An interesting problem in logistics.

In this way a balanced-load economy can be assured and shortages, over-runs, and waste could be eliminated.

Barring breakdowns, bugs in the system, personal greed, etc, etc, etc.

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.

Who would run them? Would they be completely automated? How does the system track fair distribution and consumption? Money would be a real useful way to keep track. If the system supported unlimited consumption, it wouldn't matter, but that doesn't seem likely in the near term.

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.

Only if we can reach that point before we run out of resources need to build the new, resource based economy. Think Oil, for example.


To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy consider this: 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.

I don't think so, actually. If money suddenly disappeared, how would people trust that they would get what they need? The existence of factories and physical resources doesn't explain how things are acquired and distributed. Having the ability to make anything myself, per OSE's GVCS seems much more likely and attainable.

It is not money that people need, but rather it is freedom of access to most of their necessities

True, but unless people grow or make it for themselves, they need some other way to get those needs met. Until the resource-based manufacturing and distribution system is in place (assuming the technology is developed), we will need a monetary system.

In a resource-based economy money would become irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources, manufacturing, and distribution of the products.

I agree. There is just that little problem of how to set it up that stops us.

Take the automobile.

Mr. Fresco asks why cars are so complicated, hard to repair, expensive to buy, etc. If we had a technology base that could make cars so cheap as to give them away, then perhaps they could be made better. Meanwhile, the Open Source Car project seems like a far more practical way to get a solid, reliable, repairable car.

Enormous amounts of time and energy would also be saved by eliminating the duplication of competing products.

Where would those people be employed? What would they do with their time? Some of these concepts have been explored in Science Fiction writing.

Motivation, Incentive, and Creativity

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.

The free enterprise system essentially lets every man fend for himself - regardless of how well they are equipped to do so. In fact, efforts are taken to make sure that the average person can't function well in a free enterprise system, except as a consumer. There is clearly a need to establish other forms of incentive to work and contribute to the betterment of society. I think this is more likely done through education and shared values than any kind of magic technology.

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.

A worthy goal, certainly. I think that it will take time to establish a new, shared value system. Meanwhile, smaller groups can self-select for shared values, such as those described by the OSE.

People, provided with good nutrition in a highly productive and humane society, will evolve a new incentive system unattainable in a monetary system.

Maybe, this is conjecture. Perhaps boredom will lead to violence instead.

There would be such a wealth of new wonders to experience, explore, and invent that the notion of boredom and apathy would be absurd.

This assumes that everyone wants to explore, invent, or create. Is there a place in society for a person doesn't want to contribute? What about intangibles such as religion? Presumably, a resource based economy could support a mystic who wants to do nothing more than meditate for all the hours that he doesn't spend sleeping, but what if EVERYONE wanted to do that?

The vision of the future that too many see today consists of endless days of mindless toil, and a wasted life, squandered for the sake of merely earning enough money to survive from one day to the next.

This made me laugh. My days are full of meaningful work. Some of it is directed towards earning money, some of it is directed towards creating a self-sufficient environment for me and my wife, some of it is work that others benefit from (like this contribution to OSE, now entering it's sixth hour). It's partially a matter of attitude. I enjoy working hard, knowing that I will benefit from it financially, physically, and the satisfaction of doing things well. All of us has the chance to change our view of the world and work towards a new definition of personal wealth that has little to do with how much stuff we have or money in the bank.

In this new social arrangement of a resource-based economy, motivation and incentive will be encouraged through recognition of, and concern for, the needs of the individual. This means providing the necessary environment, educational facilities, nutrition, health care, compassion, love, and security that all people need.

Sign me up. I'm ready.

The Human Aspect

In today's society, there is much concern about the dissolution of the conventional core family structure, and the societal values associated with it.

I am concerned about this as well. I think our society has eroded the core values that come from loving families. We did our best to counter those tendencies and now that our children are grown, we can step back a bit and see how they will apply what we tried to show them.

Parents lack adequate time to spend with their children, and they are constantly stressed by ever-rising medical bills, insurance payments, educational expenses, and the high cost of living.

Yes, those stresses are there and quite real. I personally never let that get in the way of having time to spend time with my children.

The fear of uniform behavior in a cybernated resource-based economy of the future is unfounded.

Oh, I agree with that. People will always be different.

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.

It is to be hoped for, but not expected. Sadly.

Additionally, everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed would have equal access to all of the amenities that this highly productive culture could supply.

What about criminals? Would they still exist in this perfect world? Would they have the same access to goods and services? What if they use them to try and damage society? Who will decide these things?

In more advanced and humane systems of education people would acquire this new type of value system.

They could. I stated earlier that education is essential towards changing shared values.

They would also realize the many advantages of cooperation rather than competition.

Maybe. I don't think we've determined how in-grained competition is in our genetic makeup. What if such competition is indeed hardwired into our makeup?

A resource-based economy by definition includes the participation of all people in its benefits.

Well, Mr. Fresco has defined it to be that way, but I have my doubts.

Without vested interests or the use of money, there is no benefit to squelching one's opinion or falsifying information or taking advantage of anyone.

I'm not sure a vested interest is required. Mean people do exist and I think they will in the resource based economy as well. Maybe it's something that will die out over time.

The Venus Project

The function of The Venus Project is to design, develop, and prepare plans for the construction of an experimental city based on the -principles outlined above.

Hmm. Are they designing the blueprint mentioned above? One would assume so.

In support of this research we are creating blueprints, renderings, and models, holding seminars, producing books, videos, and other written material to introduce people to the aims of The Venus Project.

Much of this consists of very pretty graphics rendered and displayed on their website. Very futuristic and large in scope. This particular essay doesn't go into the details of what is being done on a more concrete basis.

The Venus Project will provide the designs and blueprints for a prototype community to test the validity of its social proposals and to establish a permanent planning center that could be used for future short-term and long-term project planning.

I guess it's fair to design the future if you see the vision. I hope they share it widely enough for all to see.

A new, experimental city is proposed that will pursue these goals. These are compared to OSE goals:

1. Conserving all the world's resources as the common heritage of all of the Earth's people.

OSE sees resources as defined locally or accessible external to an OSE community. To an extent that is yet to be proven, all the resources you need can be found locally.

2. Transcending all of the artificial boundaries that separate people.

What is the OSE stance on boundaries? Us vs. them? I'm not sure that boundaries are there.

3. Evolving from a monetary-based economy to a resource-based world economy.

Evolve from a money-based economy to a system in which a community can provide for itself by growing or making the things it needs.

4. Reclaiming and restoring the natural environment to the best of our ability.

In agreement.

5. Redesigning our cities, transportation systems, and agricultural and industrial plants so that they are energy efficient, clean, and conveniently serve the needs of all people.

General agreement, except on the scope of the community.

6. Evolving towards a cybernated society that can gradually outgrow the need for all political local, national, and supra-national governments as a means of social management.

I think OSE sees cybernetics as a means to an end, but perhaps a different end than The Venus Project. Computers are a tool that frees people up from labor, which the Venus Project agrees with, if not in the specific applications.

7. Sharing and applying all of the new technologies for the benefit of all nations.

Agreed. OSE believes in sharing through open source principles. However, one big difference, is that OSE has concrete technologies that are actively being worked on, while the Venus Project seems to expect a new technology to come along.

8. Using clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power, etc.

Agreed. OSE sees these in a pragmatic way. Alternative energy sources are more likely to be practical in a local setting.

9. Ultimately utilizing the highest quality products for the benefit of all the world's people.

Agreed. Quality is important to OSE. Continuous improvement as well.

10. Requiring environmental impact studies prior to construction of any mega-projects.

Hmm. No mention of this in OSE plans. Local plans lead to local responsibility. Permaculture principles also apply here.

11. Encouraging the widest range of creativity and incentive toward constructive endeavor.

Agreed. Creativity is essential.

12. Assisting in stabilizing the world's population through education and voluntary birth-control to conform to the carrying capacity of the earth.

Not quite sure what the OSE stance on this is. It's part of the participant questionnaire, so obviously relevant. I think that OSE technology will help to balance local carrying capacity and thus stabilize local population.

13. Outgrowing nationalism, bigotry and prejudice through education.

Such things have no place when welding pieces of metal together.

14. Eliminating any type of elitism, technical or otherwise.

Hmm. Does OSE have a technical elite?

15. Arriving at methodologies by careful research rather than random opinions.

Agreed, but OSE takes that a step further by prototyping it's beliefs and using what is learned to improve on designs.

16. Enhancing communication in the new schools so that our language and education is relevant to the physical conditions of the world around us.

I don't think OSE has gotten to the point of thinking about education for children.

17. Providing not only the necessities of life but also offering challenges that stimulate the mind, emphasizing individuality rather than uniformity.

OSE agrees with this.

18. Finally, preparing people intellectually and emotionally for the possible changes that lie ahead.

Agreed.

Conclusions

My conclusion is that the Venus Project is asking some interesting questions. They are clearly thinking along the same lines as the Open Source Ecology project, though they seem to be exploring a much larger scope. This particular essay lacks any kind of detail on how it's vision might actually be attained or the timescale on which it needs to occur. I think the rejection of a money based economy is a simplistic response to addressing much deeper problems. If a true resource based economy as defined here could be reached, then I agree that money would loose most of its usefulness. However, I do not see a way to get from here to there based on the material presented in this essay.