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The Venus Project
Posted: 09 November 2007 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A friend tipped me off to this a couple of weeks ago.  And since I looked into it I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities.  The man behind this is all at once charming, thoughtful and reasonably intelligent.  In spite of his lack of formal training he appears to have developed a compelling vision for the future.

While there is certainly reason to be concerned about any plan that has ambitions to “change the world” or put forward a “Utopian” vision, this man and those who have joined him, seem to have a sincere, optimistic view of things and their vision does seem to be a Humanistic one.

Of course I immediately see problems with many of the proposals.  But if I am to take them seriously, they do not claim to have all the answers, and the foundation of their proposal is built on the idea that human ingenuity is being wasted in so far as it has failed to be applied to solve the most significant problems we are facing.  And on that premise alone, I can agree.  If we could apply our knowledge, ingenuity, and resources to solving the big problems without the roadblocks that our current methods of governing our societies, and that our economies have put in place, we could achieve much more.

The question I have is what kind of society has been proposed here?  What are the real roadblocks to achieving it?  I realize many will have an initial reaction many may have such as, it could never be done, or that it would impose some kind of authority over people that we would not want.  However, could these issues also be resolved if we could apply our knowledge of past failures to solving them?

I’d like to be able to support some kind of positive vision of the future.  If not this one, then what other?

The Venus Project
The Future by Design

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Posted: 09 November 2007 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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BTW, I posted this here, because I think the philosophy behind this is, at a minimum, sympathetic to secular humanist values.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I like science ficiton also, but I usually just play video games to satisfy that desire.  The world they describe already exists.  We have space ships, architects, industiral design, philosophy, etc. - with one exception - we don’t have a hive mentality.  Diversity is helpfull to survival, we need checks & balances.  If people want to start a secret club to drink coolaid, that is up to them.  If they decide to go Hugo Drax *(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Drax) on the world, then I think it is a serious problem.

* How do you link words?

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Posted: 09 November 2007 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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retrospy - 09 November 2007 01:22 PM

I like science ficiton also, but I usually just play video games to satisfy that desire.  The world they describe already exists.  We have space ships, architects, industiral design, philosophy, etc. - with one exception - we don’t have a hive mentality.  Diversity is helpfull to survival, we need checks & balances.  If people want to start a secret club to drink coolaid, that is up to them.  If they decide to go Hugo Drax *(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Drax) on the world, then I think it is a serious problem.

* How do you link words?

Your reaction seems to be a common one.  But I think it might also be a hasty one.  Did you read any of the essay?

Maybe I’m just naive.  But I’d like a better world outside of a video game experience.  And I do feel we are wasting our resources and intelligence on trivial things a lot of the time.  As for the big problems, we seem to be satisfied to let them work themselves out. 

Why is it a bad idea? What part of it is secret, or cult like?  And how the heck did you come up with the Hugo Drax association?  I don’t recall any part of this that referred to a race of super-beings, or world dominance. 

I don’t get the diversity angle either.  What part of such a vision would limit diversity?

I would agree that this does not need to be a design for the world. But what would be wrong with trying something like this out on a small scale? 

I know that some would have difficulty with some of the socialist style concepts (resource based economy), and others might find fault with the way technology has been applied to solve problems.  I am not necessarily on board with all of it myself.  But, I do think we have allowed the momentum of existing practices overtake many opportunities to improve on what we have.

Anyway, I think it is easy to dismiss such visions, without really considering them seriously. 

Is status quo the best we can hope for?

I will say this.  I do think it is strange that a group that promotes a “resource based economy” promoting the intelligent distribution of resources rather than money is seeking donations!  There may indeed be something fishy about this group. 

My question has more to do with the concept than it does with this group. That concept being that we could make better use of our knowledge and technology to solve problems with society and ecology.  Perhaps their strategy is flawed.  But how could we remove some of the barriers we have today?  The capitalistic approach has not really been effective.  Profit motives are satisfied, while the big problems tend to be left to philanthropists, bleeding hearts and token gestures.  Is everyone satisfied with this model?

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Posted: 09 November 2007 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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* Oh, BTW, to get a link to a word, use the POST REPLY button instead of FAST REPLY.  Type the word, then highlight it, then click the <a> button for a dialogue that lets you enter the URL.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well, I got this far, and already see a major problem:

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.

Emphasis mine. We do not have a limitless supply of resources on this planet. I’ll keep reading, but I’m very skeptical of any proposal based on the notion the earth can supply us with limitless resources.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I am unable to find others involved in The Venus Project outside of Jacque Fresco. There is mention of the Technocracy movement on the Jacque Fresco Wikipedia page, but it says they parted company - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacque_Fresco

But, in places on the What is TVP page it seems he is referring to more then just himself, such as calling it a think-tank - http://www.thevenusproject.com/intro_main/whatis_tvp.htm


Here is the link for the Technocracy movement - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technocracy_movement

Also, the “research center” looks like a house to me. I’m also a bit skeptical when I notice each page offers the same merchandise for sale.

Clicking the merchandise offering - http://www.thevenusproject.com/shop/ - you are instantly entertained by a video, with clips from an interview with Larry King.

It’s all been fun to check out though, thanks.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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fotobits - 09 November 2007 04:39 PM

Well, I got this far, and already see a major problem:

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.

Emphasis mine. We do not have a limitless supply of resources on this planet. I’ll keep reading, but I’m very skeptical of any proposal based on the notion the earth can supply us with limitless resources.

I think you miss the point.  It does not claim unlimited resources the way you have characterized it.  Rather the implication is that by making intelligent use of resources, a limitless supply of goods and services can be generated.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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No, I’ve finished the essay, and they keep talking about resources making everyone on earth richer than even the most wealthy of today.

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.

Not going to happen. I’m listening to NPR right now, and the reporter just mentioned that if everyone on the planet had the lifestyle of the average American it would take six earths to support us. So where are we going to get the resources for everyone on the plant to live like the powerful and wealthy of today? Where are we going to find space to build McMansions for six billion people? How many iPods can Apple sell?

The Venus Project also ignored the underlying problem of overshoot: overpopulation. Our population grew to six billion on farming driven by cheap, easily available oil. Oil is getting more scarce. Indeed, we are at peak oil right now according to many industry analysts. As our population grows and oil supplies dwindle we will reach a point where we cannot feed everyone on this planet. Add the effects of global warming to peak oil, and you have a recipe for unprecedented disaster. At least unprecedented in our species’ time on this planet.

The Venus Project ignores human nature. They focus on a Utopian ideal of worldwide cooperation, when the reality is many people do not want an egalitarian society. Do they really believe evil people will disappear simply through early childhood education? That is, at best, naive. Some people are greedy. Some are power hungry. Some are just plain evil. None of those will sit by and watch everyone prosper.

Lastly, the Venus Project proposes basing our economy on resources, when those very resources are dwindling rapidly and already approaching the point where they cannot sustain our population. I’ve already mentioned peak oil, but we also face water shortages, the oceans fisheries are reaching the depletion point, and we’re cutting down rain forests to grow crops to power our automobiles. Nuclear power is only a short-term option, as even our uranium reserves are dwindling. Unless we figure out a way to harness fusion we’re headed back to a sustainable society that uses only the power our sun provides, which means a return to 18th century population levels. This does not mean a return to 18th century lifestyles, as we will still have our knowledge, but we cannot sustain our current resource consumption. Basing our economy on resource trading is not a method to bring riches to everyone on the planet.

[Edited to add the last paragraph.]

[ Edited: 09 November 2007 06:38 PM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 09 November 2007 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks Zarcus, all this (technocracy movement) is new to me.  You all are reading my initial reactions.  My first reaction was cynical, but the more I thought about it I thought that there might be some merit to the kernel of the idea.  Perhaps not. 

I routinely question my own perception of things in order to see if there might be another way to look at the issues we face.  This seemed like a new take on things. 

One criticism I picked up from the wikipedia link you provided was that they were not well organized or focused.  That would appear to be the case today. 

I really don’t believe all our problems can be solved with technology.  However, I do think there is some merit to the criticism of our economic structure in reference to the motivation to provide infrastructure and support for everyone using every bit of the knowledge we have along with technology.  These resources are typically applied to profit making ventures, which are often at odds with larger goals of society.

So much that could (and often should) be done is not pursued due to lack of financing, not due to lack of resources.  If people could rest assured that their basic needs were met (food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education) they could be free to assist in solving these problems.  Often people are idle or focused on unproductive tasks due to financial pressures, lack of education, lack of opportunity.  Human resources could be used more effectively than they are today.  So when we refer to resources, it should not be limited to discussions of raw material from the earth.  Are we comfortable with the amount of waste in terms of lives we see each day?

So, the challenge is how do you provide for these basic needs?  Using something like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, could we not put our best minds to work on such a problem to determine: 1st, how to effectively meet those needs in the most efficient way.  2nd, how to create an infrastructure to deliver the goods and services required to meet those needs.  3rd, ensure that the goods and services are generated in an efficient way with a minimal impact on the environment.

Sure, it’s a tall order.  On the list of things we all do each day, what is a higher priority?  That is the question I routinely ask myself.

The simple test proposed by Mahatma Gandhi is the most meaningful yardstick for determining priorities in scientific research designed to help in meeting basic human needs: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you have seen, and ask yourself, if the steps you contemplate are going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him control over his own life and destiny?”

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Posted: 09 November 2007 06:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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There are areas in which I am very sympathetic to Jacques thoughts. He speaks of creating better environments because of the recognition that the pressures found within can effect outlook (thus behavior then belief in a cycle). It is almost Skinnerian, and I’ve yet to chuck out my Radical Behaviorist tendencies, just modified them a lot. I may even go further in some respects then Jacques, in that I think greed and a distorted view of life is what is aiding vast discrepancies seen throughout the world. To me it simply is not practical or ethical to accept the the fact that so many can have so much (much of it not needed in any reasonable sense) and yet there are people needing basic resources. A vast revolution of thought needs to take place so we can accept the realization we need each other and we can help one another in ways never before possible.

But, I also think this can be done in a monetary system, at this point anyway.

[ Edited: 09 November 2007 06:55 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 09 November 2007 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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fotobits - 09 November 2007 06:05 PM

Not going to happen. I’m listening to NPR right now, and the reporter just mentioned that if everyone on the planet had the lifestyle of the average American it would take six earths to support us. So where are we going to get the resources for everyone on the plant to live like the powerful and wealthy of today? Where are we going to find space to build McMansions for six billion people? How many iPods can Apple sell?

Why would we all need McMansions and iPods?  Basic human needs can be met with much less. 

I think the Vision Project example has promised too much, and in some cases has chosen to go about solving things in an ill advised way, but I don’t think the kernel of the idea is wrong. 

If you could for a moment consider the challenge, rather than the approach that the Vision Project has outlined, I think some progress could be made.

Consider the alternative. 

If people responsible for conspicuous consumption are confronted by an ever increasing number of the disenfranchised, the result could be very ugly.  Everyday there are more and more people are desperately pursuing the means to provide for their basic needs.  Immigrants making their way here in an attempt to flee conditions in their own country, others condemning us for our extravagant lifestyles.

There does not appear to be near as many who are managing to find their way.  While the so-called global economy has managed to increase the influence of western lifestyles on more remote areas of the world than ever before, the basic needs of these people are still not met.  More people in our own society are finding it more and more difficult to meet our basic needs in spite of the widespread availability of cell phones and iPods.  What good is an iPod or a cell phone when you can’t get decent health care, healthy food, or pay your mortgage. 

Priorities.  How are we setting them, how are we meeting their demands?

Watching the news right now.  Health care, a woman with cancer can’t get the care she needs due to insufficient health insurance.  Natalie Merchant records a song written by a homeless girl.  Admirable, but what lasting impact?  Mortgage payments straining budgets, foreclosures.  Kids poisoned by toys.  Katherine Newman discusses her book the Missing Class - the near poor. 

The McMansion is out of reach for most of us.  iPod, maybe.  But a clean, healthy living space, food, medical care and education would do more for people than either of them.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Charles, I agree with your premise, and I fervently wish we could build a world where everyone could have the basics: adequate food, shelter, clothing, education and health care. However, the Venus Project essay you posted to start this thread proposes a utopian ideal of wealth for everyone based on an economic system of trading overtaxed resources. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m old enough to have lost my youthful idealism. Yes, we should strive for feeding everyone and providing equal opportunities for all people on this planet, but it is not going to happen in our lifetimes. I’m afraid things are going to get very ugly before this century ends. That is reality, and it is bad.

My son went to the local hospital about one hour ago to pick up a friend who had to go to the emergency room for an infected tooth. His friend does not have health insurance, and could not afford dental care, so he ended up in an emergency room to get his gums drained. This is shameful in the world’s largest economy, but it is how things are. People keep voting for politicians who promise to reduce taxes, so we end up paying for an emergency room visit instead of preventive care.

You asked what are the roadblocks to achieving the society envisioned in the Venus Project, and I pointed out the roadblocks I see. I think we agree on the necessity and morality of providing basic needs to everyone, but we appear to diverge on the possibility of doing so in the near future. Maybe, after our society overshoots and crashes, our ancestors will pick up the pieces, learn from our mistakes and build a more egalitarian world where the poor have adequate food, education and health care. We can hope.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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fotobits,

I’m old enough to know better (48), and perhaps it is because I am older that I begin to think more seriously about not only what I could have done, but what I could yet do to leave behind something better.  I have a daughter, you have a son.  Having a child only reinforces these feelings.  In spite of the fact that I may have lost my youthful enthusiasm, my inherent desires have not changed.  It may take many generations, but if we send the message to our kids that all is lost, then is it not our fault for leaving them with this impression?  A message of hope, and even the beginnings of a road map may be a better legacy.

I think we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to consider our options, and make our best effort to find something for them to hold on to and to work towards.  Perhaps your right, there is nothing in it for us, but I don’t care about that anymore.

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Posted: 09 November 2007 09:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I don’t care if there is anything in it for me either. I’m only four years older than you, by the way.

I agree we need to leave our children a road map to a better society, but that map needs to be realistic, not idealistic. Idealism leads nowhere. We need to let our children know what the future most likely holds so they can make viable career choices, plan for an energy-poor society, and have reasonable expectations of what is going to happen in the coming decades. False hopes will not help.

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Posted: 10 November 2007 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’m running a legitimate classification for this group.  I attended a Secular conference several years ago where some man wanted to build a floating city outside of Belize and it turned out he was a scam artist and his wife had been convicted of fraud years before.

Utopia in any form must be checked out.  I will report whatever comes back.  I will not give my source for this investigation.

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