Monday, 16 March 2009
the future is in Venus
Today's thought-provoking guest post by is Larissa
Numerous science fiction and Japanese animated films depict a horrific future where humans are ruled and overpowered by an army of power-hungry killer robots and machines. In reality, this is unlikely ever to happen. A future where robots can walk upright like a human, on two steel legs, let alone grip a pistol in their meagre, unbendable fingers is thousands of years away – especially when you take a look at the ‘best’ and most ‘proficient’ robots that have been designed so far. The most violent thing these inadequate steel beasts will do is blast away the dirt and grime in your home and call an all-out war on poor sanitation.
On the contrary, imagine living in a world enhanced by machinery and technology. Imagine living in a beautifully designed, fully-automated, sustainable house with a solar-panelled roof in a safe, energy-efficient city that has no prisons. Best of all, you wouldn't have any bonds or mortgage payments to make and you would never have to pay rent either. Sounds incredible, doesn't it? Well, it's the idea behind 'The Venus Project'.
Admittedly, the name conjures up images of dirty, barefoot hippies running around with goofy smiles on their faces, hugging trees and bunnies and professing 'free love'. However, the name 'Venus' merely applies to a town in Florida in the United States, where Phase One of the project is already underway.
The future is currently taking shape on a 25-acre piece of land in pristine, south-central Florida. Futurist, inventor, industrial designer and founder of the project, Jacque Fresco and his associate, Roxanne Meadows have already completed construction for the research centre in Venus to test their theories. The buildings are supplemented by pamphlets, books, posters, video presentations and even an upcoming feature-length film which will highlight the projects' aims and proposals in an informative and entertaining way.
Fresco is the project founder and director of The Venus Project and foresees a radical new resources-based worldwide economy. That's right, folks, Mr Fresco wants to do away with all forms of money, credits, barter and any other form of debt or servitude. In Fresco's design, all resources become "the common heritage of all of the (earth's) inhabitants." Fresco’s resource-based and extreme new civilisation will utilise existing resources from the land and sea to enhance the lives of the total population on earth. Emphasis is on a high standard of living and the use of technology to improve our lives.
Money won’t be the only thing left by the wayside – all professions based on the monetary system like stockbrokers, lawyers, bankers, salespeople and insurance agents will become null and void. (Imagine a society where you never have to deal with another one of these blood-sucking leeches! Sounds like heaven.) In this new world, lifestyles would inevitably change to a focus on the pursuit and realisation of happiness rather than the acquisition of wealth, property and power.
Fresco has designed safe, energy-efficient cities and advanced transportation systems. These cities will use clean technologies like geothermal, controlled fusion, solar photovoltaic, wind, wave, tidal power and fuel from oceans. Fresco imagines a world where machines will do all the sorts of jobs that humans don’t want to or don’t like to do – like cleaning and waste removal. Sounds good to me! These concepts are not unlike anything you would hear about in a technology programme like the popular, Tech Head, which claimed that “houses of the future will clean themselves” on one of its shows.
People are already living in intelligent, self-automated houses that run on a central computer system. The occupants of these houses ‘log in’ on their cell phones or other devices and voila! The houses magically change and adjust according to the users’ personal settings. In the bathroom, the central computer will run a bath for you, perfectly suited to your tastes, and change the light and temperature settings according to your personal needs. Counter tops in the kitchen are adjusted to the height of the person using it – ideal for all the little children in the household. Fridges have touch screens so that you can see exactly what’s inside without even opening the door. They are also connected to the internet, so that you can order food and drinks as soon as things are finished or have expired. These high-tech houses also have energy monitors, telling you exactly how much energy you have wasted and consumed.
The unifying imperative of The Venus Project is also to outgrow the artificial boundaries that separate people and nations. That means global governance, which can be quite a scary and imposing term to some people. Fresco is quick to explain his stance – “Our vision of globalisation empowers each and every person on the planet to be the best they can be, not to live in abject subjugation to a corporate governing body.” Nothing Orwellian about it.
Fresco also, perhaps somewhat idealistically, believes that as soon as you eliminate scarcity in a society, most crimes and other social ills will naturally disappear. In his new world, prisons will no longer be necessary. A lot of Fresco’s radical ideas are not unlike the beliefs of the Bahai’ faith – a monotheistic religion which was founded in 19th century Persia. Bahai’ teachings emphasise the unity of all the world’s major religions and talks about the spiritual unity of all humankind. One of the fastest growing religions, Bahai’ underlines peace, justice and unity on a global scale. Currently, there are more than six million Bahai’ around the world in more than 200 countries.
You probably won’t be the first person to point out that designing, building and implementing these new cities, houses and transport systems will – very ironically – cost a lot of money. Fresco is aware of this paradoxical fact. In any case, no system can change abruptly over a very short period. For the Venus Project to be successful, it will undoubtedly need to be a gradual and carefully implemented process. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to this link: http://www.thevenusproject.com/introAims.php for any news and developments.
In addition, you won’t be the first cynical capitalistic to say that the project will never work because of humankind’s inherent greed / bloodthirsty competitive nature / self-indulgence / power-hungry desires / [insert negative adjective here]. Do yourself a favour and research the project, read all you can about it and then draw your own conclusions. Granted, it may not be the best option for everyone, but at least it provides an interesting alternative to the cut-throat, ruthless, money-obsessed, consumer-driven, wasteful and gluttonous poor excuse for a society we currently live in.