The Venus Project is moving forward, but toward what?

The third installment of filmmaker Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist film series, the documentary Moving Forward, is being released worldwide on January 15. In Vancouver, it will be screened at the Rio Theatre, at 12 p.m. This is a propaganda movie for the Zeitgeist movement, the activist arm of the Venus Project, an organization that aims to radically transform society by moving it towards what they call a “resource-based economy”, in which there is no money. The movement reportedly has half a million members in over 60 countries, including a growing chapter in Vancouver. This is a fascinating achievement, considering that the project is devoid of any actual content.

The first movie of the series argued that Christ is a mythical figure, that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the U.S. government and that our destinies are being controlled by the “international bankers”. According to the director, the movie got 100,000,000 views online in one year. The second movie focused on the evils caused by money. Moving Forward will be more like the second movie, presenting the case for the Venus Project and arguing for a need to transition out of the current monetary system.

You may not have heard about the Project. According to founder Jacques Fresco, the free enterprise system is failing, and people are accumulating debt. The situation, he says, calls for urgent and radical social change. At this point, the revolutionary in you awakes, and you may feel that it is true, that we do need urgent and radical social change. The status quo needs to be challenged. Unfortunately, this is as far as the project goes in terms of real detail. Regarding everything else, Fresco mentions a set of incredibly ambitious (and naive) goals, and no method for achieving them.

The Venus Project aims to implement a plan to eliminate war, poverty, hunger, crime and taxes (sounds promising), through innovative uses of science and technology, and a new economic system. At the core of the Project lies a critique of the profit motive. According to Fresco, if we hold on to the profit motive as the motor of economy, we will reach an inevitable breaking point. The growing use of machines increases production, but also increases unemployment. Eventually, not enough people will be able to afford what is being produced, and the global economy will collapse. There will be riots, and a military dictatorship will follow, to try to keep people under control. All freedoms will be lost.

In order to avoid this spiral of self-destruction, the beginning of which we may be witnessing now, says Fresco, we need to move beyond the profit motive. The root of the problem is scarcity. Because there is scarcity or the threat of scarcity, and people can overcome it if they have money, they become obsessed about it. In the monetary system, having money is a means not only to acquire objects and services, but also respect from others. Greed and envy are a creation—a side effect—of the monetary system and the profit motive.

Fresco views money a system for rationing resources. The need to ration resources, however, comes from the very mechanisms of the profit motive, he claims. He points out that we often limit production of food to keep prices up. Our purchasing power, he concludes, is not related to our capacity of production. During a depression, there are cars in lots, and DVDs and books in stores, unsold, because people do not have the purchasing power to buy them. If we move beyond the monetary system, however, and into what he calls a “resource-based economy”, production will be maximized and there will be no need to ration resources. Everyone will have everything they could ever want.

The worry expressed by Fresco that the increase use of machines will cause permanent mass unemployment is a recurrent fear that dates from the beginning of the industrial revolution. But automation has never caused any permanent and widespread increase in unemployment. It has instead made economies grow, which facilitated the creation of other jobs, and lowered the price of goods for all. During the industrial revolution, the average salaries of both white and blue collar workers increased, and infant mortality radically decreased.

Fresco is not really a Luddite. In fact, in his resource-based economy, machines will produce everything, so humans are free for more creative endeavours. How is this to be accomplished? We are told that a central artificially intelligent computer will manage government and production. It is disheartening to hear that the Project’s seemingly simple solution to our economic worries requires that we solve the most difficult engineering problem ever posed to humankind—full-fledged artificial intelligence—first.

Let us look at the project’s assumptions about human psychology. Is it realistic to think that giving up on money will eliminate greed and envy? If someone is good at a competitive sport, will they no longer risk being over-ambitious, and consumed by a desire to win more medals and awards? If someone is extremely good-looking, funny or popular, will others no longer feel envy? Or will medals and good looks and friends be equally distributed to everyone? Fresco even goes as far as saying that there will be no jealousy, because there will be a new education system. Why has no one thought of that before? Why do we keep using the old one?

The scarcity of resources is not a consequence of the monetary system, as Fresco says, but a fact of nature. He claims that each will be able to get all that they want, but suppose that I want to live in a big house by the beach. Since there are no such houses for everyone, will I have to share my big house with twenty other families? That sort of defeats the purpose. When people ask about details, Fresco and his followers tend to say that not all the details have been worked out, since this is an ongoing project.

Saying that monarchy will work, so long as we have a kind king, or that communism will work, so long as each citizen is sufficiently altruistic, should not really count as having a project for a new society. The devil is in the details. What is the Venus Project? A religion for atheists? It seems to me that it is just too vague to really be anything but a cool name from outer space. Fresco usually charges $10 to tell you why the monetary system is obsolete. Entry to see the movie will be by donation.

You can see Zeitgeist III: Moving Forward for yourself at Rio on Saturday (January 15). Doors open at 12 p.m., and if you miss it or just want to see it again, there is a second screening at Norm Theatre (Student Union Building of UBC) on January 18. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Vasco Castela is a philosophy professor and a writer living in Vancouver.

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GlobalSatori

Jan 14, 2011 at 7:20pm

I don't think its claimed that it requires a full-fledged artificial intelligence. Just that a networked database of resources and other relevant data would be used as a central facet to optimise processes.

It seems to me that worrying if a person is jealous of someone else who is particularly good-looking is a rather weak argument for dismissing a resource-based economy.

There is no rational reason why we cannot feed and look after every person on this planet. It is only the horrendous inefficiency of the monetary system and the established vested interests which prevent it. But that is changing and there is a growing consensus that free-market capitalism is not the way forward. Zeitgesit III: Moving forward is the way forward :)

Kemos

Jan 14, 2011 at 8:26pm

To the author,

As the Zeitgeist Movement is the activist arm of the Venus Project, it does not concern itself with the technical details of resource-based economics. So, I can understand your difficulty with finding information there.

There are many over-simplified explanations available online, but these obviously will not answer your questions.

For instance, the reference to artificial intelligence as the government is actually inaccurate. This is a reference only to an idealized manifestation of Fresco's ideas, as this would be neither necessary nor sufficient at this time. The Venus Project has technical designs for each stage of technological development. At no point should one assume that the 3D models and example renderings represent the actual plans for socio-industrial design.

If you would like a more thorough explanation of the resource-based economic system, you should email a resource-based economist.

23 9Rating: +14

Korotrizuma

Jan 14, 2011 at 8:29pm

Some one who claims to be a Professor of Philosophy should know better than to construct a straw man for the sake of tearing it down.

Terroja Kinkaid

Jan 14, 2011 at 8:50pm

wow, great display of ignorance here. labels and misconstructions thrown out like candy. but i suppose you can't expect a lot from someone who procured one of the most vacuous degrees possible...

you honestly don't understand TVP's direction whatsoever. i don't understand astrophysics, so i don't write articles on it.

johnny Renata

Jan 14, 2011 at 9:39pm

really, you need to do deeper research buddy

21 8Rating: +13

Phil

Jan 14, 2011 at 10:36pm

If you do nothing, nothing will happen.

The Venus Project is only concerned with ideas that benefit humanity as a whole.

Everything proposed by the TVP is possible, no longer will the question be "Do we have the money to provide food, shelter and a relevant education for everyone on this planet?" But instead we ask "Do we have the resources to achieve this?"

The technology exists for Maglev Trains that can travel 3000km/ph, the technology exists for mass producing houses, re-greening the desert, hydroponic food crops(grown without soil), abundant natural reusable energy resources that can power the world forever (geothermal, solar, wind...) I strongly suggest you check out all the incredible technology on the venusprojectdesign website http://www.thevenusprojectdesign.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=c...

Forget space travel, there's enough problems on earth.

You either help with solutions to problems or carry on turning your back on the millions of helpless people.

23 7Rating: +16

Paul Michaels

Jan 14, 2011 at 10:43pm

This article is misleading.

First of all, it is easy to see that Vasco Castela is mocking the zeitgeist movies, and the venus project with no valid argument. The fact that Vasco called the film "propaganda" leads the readers into dismissing it as a conspiracy theory instead of leaving it open for them to evaluate it objectively.

The First movie of the Zeitgeist Films does in fact talk about the christian religion, the 9/11 facts and the global banking system. What you're missing in here is that "Zeitgeist the movie" has no relationship to the Zeitgeist Movement or The Venus Project. Zeitgeist Addendum is in no way 100% about money. Yes, the first part does go into detail about the process of creation of money and how it works, and certainly, with enough research it is easy to arrive at that conclusion, since it's a Fact. Then the movie introduces John Perkins and Confessions of an Economic Hit man, and finally introduces The Venus Project. Whether the 3rd movie will in fact talk in length about the Venus Projects and it's proposals is something i do not know since the movie hasn't been released yet, but the synopsis says this: "...will present a case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world society.".

Regarding the 3rd paragraph, i recommend you google "peter joseph where are we going".

Then, about paragraph 7 and 8 i recommend you research about "Technological Unemployment". I understand your argument from your perspective but you seem to be missing some key points, like the profit motive. Since the 1900s automation has been seen as a great thing, many great thinkers, philosophers and scientists rejoiced with the idea that by the 1980s humans would only need to work a few hours a day... But when we introduce the profit motive, the whole idea collapses. And instead of shortening the working time of each employee, they're dismissed because there are machines that can do the job more efficiently, faster, don't join unions or require medical insurance. This is done because corporations do not see automation as a way of making their employee's works easier, or contributing to society but as a way to cut spending and increase their investment:profit ratio.

We do not need to create artificial intelligence to have a working resource-based economy, that is an invalid assumption.

Then it seems that the rest of your article is a whole lot of projecting, and assumptions that aren't correctly built, and it seems you're missing a whole lot of information regarding the venus project and a resource based economy.

If you're interested i could try to answer your questions and give you more detailed and correct information about these concepts. Feel free to email me at themaxter@gmail.com

Myname

Jan 14, 2011 at 11:11pm

"When people ask about details, Fresco and his followers tend to say that not all the details have been worked out, since this is an ongoing project."

Hello,
That isn't quite true. In fact many things aren't true in this point of view. In fact, Fresco is the first to say that, if you don't understand something about it's project, you can ask him. But it's accurate to say that if you even read more about the Venus Project by listening to the many videos he published, or by reading his book (The best that money can't buy), you'll not say things like "suppose that I want to live in a big house by the beach. Since there are no such houses for everyone, will I have to share my big house with twenty other families?", that are very unrealistic. You're just talking about a system who has scarcity, not a Venus Project.

Worldmind

Jan 15, 2011 at 12:13am

The Zeitgeist Movement is based upon a set of ideas, and ideas are virtual, that is, they are conceptual, existing only in the mind. This means that all ideas will be modified by experience and new data. The ZM aims to be 'emergent', recognizing this process of forming ideas and modifying them with experience. The goal of the Zeitgeist Movement and Venus Project is not to put into place an exact model of a better way to live but to develop that model and modify it over time and experience, not to reach a specific goal other than help humanity gain a better relationship with nature and each other, but to continuously reintegrate scientifically discovered data into those ideas and try them out.

Thus, there are not very many 'concrete' examples of what is being proposed... no details to review... but almost anyone can see that the existing systems don't work for the majority of the Human Species and are obviously hard on the ecology.

The technology already exists for most of the Zeitgeist Movement's proposals, and no undeveloped AI is required... computers can already do what is required, IMHO, and every day are discoveries in science that can be used to address major problems in our world, UNLESS the profit motive and the logic of the money system prevents it.

A billion people go hungry every day, whole species go extinct every day, thousands die of starvation, preventable disease, frustration/confusion leading to suicide, or organized institutionalized mass murder... and these are not 'natural' conditions of evolutionary processes outside human behavior.

We in the Zeitgeist Movement do not consider that situation to be either 'immutable' or acceptable and wish to do something about it. We have one basic rule in the ZM... 'Do No Harm'. We will not use violence, intimidation, or coercion, individual or institutionalized, nor even lie, to fulfill our goals, We are not trying to produce an 'Utopia', but there is no reason to fight over fixed failed philosophys or systems that kill thousands, and the ecology by neglectful actions, ...on a daily basis... simply because of the way people have been taught to think about the world. Social 'GIGO' (garbage in, garbage out) applies to our social worldview, and we simply want to remove that garbage using science rather than orchestrated mass opinion or institutionalized violence.

Brent Kyle

Jan 15, 2011 at 3:32am

VC: "the project is devoid of any actual content"

BK: Jacque Fresco has thousands of engineering designs. Peter Joseph has numerous lectures on psychology and the real scientifically-provable reasons for the social problems we face today. What do you mean by "devoid of any actual content"? Precisely what makes "actual content"?

VC: "incredibly ambitious (and naive) goals"

BK: Stop waving your hands around and be precise. Which goals are naive? You mean the ones about using humanity's best scientifically-proven understandings and most advanced technologies available to make the world a better place for everyone, and give the Earth a sustainable future for our children and their children? In case you missed that: We already have the understandings and we already have the technologies. What was the naive part?

VC: "He claims that each will be able to get all that they want, but suppose that I want to live in a big house by the beach."

BK: No one ever claimed that. The goal of The Venus Project is to give everyone everything they NEED for a good life: a comfortable home, food, medicine, schooling, transportation, entertainment, real freedom to pursue any interests, and the comfort of knowing the planet is being taken care of in the best ways possible for all future generations. You don't NEED a big house by the beach. It's ridiculous to think any system could give everyone a big house by the beach, so why even argue for it?

VC: "automation has never caused any permanent and widespread increase in unemployment"

BK: Never? Look at history. Only a few generations ago (our great-great-grandparents), most people worked on farms. Where are all the farmers today? We created technology to replace physical labour with more productive machinery.

Where did all those farm workers go? Factories and assembly lines making goods for sale. Where are all those factory workers now? Again, corporations embraced automation to replace physical labour with more productive machinery.

Where did those factory workers go? The service sector: sales, banking, travel agents, financial planners, restaurants, etc. Now, look around and look what's happening: self-checkouts, vending machines for everything from iPods to Starbucks lattes, banking on-line, travel on-line, investments on-line, shopping on-line, and so on.

Technological advancement cannot (and should not) be stopped. Our choice is either we let corporations reap the benefits or whether all of humanity does.

VC: "a central artificially intelligent computer will manage government and production"

BK: We already have computers doing exactly that. Only they do it for corporations to maximize profit. We don't need any more AI than we already have. It's a red herring to imply we need Hollywood-style "Skynet" computers that can think intelligently just to manage inventory and production intelligently.

VC: "Or will medals and good looks and friends be equally distributed to everyone?"

BK: What are you talking about? Most athletes to not compete for money. They do it because they love the competition. Envy is not just about good looks. Envy is more commonly about eyeing the neighbour's house or car or vacation.

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