The Venus Project: What do people think about the Resource Based Economy predicted by Jacques Fresco?

I see lots of encouraging intentions - in fact I was delighted to find intersections in some of Fresco's work and my own - but I also encountered quite a few problems with Fresco's proposals.

The main problematic issues as I see them:


(I)

Fresco frequently alludes to the idea that we can't solve resource scarcity issues using the same old tools that got us into the current mess. Unfortunately, he does not approach technology and science with exactly the same rigor, instead elevating them to a vaunted "solution"s status rather than acknowledging that they are really inherent to many of the challenges in modernity. Alas, this is magical thinking.

Breaking this down...As a former IT expert with some twenty years of experience with complex computing technologies, I would say that relying on computing and technology to manage production and resource allocation is extremely foolish. Technological determinism - or "technology as panacea" in this case - is a consequence of not knowing how fragile and easily disrupted technological systems inherently are, especially as they increase in complexity. A la Kurzweil and others, it's become a bit of religious conviction that some sort of tipping point "is bound to occur" that frees humanity of its labors and existential challenges. From the perspective of someone who has spent nearly half of his life installing, building, programing and maintaining all manor of technology-dependent "cybernetic solutions" to complex problems, I'm here to tell you it simply will not work. Certainly not in our lifetime...and probably not ever. It is instead a romantic religious conviction cradled in a love of science fiction...and nothing more. Well, actually, it is something more...because such reliance (on any scale) inevitably leads to abrupt and calamitous unintended consequences.

Along the same lines, the scientific method should certainly be part of a larger toolbox in problem-solving...but we shouldn't place it on a pedestal. It has been much too easy to "capture" scientific research and decision-making and processes with opposing values sets, so that science can be used to justify completely different conclusions or reinforce preexisting biases. This is in large part because - in the same spirit as Fresco - many folks romanticize "logical" deductive reasoning, imagining that it is somehow independent of emotions, interpersonal relationships, spiritual perceptions, cultural conditioning, or indeed somatic patterns and proclivities. But it isn't - reason is one small part of a larger organism we call "consciousness." The reductionism inherent to Fresco's investment in science is just a problematic as relying solely on reading pigeon entrails - it excludes too much of the human experience. To appreciate what I'm alluding to, consider reading my essays on Sector Theory and Managing Complexity.

Which leads to the next point...


(II)

Values hierarchies are a reflection of moral development; without specific attention to how we mature our ethical frameworks individually and collectively, there will be no stable solutions available to replace the current self-destructive maelstrom. Human beings will undermine any and all systems whenever their values diverge from it. This is a central consideration of my own Level 7 proposals, and unless I’ve missed something, Fresco seems to rather polyannishly sidestep it (i.e. saying instead that it “will emerge naturally” as resource abundance is actualized - see Values | The Venus Project). I don’t entirely disagree with his sentiment here, but I also think moral development itself should be a more consciously and carefully considered facet of any effective proposal.


(III)

There is very little acknowledgement of the current population problem in the Venus Project. Our planet actually can't sustain the Earth's current population at developed countries' consumption levels - even if we "build everything to last" and maximize the efficiency of production as Fresco proposes - and certainly not for the population projected over the next hundred years. Sorry...it's just not possible. So reducing population has to be part of the mix...which again invokes issue #2 above. It's also a fundamental test of Fresco's target to produce "only what is needed;" folks routinely confuse needs and wants for all sorts of complex psychosocial reasons. Until families around the globe embrace the reality that it is immoral and reckless to have more than one or two children, all proposed systems will inevitable be under tremendous pressure to stratify the "haves" and "have-nots," simply out of practical necessity. Fresco tries to brush such concerns aside with his conviction that people will change their minds when presented with "scientific proof" of what they need...but again, this is more evidence of romantic idealism.

With these prominent exceptions, I actually agree with much of what Fresco says about property, currency, democracy, pilot projects and so forth. I just have different ways to address the same challenges. And that raises one last critical concern: the distributed and diffused nature of human social function. I think one reason many libertarian socialist proposals encourage reliance on community-level organization is because that is where humans are most comfortable - their circle of relationships can only be so big, and their engagement in self-governance and indeed productive activities can only extend as far as our wiring for emotional and social intersubjectivity. This sidestepping of subsidiarity is a major flaw in Fresco's understanding of human beings, which frankly presents to me a bit like how someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder might see the world; again, it misjudges the relationship between moral maturity and prosocial choices.

(See my Level 7 website for further discussion of many of the issues alluded to above….)

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/The-Venus-Project-What-do-people-think-about-the-Resource-Based-Economy-predicted-by-Jacques-Fresco/answer/T-Collins-Logan

If technology is supposed to make our lives easier why are people increasingly having to work longer hours--especially in America?

In answer to Quora question "If technology is supposed to make our lives easier why are people increasingly having to work longer hours--especially in America?"

Thanks for the A2A. I think there are three main factors in play:

1) On a macro level capitalism is growth-dependent. When growth stalls then the economy stalls. Add to this an ever-increasing scarcity of both the factors of production and what is being produced, and a pressure cooker is created for both consumers and producers. (Perverse incentives are in play as well - sometimes scarcity is deliberately engineered). In any case, when we inject market-incentivized competition into this growth-scarcity dynamic, then amplify it with government constraints and reallocations, then maintaining or increasing the standard of living inevitably requires higher productivity within downward wage pressures and downward price pressures. In this environment, we may have simply exceeded the capacity of technology to offset the spiral, and must work much harder to overcome diminishing returns.

2) As someone who was an IT consultant for fifteen years and still follows IT trends and developments, I would say that technology makes certain things easier while introducing a lot more complexity and expectation of effort in other areas. For example, email provides efficiency of communication, but what if you have 100+ work emails to parse every day? Answering all those emails may feel like productivity, but it often doesn't result in actual productivity. There are parallels throughout almost all technology implementations - what at first seems to provide increased capacity also incurs additional costs. Does this result in a complete wash? Sometimes, but more often the gains just aren't as great as expected, and a decent ROI demands additional "self-justifying" effort (or, ironically, additional investment).

3) The American work ethic is pretty distorted. Although attempts have been made to reward productivity and accomplishment above "being busy," the reality is that in most work environments either "being busy" or "appearing to be busy" are much more highly esteemed than actual productivity. Combined with the first two factors, this means people are working harder and harder to accomplish less, produce less, earn less and ultimately enjoy life less.

My 2 cents.

What is the impact of information technology on society?

From Quora answer to "What is the impact of information technology on society?"

This is a fascinating area of inquiry. It's also pretty broad. But I'll give you some observations as someone who was an IT professional for 15+ years:

1. Information is not knowledge, but IT creates the illusion of knowledge because it makes so much data readily available for analysis. The result is often that well-meaning folks - even academics and professionals - believe they "know" something when actually they haven't integrated all the information available into knowledge, but have just latched onto an informational veneer, a veneer that may currently have faddish traction or allure in their given field, but isn't well-considered.

2. IT presents a limited VR dimension of experience and interaction; it does not equate the rich level of exchange that occurs in the real world. But modern society has embraced this façade as increasingly genuine, so that people believe they are really "interacting" online, really "befriending" or "falling in love" in virtual ways, really "having a conversation" on the Internet, etc. when of course they are only doing so in the most shallow and superficial ways. Face-to-face human interaction has increasingly been perceived as less important, which has devastating long-term consequences for building and maintaining "real" relationships.

3. Along similar lines, although on the one hand IT decreases the apparent distance between all sorts of interactions (producers and consumers, authors and readers, managers and employees, politicians and constituents, etc.) it also insulates and isolates us from the world around us. IT makes it possible for a person to do their job from home, order all consumer goods from home, interact with relatives from home, pay their bills from home, etc. And the resulting physical, psychological and emotional isolation undermines or distorts our development as human beings, our sense of political obligation and engagement, and our understanding of how we fit into the world - our sense of place and purpose.

4. Since its inception, IT has promised the replacement of human labor as a cost-saving and increased efficiency measure. However, this has had spotty success, because the costs are transferred from a legacy employee base and skill set to IT professionals, expensive hardware, and expensive software. In terms of efficiency, institutional memory is often lost along with specialized expertise, and replaced with much more generic (though equally specialized) IT proficiency. Additionally, the training and retraining curve for end users sometimes inhibits efficiencies - and of course IT systems can also stop working or make errors, further interrupting workflow.

5. In the same way, many businesses and institutions believe that IT is a panacea, able to solve all of their most persisting problems...but IT creates as many problems as it solves. However, the Pollyannaish conviction that IT is "the answer" has increasingly become quite irrational, prone to selective confirmation bias and high tolerance for cognitive dissonance, so that no matter how costly, problematic, inefficient, disruptive or crippling a given IT environment becomes, these businesses and institutions will keep investing more and more time, energy and money into it and continue blindly justifying their beliefs.

6. IT expands cultural connections, but it does so in ways that dilute each culture, because each culture must interface with others according to established protocols that greatly confine or narrow cultural expression. For instance, emails are expected to have a subject line that indicates content; tweets (initially) were 140 characters long; TED talks were limited to 12 minutes; English has been the dominant IT language and programming code relied on the Roman alphabet; QWERTY keyboards were the norm for many years...and so on.

7. In terms of organizing, storing, analyzing, compiling, generating, navigating, parsing, processing, propagating and communicating all sorts of information and media, IT is the most powerful force humanity has ever encountered outside of the human brain. IT also democratizes all of these capabilities, so that more and more people have access to that power.

You might think that because six out of seven of the societal impacts I listed weren't necessarily positive, that I don't appreciate IT. But I do. I still love IT - because of #7. Even though it isn't my profession anymore, I still follow new developments, play with new technologies, and engage in IT discussions like this one. But I have come to understand that IT does certain things very well, and other things either poorly or terribly. And until modern society comes to a similar realization about its strengths and limitations, IT will continue doing a lot more harm than good.

My 2 cents.