A seismic shift is under way. Against the backdrop of rising temperatures, collapsing ecosystems, and the threat of species extinction, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are now moving to transform the global order. Indeed, for the first time in our history, we have the tools and technologies to guide and shape our evolution. But what will this future look like?
I recently spoke with Roxanne Meadows and Nathanael Dinwiddie of The Venus Project to better understand their thoughts on the future. As they explain, the status quo is no longer working. Climate change, social inequality, and technological innovation are now disrupting a market-driven society. The key to resolving these global challenges, they suggest, is rooted in a Resource Based Economy.
The term “Resource Based Economy” was first coined by Jacque Fresco, the founder of The Venus Project. Fresco believed that a Resource Based Economy could support the scientific integration of automating technologies (AI and robotics) and engineering systems in providing the highest possible living standards. Meadows and Dinwiddie suggest that this kind of economy is the next stage in human evolution. But what do they mean?
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1. What is The Venus Project?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: The Venus Project is a non-profit organization that presents a new socio-economic model utilizing science and technology. For the past 40 years, we have maintained a 21-acre research center in Venus, Florida. We propose a new scientific foundation in transcending humanity’s current problems by testing a new social design for organizing our society as a global “operating system”.
Taken as a whole, the Venus Project fills the egregious gap between the sciences and the humanities by combining a social philosophy of the future with technical knowledge applied at a global scale to solve the problems of the human condition. Our methodologies are designed to realize the full potential of science and technology to achieve social betterment for all living systems— without exception. Our approach to social organization calls for changes in governance, economics, urban planning, education, human relationships, language, and values.
2. We appear to be in the early stages of a massive economic depression. What is your sense of what is happening politically and economically right now?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: We are witnessing an unprecedented political polarization and economic disruption around the world today. The status quo is no longer working. Many people are now beginning to understand how dysfunctional the management of nations, peoples, and resources has been. Human needs and the needs of our environment are far too complex to be managed by political means, arbitrary economic direction, or an elite without the relevant understanding of science and technology.
Compounding this problem, nature operates as a closed-loop system, but we do not. We extract resources without replenishing them, accumulate waste materials without recycling them, and we pollute our air, water, and food crops for the need to maintain competitive profit margins. There are many other factors converging at once besides the pandemic, all of which contribute to the system’s unrest.
3. Younger generations seem disaffected with Capitalism. Could you describe your vision of a post-scarcity society?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: The Venus Project recognizes that if we utilize a global systems approach as a basis for organizing and managing resources, we can design a much more humane environment for all. Our goal is to advance the health and the protection of the ecosystem, as opposed to the accumulation of wealth, property, and power. We do not have enough money to fulfill the needs of the world’s people, but we do have enough resources, if wisely managed. Ultimately, it is not money that people need, but unencumbered access to the necessities of life and self actualization.
Accomplishing this is a technical and engineering challenge requiring massive coordination by transdisciplinary teams of engineers and scientists in managing the Earth’s resources within its carrying capacity. This kind of scientific endeavor would eliminate the vicious rivalries over scarce resources and, in turn, generate very different behavior amongst people.
Briefly, this is what Jacque Fresco, founder of The Venus Project, termed a “Resource Based Economy”. This is a necessary step for humanity’s evolution. It could be thought of as a new science, a science of Earth Management where, by necessity, all of Earth’s resources become the common heritage of all the world’s people.
4. How does the Venus Project differ from Socialism or Communism?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: Rather than worker revolts and the forcible overthrow of the system (Communism), or the redistribution of capital (Socialism), The Venus Project approaches social change as a process of guided evolution. In our view, the challenges before us are a matter of engineering and design. The Venus Project calls for an experimental analysis of a new social system. This system is unlike any communist revolution, utopian commune, or coup d’état tried in the past.
In our view, the fundamental issue limiting social management in the past has been the lack of an effective data-driven methodology for evaluating and improving the system’s functioning. Full-scale blanket application of social policies to vast geographic areas— be it through revolution or legislation— without a means for evaluating their effectiveness, follows from an approach heavy in ideology but short in scientific method. The Venus Project calls for iterative prototyping of cities that we take as the unit of analysis in validating or falsifying hypotheses. All of this begins with testing a prototype, not a revolution.
Although Karl Marx did envision a society wherein money, private property, and social hierarchy were abolished, he could not begin to imagine how to implement this system at a technical level. In contrast to Communism, The Venus Project calls for the total redesign of cities (transportation, distribution, manufacturing, recycling, infrastructure) to produce abundance of goods and services. This is achieved through automation and optimized infrastructural efficiency.
5. What role does technology and automation play in The Venus Project?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: For the first time in history, we have the tools and technology to guide and shape our evolution. To accomplish this, The Venus Project advocates the humane and intelligent use of technology and the methods of science directed toward the well-being of all people and the environment which sustains all life.
In our view, technology and automation should be strictly used for social betterment and to eliminate repetitive, dangerous and monotonous work. If automation displaces a job, for example, that means all people would gain more access to the products those machines produce. The necessities of life are distributed without a fee with the aim of expanding to all goods and services. Consequently, there is no threat resulting from technological labor displacement. On the contrary, technology and automation have the potential for enhancing the world’s standard of living, enabling people to learn, spend time with their families, travel, and confront the new frontier of challenges in improving the resilience of the system as a whole.
6. How do you envision utilizing AI in decision-making?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: Applying the methods of science and technology (including AI) to the operation of the world’s societies will lead to a substantially more reliable functioning of support systems than we have today. Homelessness, starvation, war, and environmental degradation are consequences of today’s political and economic approaches to decision-making. A Resource Based Economy operates within a unified systems approach that utilizes the methods of science and AI to arrive at the most appropriate decisions at any given time. Unlike today’s implementation of technology, this new approach would be carefully carried out with the utmost human and environmental concern. The real-time influx of quantitative and qualitative data would provide real-time feedback, enabling humanity to constantly observe and continually improve the operation of the system over time.
7. What are the future goals of The Venus Project?
Meadows and Dinwiddie: At present, we are focused on formalizing and systematizing the body of work of The Venus Project’s founder, Jacque Fresco. In an age that is sorely lacking an approach updated to current knowledge and capability, we enter uncharted territory with the methods of science to help us through. This is the crucial job that no one has attempted, until now.
In the short term, we are focused on a systems approach to organize a holistic understanding of the natural world and human culture. This involves understanding economics and human social systems in the broader contexts of Earth processes and ecosystems, and communicating this understanding through books, videos, the internet, podcasts, transmedia storytelling, and course curricula.
In the mid-term, we aim to fulfill the desperate need for the strategic coordination of consilience by synthesizing the knowledge of academia and the know-how of industry. This network of intelligence will produce a transdisciplinary research agenda, research program, and global theory of change. Constructing a new planning center will function as a living lab and think tank devoted to designing the first prototype city.
In the long term, The Venus Project hopes to see the construction of new prototype cities for the purpose of testing the hypothesis of a holistic, technical design-solution for a social system. Iterations of these prototypes will form a worldwide network of cities. The study of these cities will function as the basis for a science of Earth management, the models of which guide the intelligent allocation of resources for the purpose of optimizing civilization to adapt and evolve in relationship with an Earth ecology.