Re-Writing the Rules

Futurist Jacque Fresco has devoted a lifetime to educating the world on a new way of living, building and thinking.

02/24/2012 By AnnMarie Martin

We’re all brought up to believe that the harder you work, the bigger the reward. We’re even programmed to think that people in general are mainly inspired by the rewards of power, money and property.

Beyond that, many religions teach that bigotry, racism, nationalism, jealousy, superstition, greed and self-centered behavior are all inherited human traits that we must learn to fight against. On the contrary, Jacque Fresco says, these are learned patterns of behavior which are strengthened or reinforced by our upbringing.

What if we were forced to re-evaluate this—to consider that what we’ve been told is human nature is really just society’s prescribed values and motivators; that people are inherently good and honest. Fresco’s life mission has been to direct us toward that new frame of mind, and more importantly, a new incentive system where that belief is perpetuated, and where money is not required to help achieve or create anything.

It’s not just a new incentive system he advocates, but a complete overhaul of our economic structure with a little something he’s dubbed The Venus Project. In this new world, cities provide all their inhabitants (not just those who can “afford” it) with everything they could possibly need: a total environment with clean air, water, healthcare, good nutrition, access to information and education for all.

Some have called it socialism, and others worse: communism. Some just call it smart. Fresco says our children and our children’s children will be calling it the obvious answer, as technology becomes capable of running many systems that were previously maintained by humans.

“Today, financial barriers place enormous limitations on innovation, individual creativity and personal incentive. In The Venus Project, money would not be required to help one achieve or create, as facilities would be made available to serve everyone’s needs,” he explains. Therefore, perhaps the most explosive theorem to Fresco’s Venus Project is his proposal of the shift from a profit system (or a monetary-based economy) to a resource-based economy—in other words, a world without money.

A resource-based economy makes the human condition society’s primary concern, with technology subordinate. Production is accomplished totally by machines and the products are made available to all, Fresco says. “It considers us all equal shareholders of the Earth, and operates under the principle that we are responsible for both the planet and our relationship with each other.”

But beyond that, in this new world Fresco proposes, the concepts of “work” and “earning a living” become irrelevant. “The focus is on having a life,” he explains.

This revolutionary ideology was formed and molded by Fresco’s experiences during the Great Depression in New York City. His father, an agronomist, was one of the first to lose his job, he says. His inspirations were the very things he believes The Venus Project would eradicate: conditions of misery, war, war profiteering and suffering.

With a new incentive system and the elimination of money come profound changes in how we plan cities and conduct human affairs. By extension, that would mean major adjustments in how our buildings are constructed, including the use of prefabricated modular units created in automated plants and assembled on site. According to Fresco, these units would be flexible and interchangeable, allowing for the construction of cities and buildings that match a population’s unique needs.

These standardized structural systems are the result of Fresco’s lifetime of research and experience in the world of aviation design, and industrial design of all realms, for that matter. His resume includes time spent as an architectural designer of pre-fabricated industrial buildings for Houser Industrial Co. in Los Angeles, Calif., and the creation of “numerous components and systems for architectural construction,” which he describes as “intricate aluminum extrusions to simplify the construction process.”

Simplification is obviously a main tenet of The Venus Project, as he feels politics, government regulations and religion have only served to complicate our lives. Fresco once designed a home that could be assembled by 10 men in eight hours with windows that snapped into place, new molded bathroom units with simplified systems, kitchen cabinets that moved down for easy access, and automatic ventilation. “In the early days in America, a man and wife could build a log cabin in several months. Today, it takes 30 years or so to pay off a house, with the additional funds to bankers and others that actually have nothing to do with the building of the house.”

“If our civilization is to endure, it must outgrow conspicuous waste,” Fresco adds. That means not just the waste of our natural resources, but of time and effort as well. “At one time architectural adornments were an integral part of construction. The lofty columns and colonnaded porticos of ancient Greece and Rome were necessary components of their structures. With the advent of newer, lightweight materials and engineering improvements, we can now span greater distances without columns or other intervening support structures. Yet the designers of many of our government buildings, including the capital in Washington, D.C. engage in the conscious withdrawal of efficiency in favor of designs felt to be impressive, but which actually reflect mere convention and artificiality. Designing a building with many projections of artificiality does not indicate originality, creativity or individuality. Individuality is expressed in our unique way of thinking about ourselves and the world around us, not in our external appearance. Designing buildings with conspicuous waste and decoration lessens the standard of living for others.”

The new materials he cites would be lightweight and low-maintenance, but have a high level of strength with acoustical properties not found in today’s structures. They’d sustain minimal damage from earthquakes, hurricanes and fires thanks to their make-up, which Fresco describes as “sandwich-like” and “semi-flexible,” with an inner foam core and a glazed ceramic outer surface permitting expansion and contraction without fracture.

And since inhabitants will cease to want for anything anymore in a resource-based economy, crime and corrupt behavior would be (in theory) mostly abolished under The Venus Project. “Eventually it will be realized and understood that most forms of so-called criminal behavior, which will fill jails well into the 21st century, have been generated by the scramble for money and property in an age of often-contrived scarcity and planned obsolescence,” Fresco explains. “In a society that provides for most human needs, constructive behavior would be reinforced, and people who have difficulty interacting in the community could be helped rather than imprisoned.”

Many will continue to fight against the uniformity that Fresco proposes, saying it goes against the very values and ideals this country was built on. He, however, doesn’t see it that way, asking his naysayers to take cues from nature itself.

“In human systems, evolution has distributed eyes, senses and internal organs in a fairly uniform manner. The same is true for other plant and animal species. Uniformity is not necessarily a bad thing if it functions toward a satisfactory end. The dangers of uniformity are evident in our inability to shrug off useless values or methods which have outgrown their usefulness. Perhaps the only uniformity acceptable in the future will be protection of the environment and concern for our fellow human beings. We have to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. The choice and responsibility are ours.”

Click here to view additional photography.