Monday, May 18, 2009
The Zeitgeist Movement is the activist arm of the "The Venus Project", which requires a redesign of our culture through resource-based economics. The following is taken from TheVenusProject.com It's an introduction to what the next step for humanity must be in order to address the issues that hinder our planet and everything on it. The aerial image shown here of a circular city was designed by Jacque Fresco.
"The Venus Project is an organization that proposes a feasible plan of action for social change, one that works towards a peaceful and sustainable global civilization. It outlines an alternative to strive toward where human rights are no longer paper proclamations but a way of life.
We operate out of a 21.5-acre Research Center located in Venus, Florida.
When one considers the enormity of the challenges facing society today, we can safely conclude that the time is long overdue for us to reexamine our values, and to reflect upon and evaluate some of the underlying issues and assumptions we have as a society. This self-analysis calls into question the very nature of what it means to be human, what it means to be a member of a "civilization," and what choices we can make today to ensure a prosperous future for all the world's people.
Please read more below for the entire Venus Project introduction.
At present we are left with very few alternatives. The answers of yesterday are no longer relevant. Either we continue as we have been with our outmoded social customs and habits of thought, in which case our future will be threatened, or we can apply a more appropriate set of values that are relevant to an emergent society.
Experience tells us that human behavior can be modified, either toward constructive or destructive activity. This is what The Venus Project is all about - directing our technology and resources toward the positive, for the maximum benefit of people and planet and seeking out new ways of thinking and living that emphasize and celebrate the vast potential of the human spirit. We have the tools at hand to design - and build - a future that is worthy of the human potential. The Venus Project presents a bold, new direction for humanity that entails nothing less than the total redesign of our culture. What follows is not an attempt to predict what will be done - only what could be done. The responsibility for our future is in our hands, and depends on the decisions that we make today. The greatest resource that is available today is our own ingenuity.
While social reformers and think tanks formulate strategies that treat only superficial symptoms, without touching the basic social operation, The Venus Project approaches these problems somewhat differently. We feel we cannot eliminate these problems within the framework of the present political and monetary establishment. It would take too many years to accomplish any significant change. Most likely they would be watered down and thinned out to such an extent that the changes would be indistinguishable
The Venus Project advocates an alternative vision for a sustainable new world civilization unlike any social system that has gone before. Although this description is highly condensed, it is based upon years of study and experimental research by many, many people from many scientific disciplines.
The Venus Project proposes a fresh approach--one that is dedicated to human and environmental concerns. It is an attainable vision of a bright and better future, one that is appropriate to the times in which we live, and both practical and feasible for a positive future for all the world's people.
The Venus Project calls for a straightforward approach to the redesign of a culture, in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt, environmental degradation and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but totally unacceptable.
One of the basic premises of The Venus Project is that we work towards having all of the Earth's resources as the common heritage of all the world's people. Anything less will simply result in a continuation of the same catalog of problems inherent in the present system.
Throughout history, change has been slow. Successive groups of incompetent leaders have replaced those that preceded them, but the underlying social and economic problems remain because the basic value systems have gone unaltered. The problems we are faced with today cannot be solved politically or financially because they are highly technical in nature. There may not even be enough money available to pay for the required changes, but there are more than enough resources. This is why The Venus Project advocates the transition from a monetary-based society to the eventual realization of a resource-based global economy.
We realize to make the transition from our present culture, which is politically incompetent, scarcity-oriented and obsolete, to this new, more humane society will require a quantum leap in both thought and action.
An Obsolete Monetary System
The money-based system evolved centuries ago. All of the world's economic systems - socialism, communism, fascism, and even the vaunted free enterprise system - perpetuate social stratification, elitism, nationalism, and racism, primarily based on economic disparity. As long as a social system uses money or barter, people and nations will seek to maintain the economic competitive edge or, if they cannot do so by means of commerce they will by military intervention. We still utilize these same outmoded methods.
Our current monetary system is not capable of providing a high standard of living for everyone, nor can it ensure the protection of the environment because the major motive is profit. Strategies such as downsizing and toxic dumping increase the profit margin. With the advent of automation, cybernation, artificial intelligence and out sourcing, there will be an ever-increasing replacement of people by machines. As a result, fewer people will be able to purchase goods and services even though our capability to produce an abundance will continue to exist.
Our present, outmoded political and economic systems are unable to apply the real benefits of today's innovative technology to achieve the greatest good for all people, and to overcome the inequities imposed upon so many. Our technology is racing forward yet our social designs have remained relatively static. In other words cultural change has not kept pace with technological change. We now have the means to produce goods and services in abundance for everyone.
Unfortunately, today science and technology have been diverted from achieving the greatest good for reasons of self-interest and monetary gain through planned obsolescence sometimes referred to as the conscious withdrawal of efficiency. For example, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, whose function is presumed to be conducting research into ways of achieving higher crop yields per acre, actually pays farmers not to produce at full-capacity. The monetary system tends to hold back the application of these methods that we know would best serve the interests of people and the environment.
In a monetary system purchasing power is not related to our capacity to produce goods and services. For example, during a depression, there are computers and DVD's on store shelves and automobiles in car lots, but most people do not have the purchasing power to buy them. The earth is still the same place; it is just the rules of the game that are obsolete and create strife, deprivation and unnecessary human suffering.
A monetary system developed years ago as a device to control human behavior in an environment with limited resources. Today money is used to regulate the economy not for the benefit of the general populace, but for those who control the financial wealth of nations.
Resource Based Economy
All social systems, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, ultimately depend upon natural resources, i.e. clean air and water, arable land and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living.
Simply stated, a resource-based economy utilizes existing resources rather than money and provides an equitable method of distributing these resources in the most efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of debt or servitude.
Earth is abundant with plentiful resources; today our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival. Modern society has access to highly advanced technologies and can make available food, clothing, housing, medical care, a relevant educational system, and develop a limitless supply of renewable, non-contaminating energy such as geothermal, solar, wind, tidal, etc. It is now possible to have everyone enjoy a very high standard of living with all of the amenities that a prosperous civilization can provide. This can be accomplished through the intelligent and humane application of science and technology.
To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy consider this: if all the money in the world were destroyed, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we choose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need; rather, it is free access to the necessities of life. In a resource-based economy , money would be irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources and the manufacturing and distribution of the products.
When education and resources are made available to all people without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential. Although this is difficult to imagine, even the wealthiest person today would be far better off in a resource based society as proposed by The Venus Project. Today the middle classes live better than kings of times past. In a resource based economy everyone would live better than the wealthiest of today.
In such a society, the measure of success would be based on the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property and power.
The Choice Is Ours To Make
Human behavior is subject to the same laws as any other natural phenomenon. Our customs, behaviors, and values are byproducts of our culture. No one is born with greed, prejudice, bigotry, patriotism and hatred; these are all learned behavior patterns. If the environment is unaltered, similar behavior will reoccur.
Today, much of the technology needed to bring about a global Resource-Based Economy exists. If we choose to conform to the limitations of our present monetary-based economy, then it is likely that we will continue to live with its inevitable results: war, poverty, hunger, deprivation, crime, ignorance, stress, fear, and inequity. On the other hand, if we embrace the concept of a global resource-based economy , learn more about it, and share our understanding with our friends, this will help humanity evolve out of its present state.
The only limitations are those we impose upon ourselves. The Venus Project is neither utopian nor Orwellian, nor does it reflect the dreams of impractical idealists. Instead, it presents attainable goals requiring only the intelligent application of what we already know."
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Yochai calls out the growing open-sourced economic force. His ideas for change are similar to Resource Based Economics, predicting a need for economic adjustments for growth to continue. The open-source movements have proven that the profit motive is not the only incentive for humans to work hard, be creative and co-operate.
The debate of nurture vs. nature has been ongoing for a very long time. Many theories, supernatural to evolutionary tackle the ideas of an invariable human nature. To continue my discussion I will say this about the debate; if genetics has proven anything, it is that different cultures, and the individuals within them have a disposition to certain traits, while our environments shape most of our behavior and morals.
Check out Nature VIA Nurture by Matt Ridley and the interview he had with Melbourne University Voice's Nerissa Hannink. He explains how our genes themselves are subject to evolution (or genetic engineering), and that our genes make us more susceptible to environmental triggers. He hopes the title of his book, Nature VIA Nurture will help settle some of the dispute.
When discussing the Venus Project, human nature comes up frequently. There are concerns that greed and violence and jealousy are forms of human nature which will propagate into our new system whether we like it or not, and prove our theories incorrect. While I suppose only time can tell, we can make a pretty strong case in support of TVP and its goal to redesign society to positively affect human behavior.
If we can eliminate scarcity, then we can eliminate crime. Virtually all abhorrent behavior is caused directly or indirectly from the monetary system and the inherent scarcity associated. Consider an auto-worker in Detroit Michigan or Oshawa Ontario, and the stress they must be under in this economy. They've got to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, paying for their families, hoping their spouses don't leave, worrying about finding new work, etc. Emotions flare in those kinds of environments, unhealthy habits form, and people become more inclined towards desperate and/or passionate extremes. Consider a street kid in South America, starving, no home, no job, so he steals to feed himself. Consider a single mom living in a economic slum, carrying a gun for her own protection, when one day she shoots her daughter in the middle of the night mistaking her for an intruder.
In transition from our current state to the eventual implementation of the Venus Project, we will still need to keep some law enforcement until the effects of the new environment sink in. It is important to remember the natural laws of emergence and interconnectedness when we consider our ability to grow and expand our own ideas and behaviors. The future we build for ourselves will be different from the one generations after us will create, as ideas evolve and change.
Please consider greed and violence and jealousy as products of the societies we live in today rather than global, invariable human qualities. If you are able to concede to to this notion, then consider what would happen if we improve the environment that we all live in, and created abundance for the entire world.
Western GeoPower Corp. had this press release in 2007 from the Globe and Mail. They do a great job explaining the differences between the two main types of geothermal usage, and their cost involvements.
A Geothermal-source heating and cooling system works on a series of looped pipes buried underground below the frost line on a residential scale to heat a home in winter and cool it in summer. This saves an estimated 70% on energy costs annually. To purchase and install such a system costs the home owner $13,000 - 15,000, with technology and market prices of 2007.
The other more large scale energy creation comes from Geothermal steam turbines. In this process, a power plant is built around holes drilled down to the hotter regions of the earth's core, where water sent down pipes causes steam to rise and drive turbines. It is important to note however, that most areas would benefit from EGS or Enhanced Geothermal Systems, in which chemicals would be used to "open up new cracks and to interconnect geothermal pools to create a viable heating source."
There has been a lot of talk about geothermal energy among the Zeitgeist community, and for good reasons; this energy source is clean, virtually harmless to the environment, and completely sustainable. An MIT report estimated that over 200 ZJ would be extractable, with the potential to increase this to over 2,000 ZJ with technology improvements - sufficient to provide all the world's present energy needs for several millennia. With the potential to become the predominately used source of energy in our future, discussions of where to build geothermal plants have begun. See aside a map of North America and its heating flow curvature to further your own investigations. Links to the site of the creator and for more information on existing surveys, check here.
An economic factor not discussed enough these days is the issue of technological unemployment. Automation in the workforce eliminates jobs faster than it creates them. Advancements in travel and communications have led to outsourcing and importing many of our goods. In the next 15 years with the advent of nanotechnology, the manufacturing process will shift to the next level of efficiency, where labor for products will become unnecessary all together.
Expanding on the topic of cyclical consumption discussed in the waste article, it is important to note that the economy relies on a population of working consumers. An employer pays their employee a wage, where the employee and often the employer then become consumers. Consumers use their wages for goods and services and thus the cycle continues. We work for money to drive the consumption cycle. Though if automation causes downsizing, then fewer wages are earned, and fewer products are in turn consumed. The consumption cycle is reversed, as more consumers are laid off, spending less and less.
The service industry cannot support enough job creation or innovation to offset the job loss from the manufacturing and sales of goods. The patchwork attempted by economists, financial advisers, and the governments they advise will never be able to prevent the inherent boom and busts of the money supply and related job supply in a free market monetary system.
Less than 1% of the U.S.’s population are farmers. Never before in history have the masses been fed by so few. Less than 0.1% of the world’s population are scientists and engineers. This tiny slice of the pie has been responsible for virtually all of the world’s advancements and real growth. The rest of us depend on job creation based upon these few innovators. The trickle down effect is running dry, as automation and outsourcing continue to soak up the benefits.
What if we embraced technology for all it was intended, and approached a redesign of society using the scientific method? The ideals of this new society (The Venus Project) would include using technology to better our lives as humans, freeing us from pointless labor and associated services. Recognizing our connection with our environment and each other, we must design for the carrying capacity of our planet. Once we survey the planet for its resources, and build management systems with linked data of all human knowledge, we can start to implement automated machines to build and repair themselves into various systems.
With alternate growing techniques like hydroponics, communities could grow their entire food supply locally in greenhouses, skyscrapers etc., reducing transportation and distribution time and energy consumption. Such hydroponic farms could be automated and managed with computer systems so that the human involvement is virtually eliminated. Using these advanced farming techniques would guarantee an abundant, diverse food supply for the entire world, tapping down to the water table in areas with inadequate irrigation options. Any imports necessary would be limited, and the supply that is produced locally would be managed with the changing needs of the community/city, maintaining fresh product. This is how we could use technology in agriculture to free humans from labor, improve the quality of food we eat, and give nourishment to those starving all over the world. With the science of nanotechnology, we will one day be able to molecularly create our food, including protein, meat, fish etc.
The arguments made against technological unemployment are outdated. Such arguments imply that labor displaced by a machine, would be offset by job creation in making the machines and servicing them. This argument assumes that machines themselves aren’t producing the job eliminating machines. The amount of service technicians required to support the new techology, would not offset the amount of labor accomplished by the new technology, and would continue to diminish as machines become further integrated with computers to repair themselves.
We cannot ignore this stress on our old socio/economic framework.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
As a function of profit, the best product will minimize cost and maximize revenue. This means that an average product to appeal to the masses will be designed with cheap materials to be manufactured at a low cost, with a throw away attitude. The process of designing product that will ultimately fail and need repair or become replaced is called planned obsolescence.
Products like Swiffer from Proctor and Gamble that have disposable sheets to throw out after one use, or the market for disposable ‘anythings’ are perfect examples. More broadly, the products today have all kinds of sub markets tied to them for replacement parts and service, because the products aren’t built to last. Think of your cars, computers, clothes, and appliances of all sorts. The necessity for these sub markets is job creation, and the planned obsolescence, a by-product of the profit function, enables the so-called growth in the economy.
Waste through planned obsolescence enables the consumption cycle, which drives the economy.
The attitudes of consumers in boom periods become attune to spending more and driving the markets. We see this clearly as National debts in free market nations rise respective to their GDP’s in periods of economic growth. In fact, the average ratio of National Personal debt to National GDP, has historically been between 30% and 50%. In 2008, that ratio hit 100%, the only other time in history doing so was just before the great depression. The monetary system creates waste through the profit motive, it creates waste in financial markets, and it creates waste in virtually all aspects of industry.
There is no need for ownership over many of things we desire today. Once basic needs are satisfied, and the basic amenities and furnishings one desires for their home are acquired, why would anyone want to own and store a set of golf clubs for instance, when they could go to the course, select a set that they like and return them at the end of the game? In a resource-based economy (RBE), one might decide, “Well I like them so much, I’m going to keep them”. One would of course not be restricted from making such a decision, but attitudes in an RBE will evolve towards a new way of thinking.
In this example, the golf course computer system would order a new pair of those clubs to be sent to the club house to replace them, and the golfer would have to transport their clubs home, store them, and bring them back to the course when he/she wants to use them again. Consider parking lots and residential driveways full of parked cars, basements full of sports equipment, collections of books and other media, and musical instruments. If you have the desire to use a research facility or play a guitar or throw a frisbee at the beach, the ability to do so will be provided. Whether you choose to take ownership over such products afterwards is up to the individual previously known as the consumer. The attitude, or phenomenon of the consumer will dissipate over time, and we will become individuals, not restricted from obtaining our desires, while refraining from wasteful behavior. We might not see the value in keeping a lush front lawn of grass for the amount of water it wastes, or perhaps find ways to reuse water effectively so that you can keep your front lawn. Advances in agriculture would allow fruits and vegetables to be grown and harvested anywhere through hydroponic systems, which would decentralize food production and eliminate waste in travel and distribution.
The cybernetic network of human knowledge would manage the earth’s resources to eliminate waste, our efforts focused on new materials and recycling methods. Our attitudes will adapt towards becoming more efficient, our designs will be built to last and function with maximized effectiveness. The products will have no hierarchy of cheap to luxury; everything will be the best it could possibly be. The cybernetic system would be open to the design suggestions from anyone willing or interested, with the combined input of the entire world, emergent solutions to our goals will be made possible. The key is to replace the inherently wasteful monetary economic system with a scientific method, resource based approach where the question is not, “How much does it cost?” but, “Do we have the resources?”.