In January 2011, the movie Zeitgeist III: Moving Forward was released online, for free and for anyone willing to invest two hours and forty minutes of viewing time. The movie is divided in two distinct parts. The first half analyses the current economic and social condition of humanity as a whole, while the second part presents and proposes a possible solution, known as The Venus Project.
Whether people like the movie or not, one thing is sure, it makes them question themselves and things they take for granted, as well as sparking debate on what is possible. Regardless of whether The Venus Project is the future or not, seeking alternatives to an obviously unsustainable and corrupt system nearing a collapse is, in my view, not only a healthy exercise but an ever more urgent one, if we care about the future.
From what I understood (please correct me if I'm wrong), The Venus Project core, is the idea of a Resource Based Economy. Since we live in a finite planet, all of the world's resources become heritage of everyone on the planet and are then allocated on a per need basis. There are no politicians, as there are no decisions to be made, instead all decisions are arrived at through scientific methods. There's no money in this system as people have always free access to what they need.
After watching the movie, most people seem to agree that the first part is an accurate analysis of our current conditioning and relative problems. However, when it comes to the proposed solution, the consensus is not as prevalent and so the aim of this post is to present the reservations I have regarding The Venus Project also known as The Zeitgeist Movement. These are probably common questions that the Zeitgeist Movement supporters hear on a regular basis, so hopefully someone will be able to jump in and clarify them with ease.
In a resource based economy:
- What happens to people who don't agree with it and therefore don't want to be a part of it? We all know we can't please everyone all of the time, so how does it deal with dissent? Or for example, what happens to people who don't want to live in a city, who want to be self-sufficient, growing their own food, generating their own power, etc?
- I keep hearing that nobody makes decisions in a resource based economy, that decisions are arrived at. But someone would have to define the education curriculum for example, no? And who would allocate jobs for example? A central computer would? Based on people's qualifications and skill sets? How about skills that can't be accurately measured, say due to their subjectivity? Right now I'm thinking of creativity as an example but I'm sure there are many more.
- Who defines and how is it defined, how much is enough? For example, lets say I want or need a second computer? Would I be allowed one? What if someone wants a much bigger house and a swimming pool than everybody else, using therefore more energy and water? Who's going to tell him/her that and they can't have it?
- Whoever has access to the central resource management computer, has incredible power, be them programmers, engineers, etc. How is corruption prevented in this centralized system?
- What happens when there are bugs, errors, breakdowns of the system and what would it be its global impact? Same question goes for an entire society living of the grid, what happens if/when the grid fails? How is resilience achieved in a grid system?
- Something that concerns me deeply is Genetically Modified food and I know many who avoid it at all cost. Even if the technology was safe, I would rather not eat GM food for ethical reasons. What if scientists found that this was the only logical way to grow food, despite there being other options? What choice does the individual have? I mean, how do ethics meet logic in a world where scientific progress rules all?
- (This is an organic list so expect updates. Update 1 starts here.)
- Great, so everyone can choose to be or not to be in the RBE. So this would allow parallel systems to coexist or compete with the RBE? Does the RBE then account for the resources used outside of itself? Would it still be sustainable this way?
- The decision making process is still unclear to me. I like all of the examples I read but they don't answer my question specifically. Even if just for the transition period or the duration of construction of the first city, won't someone have to call the shots? I can't see how the project will get off the ground without some sort of leadership and decision making. This is a question that I have seen Jacque 'dodging' before, which seems out of character for him.
- It sounds like a lifetime holiday, nobody being coerced to do anything they don't want to do, everyone working and spending their time as they wish, great! In this case, what are the chances that what people want to work on will match the RBE's needs? And what happens when there's a gap in the human skills resource? Yes, because humans are also a resource in the RBE, right?
- A few friends told me that if they could live this way they'd love to have large families and just enjoy the time with them. They seem to believe that this is what everyone would naturally do. What's preventing a sharp rise of population? And what happens when/if the population grows beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth?
- I understand that a lot of these questions are coming from a mindset of the current system and that in the future people will not want the things we think we want now. However if the RBE is to ever materialise it must account for the transition period where all that people are equipped with is their experience so far. This is why I ask how is calculated the amount of resources each citizen is allowed to use and how is that enforced? I gave the example of a second laptop or a bigger house but it could be anything, at some point someone will want something ridiculous. How do you deal with that?
- I'm happy with the open source and transparency approach to the Resource Management System as well as all technology. It seems that alone would have an incredible positive impact in today's world, but how many of you still use windows? (There's no need to answer this, the Ubuntu folks paid me to plug Linux ; ) My point is, there are a lot of personal choices available to us today and I wonder how many in the movement are aware of these.
- I was relieved to read that people in the movement are aware of the dangers of Genetically Modified food. Even if the technology ever becomes 'safe' and stable, does anyone care to discuss the ethical implications of taking a gene, lets say, from an animal and inserting it in a plant and then releasing this into nature allowing it to cross pollinate with the local species and eventually extinct what took millions of years to evolve? Fact: 97% of all varieties of food crops in the US have already gone extinct since the industrial revolution. Over 95% of corn grown in the US is already GM, and new GM crops are approved frequently. Isn't the mechanistic approach to nature not just a side effect of the current society but the core of science in general?
- I see the current human problems as a symptom of human consciousness, or rather the lack of it. However, it's from within the current Zeitgeist that we must try to abstract ourselves from, if we're not to transfer our current inhumanities to the new one. And although I can see the possibility of this happening in small steps, isn't the Venus Project hundreds of years ahead of its time?
- (This is an organic list so expect updates.)
The way I understand it, any system is only as morally ethical as the people running that system. Sure, some systems may promote more moral corruption than others, however is a science driven society by definition free from corruption? Isn't science only as accurate and as ethical as the human mind (or ego) of the time allows? My opinion (which in a RBE would have no value) is that decentralization of power, regardless of the system, is the only way to prevent corruption on a massive scale. The Internet is the best example of this today.
Yes, the Zeitgeist Movement is incredibly ambitious but making people wonder about what kind of world they'd like to live on, instead of merely point out the problems, can't be a bad thing. Critics are everywhere (including myself) but I don't hear them coming with better solutions. Even if it never comes to be, the Venus Project is promoting a discussion and a mental exercise long overdue, to dream of a humanity in harmony with the planet and itself. What's the harm in that?
|A Venus Project city|