Beyond Utopia: An Essay
Here’s something I wanted to share for a while. I watched this documentary recently called “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward”. You can find it here and it’s free. It talks about how all our attempts at politics have failed or are failing. It proposes a new “Resource Based Economy” with the Venus Project. I ended up agreeing that the world needs to change completely… a complete overhaul of what we believe to be a democratic economic and political system.
So here’s an interesting essay by the founder of the Venus Project, Jaques Fresco. Be sure to check out the documentary if you’re interested.
THE FUTURE AND BEYOND
By Jacque Fresco
With the advent of future developments in science and technology, we will assign more and more decision making to machines. At present this is evident in military systems in which electronic sensors maintain the ideal flight characteristics in advanced aircraft. The capacities of computers today exceed five hundred trillion bits of information per second. The complexity of today’s civilization is far too complex for human systems to manage without the assistance of electronic computers. Computers of today are relatively primitive compared to those that will evolve in the future. Eventually the management of social systems will call for require electronic sensors interconnected with all phases of the social sequences thus eliminating the need for politics.
Today modern industrial plants have built in automatic inventory systems, which order materials such as bearings and other mechanical replacements well in advance.
We believe it is now possible to achieve a society where people would be able to live longer, healthier, and more meaningful productive lives. In such a society, the measure of success would be based upon the fulfillment of one’s individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power. Although many of the concepts presented here may appear as unattainable goals, all of the ideas are based upon known scientific principles. It is not my purpose to write an article that would be acceptable to people this is not the concern of science.
The social direction being proposed here has no parallel in history with any other previous political ideology or economic strategy. Establishing the parameters of this new civilization will require transcending many of the traditions, values, and methods of the past. The future will evolve its own new paradigms, appropriate to each successive phase of human and technological development.
Throughout the history of civilization few national leaders or politicians have ever proposed a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of all people under their jurisdiction. Although such individuals as Plato, Edward Bellamy, H.G. Wells, Karl Marx, and Howard Scott all made some attempts to present a new civilization, the established social order considered them impractical dreamers with Utopian designs that ran contrary to the innate elements of human nature. Arrayed against these social pioneers was a formidable status quo composed of vested interests that were comfortable with the way things were, and a populace at large that, out of years of indoctrination and conditioning, wanted no radical changes. These were the millions of unappointed guardians of the status quo. The outlook and philosophy of the leaders were consistent with their positions of differential advantage.
In 1898, Edward Bellamy wrote the book Looking Backward. He conceived of an ideal egalitarian social system with many advanced ideas for its time. This bestseller generated a great deal of interest, and many people inquired as to how this type of cooperative Utopian society could be brought about. But Bellamy replied that he was just a writer and did not know how to create such a society.
The proposals he presented, and those of Plato’s Republic, the writings of Karl Marx, H. G. Wells in his book The Shape of Things to Come, and many others all represent attempts to find workable solutions to the many problems that earlier civilizations were unable to resolve. There is little doubt that at the time of Bellamy’s books the social conditions were abominable, which made the Utopian ideal extremely appealing. What appears to be lacking in most of these concepts, however, has been an overall plan and the necessary methods for a transitional system to enable the idea to become a reality. Most of the early visions of a better world did not allow for changes in either technology or human values, tending to arrest innovative efforts. Additionally, all have lacked a comprehensive set of blueprints, models, and a methodology for implementation. Finally, they lacked competent individuals to bring about such a transition.
The answers do not lie in debate or philosophical discussion of values, but rather in methodology. Thus what is needed is an operational definition of a better world, which is as follows: To constantly maximize existing and future technologies with the sole purpose of enhancing all human life and protecting the environment.
Today we have developed the necessary technology to surpass the fondest hopes and dreams of any social innovators of the past. The fact that previous attempts at social change have failed is no justification for us to stop trying. The real danger lies in complacence. The only limitations to the future of humankind are those that we impose upon ourselves. It is now possible to relieve humanity of many of its unresolved problems through the humane application of technology.
Many years ago an attempt was made in the U. S. to understand a social and economic system different from our own. A film called "The March of Time" had this to say about Soviet Communism: "We believe that the American free-enterprise system will function better than the collective system. However, we wish you the best of luck on your new and unusual social experiment." The failure of communism to provide for human needs and to enrich the lives of its citizens is not unlike our own failures. Both failure and success are inherent in the on-going experiment that is social evolution. In all established social systems it is necessary to devise different approaches to improve the workings of the system.
Science is replete with examples of experiments that have failed, as well as those that have been successful. In the development of the airplane, for example, there were thousands of failures before the first workable model was produced. In the field of medicine, Dr. Erlich attempted over 600 different approaches to controlling syphilis before one was finally proven successful. All of the technology we use today, such as computers, cellular phones, the Internet, aircraft, and automobiles, are in a constant state of improvement and modification. Yet our social system and values remain largely static. An inscription on one of our government buildings reads as follows: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Attaining visions requires change. The major reason for resisting change is that it tends to threaten the established interests. Actually, the fear of social change is somewhat unfounded when we consider that the entire history of civilization has been, in a sense, an experiment. Even the American free-enterprise system, during its earliest stages, faced a multitude of problems much more severe than they are today. These included long work hours, exploitation of child labor, inadequate ventilation in industrial plants, lack of rights for women and minorities, hazardous conditions in mines, and racial prejudice. Despite its many problems, it was the greatest social experiment in history in terms of diversity of lifestyles and individual freedoms, innovations in architecture and technology, and overall progress in general. It is imperative that we continue the process of social experimentation in order to transcend our present limitations and enhance the lives of everyone.
The future does not depend on our present-day beliefs or social customs, but will continue to evolve a set of values unique to its own time. There are no "Utopias." The very notion of "Utopia" is static. However, the survival of any social system ultimately depends upon its ability to allow for appropriate change to improve society as a whole. The paths that we choose will ultimately determine whether or not there is intelligent life on earth.