Meet “The Venus Project”: The people who are preparing for the day when money will be meaningless

By Maor Hoyman – Writer for TheMarker (article published August 17th, 2017 and translated from Hebrew to English).
Original article:

The Venus Project supporters envision a world of abundance where automation eliminates almost all jobs and all citizen’s needs are free. You can call them dreamers or socialists, but you should also listen to their critique of the existing economic system.

90 years have passed since the mad scientist Rotwang from the futuristic film Metropolis invented a robot to replace a human being, and all the people of the city rebelled against him and killed him, but today too many seem to share the great concern expressed by the director and screenwriter Fritz Lang in that film. True, no one gets up in the morning in fear of being dismissed and replaced by a robot. But are we too complacent? After all, this process is already here.

Perhaps rather than fearing a future without work, we should welcome the changes it will bring. According to The Venus Project, a social organization which is calling for a reexamination of the social systems and updating them according to the knowledge accumulated since their establishment. “We are working today with economic and social systems that are more than 200 years old – like capitalism, democracy and British law, but in these 200 years human knowledge has multiplied dozens of times, and these systems have barely been updated,” explains Jonathan Gan-Mor, the organization’s speaker in Israel.

One of the basic ideas of the organization is a transition from a scarcity-based economy, which is now practiced in most of the world, to an abundance-based economy. Gan Mor explains: “If it was raining gold outside, everyone would run and collect the gold, but if the rain lasted for three years, people would sweep the gold from their houses – it would be worthless. In a state of abundance, products have no monetary value and can not be made profitable. Today, the means of production allow us to produce in such quantities that the products will be like that gold – that is, abundance can be achieved in almost every field. But the current economic system is wasting a lot of resources and causing a lot of pollution.”

The organization founder, Jacque Fresco, was an industrial designer and futurologist who defined himself as a “social engineer”. He was born in New York in 1916, and in the economic crisis of 1929 he was a young boy. He saw people standing in line for bread and work, and on the other hand – empty factories and shops with products which no one has the money to buy. “It made him realize that something was not working”, says Gan Mor. “There are people, there are products, there are means of production – but no money. This led him to think deeply and develop the system of The Venus Project: a Resource-Based Economy.”

What is a Resource-Based Economy (RBE)?

“This is an economic system that represents a conceptual shift from a situation in which we think we are building things through money, to a situation where we understand that in order to build and manufacture anything – resources and technological knowledge are needed. If I have wood, tools and know-how, I can build a table without money, but if I’m on the moon, and I have no resources, but I have a suitcase with a million dollars – I can not build a table”.

Fresco spread his ideas through films, books and lectures, and also set up models for the futuristic city he envisioned at the Venus Project Center he built in Florida. “In the 1980’s, ten buildings were built there on relatively cheap land,” says Gan Mor. “In Florida they have models of residential buildings, transportation and agriculture in the future city. They took a remote and empty area and turned it into a beautiful jungle, built everything with a very low budget, without professionals. Tours are held once a week in Venus, Florida. Fresco did the tours himself until he passed away last May, at the age of 101”.

How did it get to Israel?

“In 2008, following the financial crisis, many protest movements were established around the world, and then the project received a lot of exposure. After we started promoting the project in Israel, we held talks with Fresco in Skype. The protest of summer 2011 (the biggest social protest in Israel’s history) gave us a serious boost. The core volunteers of the Israeli team have worked very hard since then to bring the project to as many ears as possible.

“Right now we are at the stage of introducing our ideas to the public discourse. We give lectures in High Schools, Young leadership schools, youth movements and educational seminars as well. We manufacture and distribute video content and lectures. We also translate materials to make them more accessible to the Israeli public. We had seminars of more than 20 sessions in which we got into the thick of things”.

Gan Mor, 31, holds a B.A. in economics from Tel Aviv University, and before joining the Israeli team of the project he worked for a number of companies dealing with bonds, currency and commodities. “I managed investment portfolios by the millions, followed stocks and read economic newspapers on a daily basis for many years”, he says, “and found no basis for the assumption regarding to scarcity on which the whole modern global economy is based, the assumption that ‘human desires are endless, while the world’s resources are limited’. This hypothesis, he states, doesn’t reflect the current economic reality: “Until the Industrial Revolution, the main problem of the economy was how to produce more. There was an authentic scarcity (unlike artificial scarcity), because all production was based on manual labor. But since then the means of production have changed enormously. From a situation where almost everyone is engaged in agriculture, we have moved to a situation in which almost nobody is engaged in agriculture – and we still have more food than ever.

“We began to create the scarcity for ourselves so that the system could continue to work. One way to do this is to destroy the products. A second way is to create a limited amount of product in advance (limited editions). The third way is planned obsolescence – producing a product with a predetermined lifetime (which will be destroyed faster), which will cause the consumer to consume more often.”

What needs to be changed?

“We need another operating system. In Thailand, for example, there is a manual laundry service that operate by manual washers. If the owner of the laundromat bought a washing machine, he would fire the washers. But what happened in the 1950’s when we started having washing machines in our houses? We were not hurt. On the contrary, if I have a washing machine, I work less hard at home. The Venus Project offers an economic system more like the one we use at home. Instead of firing all the washers because of the new machine – they will simply work less”.

Why should people work in the future?

“We propose a comprehensive approach that includes not only a new economy but also a new society with new values. For example, the education system must change. Today, it is not suitable for most children. I’m making a living as a private math teacher for high school students, and I when ask them about their favorite subjects the usual answer is: sports, free period and recess. When I had students in first grade, they would answer a variety of answers, because their curiosity and their desire to learn had not yet been erased. So maybe human nature is to want to learn? People assume that human nature is either lazy or covetous, but it is actually the nature of the system in which we live in.”

The Venus project is not afraid of automation in the labor market. “Automation will replace all technical work, and then people will have more leisure, and there will be free music centers, free cultural centers, free sports centers, a free university” says Gan-Mor, and recalls the existing model of a public library: “Just as a book can be borrowed in the library, read and returned, in the same way we will use access centers where products and services will be made available to the public. In such a method you have ten times more items available without producing even one more”.

These ideas may sound utopian, even naive, but Gan-Mor emphasizes they are backed by a well-planned and achievable plan. “The changes we propose are intellectual first (changing the way we think), and those changes have to be made as a society,” he says. “We propose to start with a small research center – a city of about 30,000 residents, which will examine automatic production systems and services to the public, such as public transportation systems, etc. It will be possible to invite leaders from around the world to come and be exposed to the ideas and perhaps establish such cities in their own countries – and it will spread from there”.

Why not turn to people who have the means to start such a system?

“We want to reach these people, but it’s hard because we don’t have the right connections or enough money, so we’re trying to increase the community, because as it get bigger and stronger, the more powerful members of society will pay attention. Most of the social changes that have occurred in the last 150 years – black’s rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, the LGBT struggle – they all started from having a cultural infrastructure. They had to prepare the public, create a social coalition. You can not change society by yourself. “

How will humanity progress without an economic incentive?

Most inventions weren’t invented for money. Albert Einstein didn’t invent the relativity theory to make money. The Wright Brothers didn’t invent the plane to make money. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, the feminist movement, the LGBT movement – All of these people have promoted their ideas without looking at the bottom line.

In our society, prime ministers and ministers of economy and finance are dealing with the question of ‘How do we create jobs?’ The question should be: ‘How do we produce products and distribute them effectively?’ Jobs were means to reach a certain goal in the past, before automation. We need to renew our thinking about all these concepts due to all the new information, and the new possibilities that have opened up to us in the modern era”.

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  1. Hi there, in general I like the idea/the vision of the Venus-Project very much. For me personal I don’t agree in one point of your essay “Why not turn to people who have the means to start such a system?”. My opinion, is it not that the people have not sympathies for the idea. The point is, that many questions about this changement are not answered clear. Normally every changement leads to winner and losers. Isn’t it the core challenge, that the people are insecure, what this huge changement will leads into? I like, that your arguments shows the benefits. We all know, there is nothing, who has only benefits, agree? Maybe it would be worth, to take the insecure and show what it would lead to everyone.

    For example in your lines “How will humanity progress without an economic incentive?”. The writer may be right with the given examples of Albert Einstein etc.. , is it pathos and to easy. Where is a real plan, like a masterplan with detailled figures and arguments who shows, how it can work out for ALL people and not only for a few? My impression, as long as no detailled informations, like several realistic plans/options, is given, it will be a vision. And is it not this exactly the point, why people have sympathies for your idea, but don’t engage much for this wonderful idea?

  2. In a world,this is what it looks like when money sometimes can be a real situation esp. the great depression.I’m Olumide Babajide Adeniyi and I also studied mechanical [email protected] university okada,Edo State,Nigeria, Africa from 100-200 level when I spent 2 years from 2011-2013 but due to the unseriousness that I had,I’ve got no idea on how to change course to another like medicine and I went to visit the medical school college but dropped off before transferring to another school novena university ogume,amai,Delta State,Nigeria, Africa where I studied economics from 200-400(final year) which I spent 3 years from 2013-2016 and I graduated with a pass honours.

  3. This is what I found out that The Venus Project is a scientific organization that proposes an alternative vision of what the future can be if one applies in achieving a new sustainable civilization involving a social and economic system intended to run off a resource based economy(i.e without money or any kind).

  4. I feel like becoming a self taught scientist like mathematician,doctor, economist,even futurist after joining npower agriculture Nigeria. I don’t know what will happen in the future

  5. I Love Mr Jacque Fresco my best scientist whose innovation became a society as an economist, futurist, architect, lecturer,artist, multi disciplinarian, cinematographer, industrial designer and social engineer because he is more invincible and better than Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx,Buckminster Fuller and Thorstein Veblen.

  6. Also my regards to a cofounder Mrs Roxanne Meadows due to the fact that Mrs Meadows had a study under The Founder of The Venus Project Mr Jacque Fresco.May God bless this project as a way of understanding of the future.

  7. Yes a resource-based economy would be a great thing. But humans still need a social system. –
    you know, like caring for each other and treating everyone as having as much right to life as everyone else (including animals) How are Israeli’s going to cope without violence or money one may wonder. The idea of building walls and engaging in genocide will be old hat in such a world, but that’s what Israeli’s have relied on all these decades – how the heck will you all live without those crutches?

    • Denise Ward, what is the matter with you? Ah yes, you think Israelis engage in genocide and thrive on violence! Only an uneducated hater would write something like this. Israelis live for peace, but unfortunately the fake palestinians, who construct lies about fake genocide, don’t want them to have peace, so Israel is forced to protect herself! Not only are Israelis a warm and caring society, they care about the world and are among the first responders to natural disasters all across the globe. And let’s not forget all of the innovative ideas and creations in the fields of medicine, technology and agriculture that they share with the world to make it a better place. Jacques Fresco’s resource based economy will work very well in Israel and in the rest of the world.

  8. A resource based economy is as much about a better social system as anything else.
    Which improvements to our social systems aren’t you happy about?

  9. On the brink of abundance of material goods

    Our school teacher told us, grade seven students, about communism being the highest stage of human social development. He said that people will no longer have to work hard; the lion’s share of the work will be performed by intelligent machines. They will make all our necessary goods and grow enough food for everyone. For humans, this will free up a lot of time, and people may use it for self-improvement, for sports, for learning new sciences and crafts, for travelling and creating works of art. The motto of socialism is, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their contribution”, whereas in communism it is a little different,”from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” One student posed a question: “Well, what if everyone decides they need gold toilets?” The teacher smiled knowingly and said that when we reach the stage of communism, morals will be so high that no one will want a gold toilet or other unnecessary luxuries.

    This lesson about the sweet, selfless dreams of mankind took place as recently as 1950, just 65 years ago. We thought it would take thousands of years before sufficient infrastructure for communism was established, but technology was quicker than expected, and intelligent machines started appearing. Experts on artificial intelligence said it would take only another two or three decades for almost all work to be done by machines; 99 percent of jobs would disappear. Today it is rare to see a man with a pick and shovel, at least in developed countries. More and more workers just click on buttons. At first it seemed to me that Lenin’s prediction that, “those who are now 15 years old, will live under communism” was overly optimistic. I couldn’t imagine how machines would be able to handle certain professions, like that of medical doctor. We are accustomed to think of this not just as a profession, but also an art, and the thought that a machine would substitute a living doctor is just offensive. But let us still think about this a little more. What makes a person a doctor? Knowledge, a lot of knowledge. They study for seven years to accumulate only the basic knowledge of their medical speciality followed by a few years of residency to hone their craft. The steady stream of knowledge is becoming a roaring river. Now no one can keep up with it, even if they are a genius. So, doctors specialize: one specialist knows all about the left leg, and the other about the right.
    It is much easier to download knowledge into a computer’s memory than into a human’s. A doctor has to analyze disease symptoms to make a diagnosis, but a machine can analyze given information much easier and faster than humans to make a diagnosis. Recall the computer’s victory over the chess champion! People make mistakes very often; in fact “human error” is a common term. A doctor can forget or leave out some important detail, potentially harming a patient. Machines are also not immune to mistakes, but mistakes, judging from experience, will be very few. Now I can imagine that a machine could, and will successfully replace a doctor. Not immediately, but it will. Moreover, its services will not only be cheaper but will also be more available than a human’s. An artificial intelligence system enlisted to treat presidents could also serve a shepherd from a distant country, at the same high quality.
    But on the threshold of the era of abundance clearly seen a different kind of problems – moral, social, spiritual, call it what you want. Remember, in the beginning, we talked about the distant future when social development will allow us to willingly and consciously abandon unnecessary luxury? That’s the problem: although the material basis of communism almost created, but the morality of the vast majority of the population is still in the cave level. Want an example? There are Internet videos posted of the estates of famous and rich people. And then there just is not? Next to the house of the a very good and popular actor, are standing two aircrafts. One is not very big, just for a family. The second one – a huge Boeing. There is also a concrete runway, for the actor with the company could at any moment to take off and go, for example, in Rio de Janeiro. What’s the value of gold toilets compared with the requests of movie stars, it’s just a pocket change. Or the “lair” in Mezhyhiria belonged to Yanukovych, the President of Ukraine, who escaped from the people’s wrath in 2014. After he filled up several trucks with the most valuables of his estate and took them away, the video showed the remnants of his luxuries which forced me involuntarily squint from the glitter of gold and marble. I think the bandits, who grew up in poverty, so imagine the paradise which they built themselves when seized power.

    Economists attribute nowadays as dawn of the fourth industrial revolution. As is known, the first industrial revolution of 17-19 centuries began with the invention of the steam engine and meant the phasing out of manual labor. The second revolution occurred in the 20th century with the use of electricity and pipelined mode of production. At the end of the 20th century there was a tendency to create more effective and energy-efficient production with extensive use of computers, what is can be called the third industrial revolution. Finally, now started development of automaticly adjustable to human needs systems of production, a wide onset of robots and other machines equipped with artificial intelligence. It is said that the current stage it is logical to consider as the fourth industrial revolution. Recently in Davos gathered heads of the leading countries of the world to discuss and coordinate efforts for the harmonious development of the peoples of the planet, given the advance of this revolution.

    The fact that we all expect the liberation from slave labor, is wonderful, there are no words. But something in this perspective is clearly bad. Machines can do for us all things that we need, but the results of their work today belong exclusively the owners of those machines, and they are not going to share them with us for cheap. Only the rich can afford to buy expensive equipment. Moreover, so far, machines are replacing people which busy only on simple operations. In this regard, the workers, the people are not rich even while working lose their income completely. The gap between the rich and poor not only maintained, but is growing at an accelerating rate. Sermons and government’s promises of job creation are empty chatter. The number of jobs can only be reduced, because it is the goal of the creation of any new technology!

    That’s not the whole problem, accompanying the fourth revolution, but only a small part of it. If it only was about the greedy businessmen, perhaps it would possible to reason with them. Among them are many highly educated people who want to contribute to society. But about the layer of poor, make up the vast majority of the population, we can’t say so. What would be they engaged with after losing their jobs? Even if a decent standard of living would be provided for them, whether they will be engaged in self-improvement? Will they learn and create works of art? No, and we know it for sure. What will they do? What will happen to them (to us)? This is, in my opinion, is the main problem related to technical and material progress. The decisions nobody knows. Not many even anticipate the problem at all.

    And if we imagine a little more, it will open even more unpleasant prospect. Historians and anthropologists say that ten thousand years ago, before the agrarian revolution, people were healthier and smarter than us. They had to work hard, finding food, and defending themselves against attacks of enemies their own kind, and wild animals. Each had to master all skills because there wasn’t the division of labor. And we have since, for ten thousand years, became incredibly lazy. Hardly we believe the stories our grandmothers, who bore the water from the well and went to the river to wash clothes. Naturally, we are happy to feel relaxation, but what can we face in the future? If we are not experiencing neither physical nor mental efforts as much as in the past, what will happen to our brains and bodies? Those who attended school every day, know that there will come the degradation or even extinction of our human race. Actually, it has already begun, immediately after the invention of the loom. Just still degradation was slow, almost imperceptible. But now we just have no time to notice it! Already grown up a generation, who need a calculator to divide into two, and too lazy to walk a quarter mile on foot to buy a beer. So, to paraphrase Lenin, “those who are fifteen years old will live up to the reality that in the fight for survival they will have to compete with ants and grasshoppers.”

    Of course, the more useless to be so pessimistic. I, therefore, hope and expect from intelligent machines, they will surpass us enough to understand this threat and to develop means to prevent our degradation. And maybe a little later, to make us more intelligent and physically stronger. However, this may be not required. If they decide to replace us all over and forever. :)

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