When imagining the future, I find myself of two minds. One part of me wants to return to a more primal time, where we simplify our lives, cohabit in small villages that grow organically and remain on a very human scale. (Think of Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, for example, as the bible of this kind of small, local design). In our villages — and each tiny section of a city could be transformed into its own little village, rather like the various ethnic and cultural enclaves that exist now within cities like San Francisco and New York City — we would depend on each other and our interconnections with the natural world for sustenance. In this rather Luddite future, the world moves slowly, and shades into the paradisical realm of the timeless.
Those who see the future in terms of a response to Peak Oil call it “powering down,” learning how to live with less, possibly even without the sophisticated technology that we take so much for granted.
Whenever I wake up from this kind of daydream I’m amazed at how, except for permaculturists, hobbits, people in the Transition movement and certain more organically-inclined architects, this view of the future seems to be shared by very few people.
More common, seems to be the more highly engineered visions of a futurist such as Jacques Fresco, where increasingly sophisticated technology is taken for granted, most work would be done by robots, and the cities of the future designed from the top down, centrally and rationally. Fresco seems to be designing for the masses, rather than persons. Would you want to live in a machine?
Yet here I am reminded of a question the five-year-old son of a friend of mine asked his father: “Dad, are machines a part of nature?” Apparently, in my unconsciously polarized world-view, they are decidedly not.
And I am reminded of the difference between those who see alternative energy in industrial, centralized terms — giant wind farms and solar desert acreages and hydroelectric dams, for example — vs. those (like me) who vastly prefer decorporatization, decentralization, with creative individuals in each locality tinkering to find the right mix of innovative approaches that take into into account area topography, culture, available tools, talent, energy sources, and so on.
Even so, I am also drawn to Fresco, because his Venus Project, which I have just spent some time skimming, has, as one of its foundations, a world without money!. Yes! He sees a world where money is no longer used for exchange, because nothing is owned and everything is free and there is plenty of it. He calls this a “resource-based” economy, one that depends on the resources of the Earth held owned in common by humanity at large. Unlike those who view Peak Oil and Peak Everything as just around the corner, Fresco sees the abundance of the world as easily able to meet the needs of (increasing?) human population, and a world therefore in which everyone would be freed from wage-slavery to pursue their unique talents and expression.
My first husband, an organically inclined architect, was very much of Fresco’s view that the Earth could easily support all of us, if we learned how to design human habitations that connected to nature. And permaculturists know that this type of design for horticulture can remediate even the most desertified regions. Moreover, permaculturists say that once a permaculture design is up and running, it demands less and less time for more and more yield, thus, in theory, releasing us for that same kind of individual pursuit of unique talent and expression.
It’s interesting that Fresco named his view “The Venus Project,” because it very much reminds me of a book I read recently, Omnec Onec: Ambassador from Venus, a fascinating, and supposedly true story of a woman from Venus who came to live on Earth in a human body. Part of the book talks about life on the planet Venus, wherein the inhabitants supposedly live on a higher dimension than our dense 3-D material world, and where they create whatever they want by thought alone, with no need for money.
I very much appreciate this paragraph from Fresco’s website about our top-down, drastically unfair economy, as it takes it out of the realm of good and evil, and instead, simply views it as an evolutionary dead-end:
“Let us be very clear here: No person, organisation or country is to blame for our current unfair system. The problems are not political, religious or cultural. The monetary system has just evolved this way. If we have a system that allows one person to control another (debt/work) with an artificially scarce commodity (money), we should hardly be surprised if this makes people adversarial, greedy and competitive. Large corporations, governments, banks and politicians, who many are fond of blaming, are really just ordinary people responding to a highly competitive environment brought about by the monetary system.”
And I appreciate this quote, taken from a video of Fresco himself: “The process with which you think about things is based upon indoctrination, which is given by society. So your range of thought is limited by the dominant values of your society. We talk about civilization as though it’s a static state. Civilization is a process that is constantly going on. There are no civilized people yet. As long as there is violence, police, poverty, and war, you are in the early stages of civilization.”
How to reconcile my two minds? One seems more right-brained, and the other left-brained. One organic, the other technological, and yet both seem to make room for a renaissance of human talent and expression. Even so, I still find in myself a need to come down solidly on one side rather than the other. Why? Is this need just another remnant of polarized thought processes?
It reminds me of my original conundrum, the one which fueled me to start this site, how to bridge The Above with The Below. May my present ambivalence prove as fertile!