Creating a Future by Design

Interview and article by Keenan Brugh.

          Take a moment and imagine the future. How could technological advances be applied?  What will cities look like?  How might society operate to best address the challenges that humanity faces today?  Meet Jacque Fresco, a modern day futurist that many compare to the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci.  Currently the age of 95, he has been living an accomplished life as a self-taught inventor, industrial designer, and social engineer.  Applying a creative, scientific, and multidisciplinary approach to humanity's problems, Jacque has been imagining the future through technical solutions.  In a phone interview, I was able to meet Jacque and his partner, Roxanne Meadows, in order to gain insight into the future's wondrous possibilities.

A Dynamic World

          The world is changing quickly.  Science and technology continually increase what is possible, and many observe that the rate of change is increasing.  At the same time, social organization has not changed fast enough to adapt to humanity's modern problems. Today's political and economic systems are becoming obsolete and are causing avoidable waste and suffering.  The constant state of war is unnecessary and wastes unfathomable quantities of human lives and valuable resources.  Also, the earth's natural capital goods and services are facing increasing pressure as a result of record population, consumption, and waste. This situation necessitates actually designing society and its infrastructure comprehensively rather than allowing inferior constructions to continue unquestioned because of historical conditioning.  Modern technology can offer solutions far beyond what most people imagine.

The limitations and opportunities of the future are dependent on the perspectives that people hold. As Jacque explained it to me, "if any baby were brought up in Nazi Germany, and never saw anything else, they'd be a Nazi. I believe that environment shapes people's behavior.  All the values, facial expressions, emphasis on words, learned actions, etc. are all ideas from our movies, books, and role models."  Just as one's native language is a product of the area in which they were raised, today's society, its institutions, and its infrastructure also affect understanding of what the world is and what it can become.  The great challenge is to understand this frame of reference, then go beyond it, and actually imagine better frames that are unhindered from the past.

The Venus Project

          If you could clearly remove all of your biases about the way things have been, what sort of world would you want to create? Jacque has been practicing this exercise for roughly 90 years.  He has been doing so not as an armchair philosopher; rather, he has been learning through experiments and testing new alternative hypotheses.  Fresco believes that in order to create a peaceful and prosperous world, you must declare all the world’s resources as a common heritage of all of humanity.  The current inequality between individuals and countries will continue to breed war after war.  This is a long term transition into an entirely new social system of the future. Eventually, Jacque says, the current monetary system will be replaced by a resource based economy.  In this paradigm, human and natural resources can be better utilized to address the problems facing humanity, such as how to obtain energy sustainably or how to build better cities, instead of building stronger weapons to fight for control over scarce resources.  We no longer have to live in a world of scarcity. For decades, Jacque has argued that geothermal energy is a viable source of clean energy that will last thousands of years.

The cities of today have grown into what they are through a history of shortsightedness and insufficient technology.  These cities have unending problems such as crumbling infrastructure, urban sprawl, and inefficient transportation. Rather than allowing key infrastructure such as energy, water, and public transportation systems to be formed haphazardly, Jacque calls for their design to be a creative, scientific, and conscious process.  This alternative is comprehensive in its planning.  The city is regarded as a whole system, with interrelating internal parts and external environments. The circular city pictured here is one of thousands that Jacque has engineered.  The layout uses public transportation that goes around the city and extends in radii from the city center outwards to the government buildings, business centers, and housing areas.  On the outskirts, housing gives way to recreational areas and agricultural lands.  Many buildings can be made efficiently through being prefabricated and transported on site.

In Venus, Florida, Jacque and Roxanne have created functional prototypes of some of their designs.  They have made clean, high-tech, and aesthetically pleasing buildings that work in harmony with nature.  Of their many designs, many incorporate a dome shape.  The purpose of this is to maximize internal space relative to the amount of materials used.  The dome is also highly resistant to outside forces, such as hurricane winds or earthquakes.  The Venus Project facilitates research and development efforts as well as acting as a showcase center for spreading the ideas and designs of tomorrow.  Their database of like-minded scientists, engineers, and designers acts as a broad technical network to increase cross-discipline communication and help to advance their cause.

“Just as the middle class of today lives better than kings of the past,” Jacque explains, “we believe the wealthiest people today would do better in the resource based economy of the future.”   It will take the adoption of a new mindset in order to bring about the technological and social innovations that Jacque and Roxanne have discussed with me.  Already, Jacque has been the subject of an award winning documentary, “Future by Design” by William Gazecki.  Now they seek to make a major motion picture in order to bring the opportunities of the Venus Project into the minds of mainstream audiences.   Through increasing awareness about the future’s great possibilities, limiting world views can be replaced with a spirit of innovation and collaboration in shaping a world in which everyone would want to live.

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