Thursday, June 26, 2014

Some Thoughts on The Venus Project

By now, I'm sure most people have heard of The Venus Project. From what I've seen, the general trend online is for people to either reject it outright or to defensively support it, while refusing to consider its very real flaws. That's unfortunate because TVP concept could provide a useful place to start in developing a plan for a better world. Some of its proposals, and the reasons behind them, are very sound. We should get rid of market-based economics. That would allow us to start using the technology we already have to put an end to this artificial scarcity and wanton environmental destruction. No more "death monopoly". No one, NO ONE, should be forced to earn the right to live. We've got to stop supporting belief systems of trickle-down cruelty. If normal adult humans can't provide for themselves and each other without being forced to, then we are the stupidest species on the planet and we deserve to be extinct. TVP gets this so right that it's tempting to just support it as is. I can't do that though, because I know that, as it is, it could never gain the nearly unanimous support it would require in order to work. As I mentioned earlier, it also has flaws that have to be acknowledged and addressed:

-It strikes me as far too presumptuous and anthropocentric in its proposal for global resource management.

-Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to social organization. Beyond a certain point, greater efficiency leads to less responsiveness. When individuals have no way of influencing forces that directly affect their lives, deviant directions can be difficult to correct. The present corporate push for globalization should have taught us that by now.

-The proposal to turn over resource management to computers is dangerous for two reasons:
1. Computers may be able to compute with blinding speed, but apart from that, they are extremely stupid compared to humans. The only basis a computer could have for decision-making would be its programmed "prime directive" and subordinate priorities. These would have to be selected by (you guessed it) humans. Who decides the order of its hierarchy of values? The potential for corruption and/or catastrophic error is unacceptably high.
2. Learning to make responsible choices is part of the process of psychological maturation. I think it is very unwise to attempt to remove the need for that in human societies. The desire to do so betrays a profound lack of trust in one another that is no sound basis for a peaceful civilization.

-I'm not the only one who considers TVP to be overly focused on materialistic technology and lacking in diversity. It borders on techno-fetishism. The shiny high-tech cities showcased in TVP articles and videos are not everyone's ideal of "the good life". A great number of people would prefer a more nature-based existence. Not everyone is averse to physical work, provided that it's not onerous or exploitative. Some people, myself included, enjoy engaging in artisanal creativity and prefer it to machine-made monotony. Likewise, the proposal for a global high-speed transport system is, in my opinion, a huge waste of resources and effort. If people didn't have to deal with the pressure of 40+ hour work weeks, speed wouldn't be such a high priority. If anything, we'd probably prefer to slow down a bit. I could see lighter-than-air ships making a come-back since they are cleaner and quieter than jets, not to mention far less resource-intensive than a trans-oceanic maglev system.

If I had my way, I'd like to see some of those VP cities built though. They are beautiful and, for many people, especially scientists and intellectuals, they would be practically ideal living arrangements. It doesn't really have to be all-or-nothing, does it? I propose that a better arrangement, one that everyone could support, would consist of a high-tech/low-tech symbiosis; twinned subcultures. We build as many of the VP cities as are wanted, and surround them with smaller villages that are more or less (again; as desired) self-managing and integrated with nature. There should be a formal exchange programme to allow anyone in either sub-culture to experience the other through temporary immersion. No one should be excluded from, or bound to remain permanently in either subculture. As an added plus, I think a system of twinned subcultures would have the effect of inspiring each to manifest its highest potential.

Both high-tech and low-tech cultures are subject to inherent weaknesses. Low-tech cultures are far more vulnerable to natural disasters, such as disease, flooding or drought. Technology could ameliorate the hardship associated with such rare occurrences. On the other hand, technology is not invincible. A large Earth-directed solar burst, for example, could render it mostly useless for some time. In that event, a thriving low-tech culture could absorb and support it until it could recover. A symbiotic sub-culture arrangement could protect against the vulnerabilities inherent in each through a pledge of mutual aid.

I don't think any of these proposed tweeks violate the spirit of the Venus Project or its most important aims. We do need to come up with something better than what we've got. However, it has to be something that accommodates the diverse life-style preferences of all relatively sane people. If not, it would be nothing but a new kind of tyranny. Speaking of tyrants, it is imperative that the phenomenon of psychopathy be taken into consideration. Quite apart from the legitimate objections raised above, some of the most passionate Venus Project detractors will never support any system that is not based on domination/submission because they are psychopaths. Psychopaths are devoid of the normal social instincts that support the natural bonds in human societies. They are moral nihilists. All their interpersonal relationships are predatory ones. Fortunately, primary psychopaths are a tiny minority of humans. However, our modern cultural institutions (especially money) are highly favourable to psychopaths and they have attained inordinate power and influence because of it. As a result they have been able to deviate the minds of many non-psychopaths by a process known as ponerization. The good news is, those non-psychopaths who have been most easily swayed by them are also those most susceptible to peer pressure. Once a sufficient number of others renounce the dominant, ponerized world-view, they will switch sides. Secondary psychopaths (AKA sociopaths) can be healed. The important thing to keep in mind is that we who envision a truly humane civilization and a free humanity can never win the support of psychopaths. It is pointless to try. Yet, they will insist on it. They will accuse us of "unfairness" for not respecting their "freedom" (to prey on their fellow humans). They will twist our language just like that. They will invoke our own values, which they do not share, to manipulate us. We must not fall for it. If we make their consent a precondition of change, change can't happen. Some rights have to based on competence. You wouldn't consider it an impertinent infringement to prevent a blind person from driving a car. For the same reason, you don't consult a person with no compassion or conscience on the design a just society. Psychopaths are not sane. We have to stop believing them when they say they are.

I'm curious about what other people think about the Venus Project. Do you support it as is, or not in any form? What would you want to change about it, if anything?

3 comments:

  1. Very interesting post! I have to admit that I know very little about the project so I cannot honestly say anything about it one way or the other. But I do agree with lots of what you state about our civilization! We sure don't need any more psychopaths! Thanks for the info and the very best to you and yours as always!

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    1. hi Ron.
      I'm surprised you haven't heard about TVP. It was prominently featured in "Zeitgeist Addendum". If you missed that film, you could easily find it on Youtube, or on the Venus Project page. I thought it was a lot better than the original "Zeitgeist". I think anyone who takes the time and effort to come up with a plan deserves a hearing.I suppose I would say that though. :-)
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Blessed be

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    2. P.S,
      Do check out the "death monopoly" link also; it leads to a very good video that merits watching.

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