Friday, May 1, 2009; p. 12A


by Rhonda Swan
Editorial Writer

Imagine a world without money.

No colored paper or coins that determine whether we are rich, poor or middle-class. In this world, we all are equal because the planet's resources belong to everyone, not a select few. In this world, there is no poverty, no war, no global warming, no economic meltdowns, no political corruption. In this world, there is no them, only us.

Impossible fantasy or achievable dream? For Roxanne Meadows and her partner Jacque Fresco of the Venus Project, it is the latter. At their headquarters in Venus, Fla ., in Highlands County north of Lake Okeechobee, Ms. Meadows and Mr. Fresco, an industrial engineer and author, have designed a scientific blueprint of a society predicated on maximizing technology to benefit humans and the environment, not the need and pursuit of money.

The world of tomorrow, as they see it, will be based on a resource economy rather than a monetary one. Artificial intelligence will enable machines to do both the mundane tasks for which we rely on industry and those performed by most professionals. They will safeguard our fragile resources, the inheritance of all the Earth's inhabitants. Humans will be free to pursue self-fulfillment, creativity, intellectual and spiritual growth.

"During the transition from a monetary society to a resource-based society, teams of systems engineers, computer programmers, systems analysts, researchers, and the like will be needed to help supervise, manage, and analyze the flow of goods and services," Mr. Fresco says in his book, Designing the Future. "But as the resource-based society moves toward a more cybernated world, most people are no longer needed to manage and operate this emerging civilization."

For many, the notion of such a world conjures up those dreaded words socialism and communism, ideologies that we've been indoctrinated to believe threaten our way of life. If, however, we always have hunger, war, poverty, crime and pollution – ills that our current system has been unable to solve – how great can our way of life truly be? As we watch our elected officials pull out their hair trying to balance budgets – with "stimulus" dollars that represent debt – is it time to consider that money itself is the problem?

"People are trying to patch this system. We feel that this system is not just or equitable and cannot be patched up," Ms. Meadows said during a recent interview. "This system promotes scarcity. When the bottom line is money and profit instead of the well-being of people and the environment, it will never be the highest aspirations of what people want or need. It can never be made just or equitable."

Ms. Meadows says that 50 million people worldwide have watched Zeitgeist Addendum, an online movie in which she and Mr. Fresco outline their vision of tomorrow's world. As awareness of that vision grows, she says, so will the 250,000 member Zeitgeist movement, the activist arm of the Venus Project that seeks to make that vision a reality .

Who can argue with such a movement? What we have never has worked for the benefit of society as a whole. How much longer can we really expect it to last? Isn't keeping our current system and expecting something different from what it's always given us insanity?

I'll admit it's hard to wrap my mind around the concept of a world where success is not determined by the digits in our bank accounts. A society that replaces working hard with hardly working. Where we pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake and competition is not a driving force. But the benefits - no hunger, poverty, crime or war- sure sound good.

The hearts of Mr. Fresco and Ms. Meadows certainly seem to be in the right place and for all the talk about reforming our culture, our government and our free-market system, they have given us an alternative that at the very least is worth considering.

"In times of war, we get what we need to kill. We could turn that around in times of peace to make housing and food and clothing," says Ms. Meadows. "We don1 have enough money to solve the problems within our society, but we have enough resources. There would be a very high standard of living for everyone."

That's a world hard to imagine, but one I'd certainly like to see.