FORT MYERS NEWS PRESS
Sunday, Dec. 8, 1996; p. 1, 5D

BRAVE NEW WORLD


PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE
*
Friday, Jan. 24, 1997; p. 4B

A SOCIETY WITHOUT MONEY

by Karen Feidman

A FLORIDA CYBERCITY IS THE BRAINCHILD OF A MAN WITH A VISION FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE.

VENUS, Fla. – While the Venus Project might seem like the title of an out-of-this-world science-fiction movie, the man who designed it says it's the answer to the problems existing here on Earth.

Simply put, this society of the future uses technology and a different way of thinking to solve societal and environmental problems, creating communities that operate on resources rather than money.

What? No money?

"There is not enough money to take care of society's problems," said futurist Jacque Fresco, citing as proof widespread pollution, homelessness, crime, and poverty. "But there are more than enough resources" to solve these woes.

So what exactly is the Venus Project?

The project under development in the dot-on-the-map called Venus, Fla., is Fresco's vision of self-sufficient communities where no one lacks for housing, resources or leisure time, where people care more about protecting the environment and exploring their personal interests than in earning money.

Fresco sees these cybercities – where sophisticated computers and automated systems are linked to operate the community – leaving people to experience the world around them. They won't be needy, so crime will disappear. Energy sources will be clean ones, such as wind, solar, tidal, and perhaps in a couple of decades, cold fusion.
 
COMMUNAL CIRCLES
 
Fresco, a self-taught industrial designer and behavioral scientist, envisions communities built in a circular design, segmented into belts aimed at creating an efficient. self-reliant city in which residents' needs will be met and their lives enhanced.

Fresco and Roxanne Meadows, his partner of more than 20 years, have created a 25-acre research and development center in Venus, about 70 miles northeast of Fort Myers.

You might think an 80-year-old man would slow down a bit, napping, fishing, maybe gardening. So far this hasn't occurred to Fresco, who looks far younger than his age, and whose eyes sparkle with intensity and intelligence as he talks about the project. People half his age have trouble keeping up with him as he strides swiftly about the property.

A look around gives a taste of what the pair hope will follow, but it's a far cry from their vision of a new way of living.

Their vision is of a circular community at the heart of which is the central dome that will house the core of the computer/automated systems that power and monitor conditions in the city, making sure, for example, that enough food and materials are available, crops are properly irrigated and fertilized and transportation runs smoothly. Schools, shopping centers, health and child care would be housed here, too.

As the circle widens, more belts follow:
  • A belt of apartment, industrial and research complexes.
  • A variety of places to dine.
  • A residential strip, where single family homes will stand amidst woods and streams.
  • A belt of waterways that will contain plants that remove bacteria and contaminants from the water.
  • An agricultural strip. where plants will be grown free of pesticides.
  • And, finally, the outer perimeter will contain recreational facilities such as golf courses, bike paths, riding and hiking trails.

Although these cities eventually will operate on a moneyless system, it will take a lot of money – $50 million at a minimum – to build a prototype at an as-yet-undecided location. Fresco says he hopes it will be built someplace between Venus and Orlando, but it will depend on how much money they can raise and where sufficient land is available. 

On the Venus property is a home/office building that looks like two domes joined together. The structure overlooks a lake frequented by birds and gators, and a smaller but similarly shaped guest house.

Both buildings are constructed of foamed concrete with an outer shell of textured ceramic so they never have to be painted. The buildings also are designed to withstand hurricanes and other natural disasters.
 
LIFE'S VISION
 
Fresco's concept is a life work, one on which he's been brainstorming for more than six decades. It involves science, technology, psychology, a new way of looking at what people do and why. In his vision, existing science and technology would be used to redesign society so that unemployment. war and racism disappear.

It's the only way mankind will survive. Fresco said. "What we're talking about is a totally different system."

This isn't fantasy. Fresco insists.

"If you want to change America and the world – wipe out scarcity, poverty, hunger – use technology."

"If you took all the money ... burned it, got rid of it, as long as you don't touch the topsoil, the industrial plant, the natural resources, we can have anything we want. It isn't money that enables us to do things," Fresco says.

He contends that as technology gets more sophisticated and the workforce continues to shrink, fewer people will have money. That's when society is liable to collapse as desperate masses struggle to get food, housing and other necessities they can't afford to buy.
 
GETTING WORD OUT
 
Although many adults may be unaware of the Venus Project, children nationwide read about it when it was a cover story in the Weekly Reader earlier this year.

Editors at the Weekly Reader "told me to expect about 10 letters from students," Fresco says. "We got over a thousand."

Some wrote that they would like to move in right away, requesting Fresco send them plane tickets.

The kids aren't the only ones impressed with the concept. Fresco sent his book and tape about the project to Arthur C. Clarke Jr., futurist and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"I must admit that I'm very impressed – tape and book are both beautifully produced, and I wish you the best of luck with your project," Clarke wrote in July. Since then, Fresco says Clarke has sent him the names of people who might be able to help him get exposure and financial backing to build his first city, an experimental one.

Dr. Art Coulter, professor emeritus of the University of North Carolina, also found Fresco's vision impressive. 

As co-president of the Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh region's Physicians for Social Responsibility, he is particularly concerned with the danger of nuclear war, the deterioration of the environment, a burgeoning population and increasing poverty throughout the world.

After reading Fresco's book and viewing a videotape about the project, he said he was "intrigued by some of his ideas." Coulter, a biomedical engineer, said one of its best features is its emphasis "that it should be done not for profit, but to meet the needs of human beings."

"It's feasible," Coulter said, ''but it may be difficult to bring about."
 
FIRST COMES MONEY 
 
To work into a moneyless society, Fresco needs- money. He wants to produce a film called "Welcome to the Future," which would show the future through the eyes of those living in his self-sufficient cities. In this film, 20th century time travelers land in the future and get a tour of The Venus Project in full operation.

He also hopes to create a theme park, not of a Disney-type nature, but one in which visitors will be able to interact with the technology of The Venus Project, see the computers and automated systems, the new airplanes and cars that will run on clean, renewable energy sources, the types of houses people might live in. This. too, he hopes will raise money.

Profits from the two efforts will be put toward building the first city, an experimental one in which people can live for a while, testing it out and critiquing it. He doesn't have a nest egg yet for the project, saying government grants involve too much paperwork and too many restrictions. What he's looking for is the backing of a large corporation with a similar vision of the future.

Fresco and Meadows built the two structures on their current property with money they earned – Meadows by creating scale models of architectural projects, Fresco by doing consulting and freelance industrial engineering.

Conversation with the pair about the project naturally spins off into theories about what's wrong with society, how people learn to hate, what's wrong with schools and what children learn, the importance of preserving the Earth's natural resources, the value of arts and culture, and how government hinders society's progress.

Fresco says the purpose of the project "is to enlighten human beings and enhance their lives. It's not technology l'm interested in unless it enhances the development of the human being to obtain his or her optimal existence."*

In the world according to Fresco, children will be taught how to accept one another regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Adults will work three days a week and will have more leisure time to travel, spend with their children, enjoy a higher quality of life. 

People and property will thrive in "smart cities," where sophisticated computers will link up to automated systems, a set-up known as cybernation. These devices would manage such things as agriculture, water supplies, inventories for production and distribution.
 
A DIFFERENT LOOK
 
Fresco concedes his vision differs from others' views of what's to come.

"All the crap you see on the future — every movie on the future has laser weapons burning up, blowing up space stations. There's no decency, no ethics, no involvement." 

Instead, people of the future must be more receptive to new ideas rather than dismissing them outright as impossible or too radical because they don't understand them immediately. 

So when might this new society be up and running? 

Fresco says it's not up to him to build it. He envisioned it, he says, and now it's time for those who see its value to build these communities. 

"It's not up to us," Fresco says, referring to himself and Meadows. "It's up to you. Every new idea was always scoffed at, including Christianity and every other philosophical and mechanical invention. 

"If you would like to see it happen, don't wait for someone to come down from the clouds in a flying saucer. That's what most people seem to be doing. They're waitmg for the Messiah or someone to tell them how to do it. If you want a better world, you have to get up off your fanny and make it better." 

[PHOTO CAPTION]
Photos by Bruce Fine / News-Press
A PEEK AT THE VISION: Futurist Jacque Fresco's concept of communities where nature and technology will thrive can be glimpsed from this view of the house and office he and partner Roxanne Meadows have constructed. Homes will be sheltered from other houses by natural vegetation and waterways.

[PHOTO CAPTION]
WHAT'S TO COME: Fresco shows how automated equipment will build these industrial and research complexes. The cranes (silver structure Fresco is holding) travel along the buildings' length, installing floors, windows, roofing from the ground up.

[PHOTO CAPTION]
GUEST-FRIENDLY DIGS: A guest house on the future will have easy-to-care-for textured floor bes that fold into walls, sophisticated entertainment/computer centers and lots of natural light.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
For information about the project or to arrange a tour, contact Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows at The Venus Project, 21 Valley Lane, Venus, FL 33960, or phone (941) 465-0321, fax (941) 465-1928, or e-mail at venus@ct.net.

To order the video or book, "The Venus Project: The Redesign of a Culture," send $14.95 plus $4 for shipping (Florida residents add 6 percent sales tax) to the above address.

To visit The Venus Project Web site, the address is: http://www.nas.com/venus/