August, 1997; p. 82-84, 86-87


by Lawrence Schubert 

[. . .] but a fledgling Modernist
, to boot!) Bacon weighed in with The New Atlantis in 1627. Like the earlier Christianopolis, it reflected the growing influence of science, in addition to its Christian backdrop. Two hundred years later, one Thomas Babingron, Lord Macaulay, in On Lord Bacon, proffered his dystopian rejoinder: "An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia. "Coming from someone who was undoubtedly part of the landed gentry, it suggested certain vested interests, but was undeniably pragmatic.

Utopia proceeded apace for centuries, with enough ideal cities and societies to fill a small library. Philosophers slowly ceded their monopoly to include architects, and by the 18th century the advance of Science and the Enlightenment had produced the countermovement of Back-to-Nature, a.k.a. "Arcadia." Meanwhile, in the New World, the religious utopians of America were firming up their constitution, and colonizing, annexing, and subduing the former utopia of the Native American in the name of Jesus and Manifest Destiny.

Present Indicative:
If men are from Mars, Jacque Fresco is from Venus – Venus, Florida, an ambitious vision for a workable future that proposes nothing less than "the redesign of culture." Fresco, industrial designer and behavioral scientist, is a Futurist who puts his money where his mouth is: he and partner Roxanne Meadows have spent more than two decades on a pristine 25-acre site in south-central Florida, where they have created a prototype of a future environment, dubbed by some "a second Eden," that Fresco proposes as a global alternative to the way we live today.

"This is not a 'utopia,'" Fresco stresses. "Utopia is a static concept – by the time you've got it on paper, it's already passe. Any plan for reorganizing society that doesn't evolve is doomed to failure from the start. What we have done here is combine the best of nature and technology, without either offending the other. It is not technology that we should fear," the designer adds, "only the misuse and abuse of it."

Fresco's "redesign of culture" is very tech-friendly, but with a philosophical basis that also requires a radical reengineering of human expectations. Predicting the decline and eventual end of the current monetary-based society, Fresco proposes a "resource-based" economy that would redirect the efforts of science and technology toward humanist goals rather than financial profit. To most it would seem an impossible leap from 25 acres in Florida to a new global consciousness, but as journey of 1,000 miles must begin with a single step, a vision of the post-millennial society must begin with a single idea. The amiable and erudite visionary believes that "the intelligent application of science and technology" will provide the bridge to cross over into new thinking, by providing equal access to goods and services, with industry and other forms of labor mechanized to create more leisure time.

"'To those that say 'human nature' cannot change," he adds. "I say that there is no such thing as 'human nature' – there is only human behavior, and behavior is shaped by our environment. Change the environment, and the behavior will change as well."

Fresco is not alone in his ambitions – visionary Italian architect Paolo Soleri has been pursuing his vision of a brave new world at Arcosanti, an experimental community in the high desert of Arizona, for more than 25 years, while the Folks at Disney, carrying out a somewhat truncated version of Uncle Walt's original plan for a Radiant City outside of Orlando, Florida, have enlisted the services of several prominent architects and planners and built instead the retro-futurist enclave of Celebration, a technologically modern, planned community with a variety of classical facades. [. . .]