May, 1990; p. 60-63, 82


by Wayne Mayhall II

The first thing everyone notices about Jacque Fresco is that it's impossible to keep up with him. Tan from his bald head to his bare feet, sporting a goatee and wearing only shorts, he dresses for comfort but his mind thrives on work. Victim of 7 4 years of gravity, his 5-foot, 4-inch frame remains slightly hunched as he scurries furiously around his 22-acre model city of the future at 21 Valley Lane, outside the Central Florida town of Venus.

He rises at 5:30a.m. and adds a few more sketches to the hundreds he's drawn over the years – sketches of a car with only 32 movable parts or a futuristic train that travels around the world at 3,000 miles per hour by magnetic propulsion. Afterwards, he steps outside his small, streamlined concrete dome and calls his gators to the edge of a pond to say, "Good morning." He likes this quiet time when the steam is still rising off the water, before the rest of the world awakens.

"That's when I get my thinking done," he says.

When the sun finally climbs and hangs itself in the sky, he rides his lawn mower, cutting paths through the tropical underbrush a blade's width, from one geodesic dome buried in the woods to the next – there are no sidewalks in this natural setting. Or he confers with the welder to be sure he's
putting a certain piece of metal in its proper place, at the correct angle. The welder welcomes his coaching. He's never worked on such unique architectural designs in a 50-year career he thought had seen it all.

These dome shapes, the circular concrete pier that juts out over the pond, the swimming pool with a miniature mountain range as a backdrop, the dozens of models – from space vehicles and a bathroom of the future to universities that float on the ocean – they are all components Fresco has constructed in Venus for his most ambitious project to date: creating the city of the future.

It will be built around the environment and have a circular theme, holding up to 2 million people. Everyone will use everything but no one will own anything. There 'vill be no money, lawyers, businessmen, or crime. Instead, people will work in their chosen fields and education will be tailor-made to suit each individual's pace.

Cities around the world will be linked by telecommunication systems such as teleportation and teletactile (place your hand in a projected waterfall and feel the wetness), as well as a transportation system circling the globe 24 hours a day. Living environments will be controlled by a central, voice-activated computer built into the walls of each home. In turn, entire cities will be controlled by a central correlation computer. Old age will no longer be a stigma because people will live fuller, longer lives and surgery will be performed telescopically by the best surgeons around the world.

Friends and colleagues have a shorthand way of acknowledging Fresco's prodigious energy for his project. " Oh, you know Jacque," they say. Through his years, the multi-disciplinarian has harnessed this never-ending supply of energy to produce results in several fields. He worked with noted behaviorist B. F. Skinner and psychologist Donald Powell Wilson, author of My Six Convicts, to reveal information responsible for rearranging popular thought on why people act and react to social stimuli. He also did some experimenting of his own, having once tied horns to the head of a dog to prove behavior is learned. He was right. After several days with horns, the dog was charging like a bull.

As an inventor, he developed a three-wheel automobile consisting of only 32 moving parts. He designed a pre-fabricated aluminum house in conjunction with the Aluminum Co. of America in 1945 that was the prototype for thousands to follow and developed dozens of medical tools and devices. And in 1969, he co-authored a book, Looking Forward, about his utopia of tomorrow.

As an industrial designer, he developed systems for noiseless and pollution-free aircraft and electro-dynamic methods for de-icing aircraft wings. He was one of the first research engineers to develop a technique for viewing three-dimensional motion pictures without special glasses.

His speech is nonstop and filled with references to technical components, determinants, and antisocial restructuring. He interrupts and digresses constantly because one idea triggers an avalanche of others.

He likes to make daring statements such as, ''All politicians are corrupt and therefore useless." "That's propaganda" is his way of dismissing dogma, which he hates. He is restless, passionately curious, irreverent, blatantly honest, and very sharp. He is also one of the few living scientists whose ideas and philosophies threaten to shift scientific paradigms on a regular basis.

" Everything in this country is incorrect. Psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, and scientists try to adjust people to this culture," says Fresco. " But to be adjusted to this mess we are in is to turn out worse than we began. That's why I have always attacked our basic system of values."

Despite his accomplishments, Fresco remains controversial. His, after all, are not the kind of views with which the scientific community can simply agree to disagree.

For instance, he once worked with prisoners and inner-city gangsters and determined that politicians, churchgoers, and even Mother Teresa were to blame for their problems; everyone but the gangsters and prisoners themselves.

"It's a question of changing your religion," he says. "We have a society of 'do-gooders.' No one wants to get down to the real problem. No one wants to believe the least of these is a true reflection of us all."

Unlike some authorities on a particular subject, Fresco has no acronym soup following his name. He never attended college; doesn't even have a high school diploma. He was born in 1916 and grew up in California. His dad was an agronomist, his mom a housewife. Intellectually precocious, he found school boring at an early age, even though the teacher roped off a section of the classroom exclusively for him to learn at his own accelerated pace.

"It was the late '30s and I hadn't been to school in almost four months when the truant officer finally caught up with me,'' he recalls. ''The principal told me I had to go to school so I could become a doctor or a lawyer and pledge allegiance to my country. I asked him two questions: 'Why do I have to be what you or society dictates?' and 'Why do I have to pledge allegiance to a country before I have seen the rest of the world?' Maybe I want to pledge allegiance to all countries, to world democracy."

Following his dissertation, the 14-year-old promptly stormed out of the office, went home and built his first radio-controlled flying saucer. He never returned to school.

As might be expected from someone who thrives on combating the status quo, Fresco hasn't been content to rest on past laurels. His latest endeavor, besides building a city of the future, is to get a movie made about the project.

"How long will it take to change human values? Ninety days," he says. "If we can get this movie out there, in 90 days people will realize what it will take to build the first model city. Then others will follow.''

History may prove him wrong, but Fresco doesn't care. What he cares about is stripping the rungs off the evolutionary ladder, puncturing the anthropocentric view of life.

He admits the odds are stacked against him. But "consider Pasteur," he says. "He was no doctor. He was a chemist. The Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics and Edison had three months of formal schooling."

As for those who continue to question his direction, Fresco views their doubt as "added motivation to bring (his) utopian world of tomorrow into today.

"Fuel for my fire," Fresco says. "Fuel for my fire."