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Default Color me shocked (Project Venus)

June 11th, 2009, 11:05
I had no idea that most of my thoughts and dreams about a better world had already been articulated, and that a movement working towards a VERY similar goal already existed.

That's what I get for not watching TV and not keeping up with the news, I guess, but maybe it's relatively unknown.

I'm referring to Project Venus - and since I don't really know the link policy here, you're going to have to google it, if interested.

But - I'd really like to know if this is old news and whether or not this project has received widespread attention already, without my knowledge of it.

I'm certainly seriously considering joining the project in whatever capacity I can, and I'm just stunned - frankly - that a group of people have had the exact same plans and ideals that I've been thinking about for so many years.
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June 11th, 2009, 12:23
Interesting read. That's, essentially, Utopian Marxist Communism minus dialectical materialism and the revolutionary phase, plus technophilia, very much in the vein of Iain M. Banks or Ken McLeod.

Good luck with that. Maybe it really *will* work this time.

Personally, I'm more intrigued/impressed by the "Kalocracy" envisioned by Alfred de Grazia — he tackles difficult questions that the Venus Project appears to sweep under the rug.

[ http://www.grazian-archive.com/ ]
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June 11th, 2009, 12:33
I checked out your link, but I couldn't find an overview that would enable me to restrictively categorize the ideas like you did with The Venus Project.

But, maybe you could clarify how it differs in terms of not sweeping things under the rug? Essentially, what do you mean by that and what issues are being ignored?
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June 11th, 2009, 12:56
The "how."

The society imagined by the Venus Project is pretty standard Utopian Communist fare — no money, resources the shared property of all, productive capacity used to provide material abundance fairly for everyone's benefit. The ecological, social, and technological dimensions are lifted pretty much straight from Iain M. Banks's "Culture" novels.

The big problem with all Utopian Communist projects isn't the "what" — who wouldn't want to live in a society where everybody lives in abundance, nobody is forced to do anything they don't want to, there's no crime, coercion, expropriation, oppression, or violence? — but the "how." How would such a society work? Most importantly, how could we get there from here?

Marx and his followers — Lenin, Trotsky, Bernstein, and Mao, in particular — did describe, in considerable detail, both of these things. Bernstein was the only one whose program came close to working; all of the others only solved some of the problems they set out to solve, while simultaneously exacerbating many or most of the others. Lenin did, for example, make great progress on inequity — but he made coercion and oppression much worse, and despite a promising start, failed miserably on prosperity and sustainability.

The Venus Project doesn't appear to get into any detail at all about these problems. Their "Aims and Proposals" page [ http://www.thevenusproject.com/introAims.php ] is extremely general. They say they want to build a community that puts into practice the principles they enunciate; however, they say nothing about *how* these principles would be reflected in practice. They want to "engineer a new consciousness," but the only concrete proposal they have about how to do this is to make a feature-length film about it.

It ain't that simple. I can't see how this attempt is any different from the hundreds or thousands of Utopian Socialist projects that have preceded it, and failed. They're just saying that "technology will solve it" or "a new consciousness will solve it," without specifying what kind of technology, what kind of consciousness, and how to create said technology and consciousness. Hell, they even admit as much:

These proposals, from an engineering standpoint, seem fantastic and unfeasible within the present monetary system; and they are. The sums involved in ventures of this magnitude would be too huge and inconceivable. No government today can possible afford this prodigious undertaking. All of this could only be accomplished in a resource-based world economy where all of the world's resources are held as the common heritage of all of the earth's peoples.
[ http://www.thevenusproject.com/techCitySystems.php ]

(That's the Trotskyist flavor right there, btw — I think they are Ken McLeod fans too. )

So, basically, they admit that their society will only work if there's a technology that's advanced enough to provide everyone with what they need without human intervention — governance, production, services, recycling, housing, and everything else is completely automated, with humans only deciding what they want and getting the machines to build it. That'd be absolutely awesome, but it's not exactly practical with our level of technology: the monetary system we have isn't the limitation; our ability to manipulate nature is.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:17
I don't see anywhere that they claim it is a simple process, nor would I ever claim that myself - and I'm used to saying that anything approaching this will take hundreds of years.

The basic idea isn't the problem, though, it's as you put it - how.

The whole concept is about changing perceptions through education. To gradually introduce to people the notions of how this could work.

It's not about what our technology can provide TODAY - but what it could potentially provide in the future, given the right priorities and goals.

The monetary system is very much a factor in why this can't be done, because as it's proposed - it's counterproductive to sharing resources equally.

But at a fundamental level, human conditioning and attitude is the key obstacle - preventing things like this from being realised.

I think you're looking at this from an extreme point of view, and I don't think anyone would suggest that everything can be completely automated just like that. It'd be a very, very long and complicated process - but the idea is to work TOWARDS that ideal. To automate things in small steps, not altogether all at once.

The very key is that it's a suggestion, a collection of thoughts - and if people would want something like this, then they need to start somewhere.

You speak as if it's supposed to be simple - and that's pretty ignorant in terms of what they're saying. It's anything BUT simple - and I certainly consider it very much a nearly utopian dream, and even if everything eventually gets to that point of "the perfect society" we'd still suffer in a lot of other ways.



Anyway, could you clarify how the ideas of that link you provided differs? Maybe just provide a basic overview of what it's about.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:20
I read up on this thing, and I personally don't like it at all.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:27
Money is a form of rationing. We will need some form of rationing until and unless we manage to create a society of such abundance that everyone can have whatever they want simply by wishing for it (more or less).

If we can manage that, I think most of our social problems will go away in and of themselves, since by far the thorniest ones are related to rationing — who gets to enjoy what goods, when, under which conditions, and how.

That's why I'm not hugely impressed by projects like this. IMO it's pointless to try to devise a society that requires a technology we don't have, and don't even know whether we'll ever have. It's about as useful as medieval descriptions of the layout and governance of the City of God.

(It can make for good sci-fi, though — those Iain M. Banks Culture books, for example.)

There are gobs of practical problems we have to attack that might take us closer to that goal, and it would be more productive to try to solve those — for starters, let's figure out how to produce energy in a sustainable way, and recycle our waste so that we no longer have to rely on extraction of non-renewable natural resources.

I won't write an overview of De Grazia's work now; for one thing, I'd have to refresh my mind about it — I read some of his stuff about fifteen years ago and haven't gone back since. I do remember being quite impressed by the originality of his thinking; he has a similar vision of an ecologically sustainable, economically fair society based on a re-imagining of priorities and values; however, it was a good deal better applicable to the real, concrete problems the world is facing now. (He's also written a fair bit about actual cases, such as the Bhopal Union Carbide disaster.)
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June 11th, 2009, 13:38
I'm not trying to impress anyone, nor do I consider it a competition.

The reason I don't agree that it's pointless - and quite the opposite - is that we need awareness and willingness if we're EVER to overcome the "rationing" problem. That's one aspect that we seem to agree on, so I would have to wonder why you oppose the ideas and the idea of working towards this kind of vision.

Technology doesn't invent itself - and you need people to agree that it's a good idea to invest in it, exactly like what happens during times of war.

Surely, sitting around waiting for technology to provide everything before we actually start caring, is hardly a smart way of going about this.

The more people warm to ideas like this, the easier it will be to improve technology.

But, my personal opinion is that technology is the least of the problems associated with realising this. By FAR - the obstacle is the attitude and conditioning of the people of earth.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:41
Why not focus on problems we can actually solve? I'd be horrified if time and resources ever went to this thing, instead of, I don't know, curing cancer or AIDS.

I want people to live comfortable lives but I am more then fine with capitalism and profit motives.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:48
The idea is to make unsolvable problems solvable, by shifting priorities. The hope is that gigantic problems will eventually fade - but naturally it won't happen as long people aren't prepared to think in completely new ways.

To think that opening minds to new ideas would somehow prevent current efforts to better the world, is probably not indicative of understanding what this is about.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:52
I also think the idea itself is horribly flawed and wouldn't want to live in that world, given the choice.

Just because an idea is "new" (which this one isn't, since it seems like 21st century Marxist ideology) doesn't mean it's valid and should be implemented. I like owning property, I like having the profit motive to inspire more work and dedication. The system has flaws but it's far more realistic then the one presented there.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:58
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I'm not trying to impress anyone, nor do I consider it a competition.

The reason I don't agree that it's pointless - and quite the opposite - is that we need awareness and willingness if we're EVER to overcome the "rationing" problem. That's one aspect that we seem to agree on, so I would have to wonder why you oppose the ideas and the idea of working towards this kind of vision.
Because that's not what they're doing. They're assuming that technology will solve it for them.

Technology doesn't invent itself - and you need people to agree that it's a good idea to invest in it, exactly like what happens during times of war.
Totally — but that's not what the Venus Project wants to do. They want to produce a feature film, and then build an experimental city. Neither of these things will do anything to solve the problems of, for example, sustainable energy production or waste recycling.

Surely, sitting around waiting for technology to provide everything before we actually start caring, is hardly a smart way of going about this.
Absolutely. I'm 100% in favor of research and development of sustainable technology.

The more people warm to ideas like this, the easier it will be to improve technology.
They don't need to warm to ideas like this. All they need to do is realize that our current technologies are unsustainable, and we need to develop alternatives. Surprise surprise, that awareness is already quite widespread, and is strengthening all the time. Hell, one of our conservative party leaders just opined that they lost a good many votes in the EU elections because one of their candidates called climate change a myth.

But, my personal opinion is that technology is the least of the problems associated with realising this. By FAR - the obstacle is the attitude and conditioning of the people of earth.
And there I believe that you're sadly mistaken. The vision of society these guys are proposing requires the technology; it can't be realized without it.
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June 11th, 2009, 13:58
You would seem to be the perfect candidate for conversion

Anyway, I really wasn't interested in debating the merits of such a system.

I just wanted to know if this was a well-known project, because I was surprised by how closely it matched my own thoughts.

That's all.
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June 11th, 2009, 14:01
PJ

It seems you misunderstand what I'm saying at a fundamental level - as well as what they're ACTUALLY trying to do with this project, and given our history, I see little point in trying to reach an understanding with you.

I think I got my answer already, so no worries
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June 11th, 2009, 14:02
To go off on a slight tangent: I've often wondered if we, as biological creatures, are even compatible with Communist utopias. We've evolved to cope with scarcity, and most of our instincts and mental mechanisms are oriented toward that goal. Would we even be happy in a "lotus-eater" society where we could get anything we want simply by wishing it?

I kinda doubt it, and I have some evidence. Virtual worlds.

We've gotten to the point where computer games — online and off — are good enough to approximate alternative realities. Being digital, there are virtually no constraints to production within them. Now, how long do you think Second Life or WOW would last if Linden or Blizzard decided to make everything free? That every user/player could get unlimited quantities of any goods in these virtual worlds simply by going "GIMMEH!?" Not very long, IMO.

Iain M. Banks's Culture novels would be incredibly boring without the less-developed cultures throwing challenges at his hedonist, Communist utopia — and I always got a sneaking suspicion that the denizens of the Culture would have found it that way too.
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June 11th, 2009, 14:02
So you're so open minded that you want a system that would force people to agree with it? I love capitalism but if you want to go live in a commune somewhere, feel free. Doesn't bother me.

The idea makes dangerously flawed assumption, such as that nurture is all that matters and you can 'educate' people out of these things. The 9/11 hijackers were all upper middle class western educated types. Didn't seem to do much good for them. Education is great, but you can't "teach" perfect morality, ethics, what have you - a lot of people still won't give a crap and will do whatever benefits them. It's why ideas and systems like this, are in my view, a complete waste of time and resources.

It's a pipe dream and if it ever "picks up steam" it will just divert attention away from areas that could use it. It's the Ballistic Missile Defense Shield of social planning.
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June 11th, 2009, 14:07
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
It seems you misunderstand what I'm saying at a fundamental level - as well as what they're ACTUALLY trying to do with this project, and given our history, I see little point in trying to reach an understanding with you.
Yeah, and yet again I wonder if it's because I'm a poor listener, or you're a poor talker, or, just possibly, that you don't have a clue what it is you really are talking about.

No offense, DA, but you really should read more. You'd discover that ideas that "color you shocked" aren't actually new at all; that they've been proposed, discussed, debated, fantasized about, and even attempted many, many times over the past several centuries.

Some of us have studied these things at some depth, and it's mildly irritating to have you run here like a little puppy with something he dug up in the back yard, thinking that it's the Star of Africa when actually it's just a bone the neighbor's cranky old dog buried there six months ago before he had to be put to sleep.
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June 11th, 2009, 14:18
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Yeah, and yet again I wonder if it's because I'm a poor listener, or you're a poor talker, or, just possibly, that you don't have a clue what it is you really are talking about.

No offense, DA, but you really should read more. You'd discover that ideas that "color you shocked" aren't actually new at all; that they've been proposed, discussed, debated, fantasized about, and even attempted many, many times over the past several centuries.

Some of us have studied these things at some depth, and it's mildly irritating to have you run here like a little puppy with something he dug up in the back yard, thinking that it's the Star of Africa when actually it's just a bone the neighbor's cranky old dog buried there six months ago before he had to be put to sleep.
Maybe this reaction is why I don't really consider it fruitful to pursue a meaningful debate with you.

You might not be impressed or consider the ideas new - but since I didn't suggest they were and I have little interest in impressing you, one has to wonder why you react so strongly.

In your eyes I'm an ignorant happy little puppy, which is certainly an amusing image. But given that image, wouldn't you agree that this is pointless?
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June 11th, 2009, 14:20
I think his point is that your common response in any discussion is "You don't understand!", regardless of the subject, or to claim the other person is misrepresenting or ignoring your points. Quite a few people have pointed this out to you and you always seem to deny it or refuse to take into consideration that the problem might actually be on your end as opposed to everyone else's - that other people might actually "understand".
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June 11th, 2009, 14:23
Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
So you're so open minded that you want a system that would force people to agree with it? I love capitalism but if you want to go live in a commune somewhere, feel free. Doesn't bother me.

The idea makes dangerously flawed assumption, such as that nurture is all that matters and you can 'educate' people out of these things. The 9/11 hijackers were all upper middle class western educated types. Didn't seem to do much good for them. Education is great, but you can't "teach" perfect morality, ethics, what have you - a lot of people still won't give a crap and will do whatever benefits them. It's why ideas and systems like this, are in my view, a complete waste of time and resources.

It's a pipe dream and if it ever "picks up steam" it will just divert attention away from areas that could use it. It's the Ballistic Missile Defense Shield of social planning.
As I already said, I really wasn't interested in a debate about it.

The primary issue is that I'm perceived in a certain way, and I don't blame anyone for that. It's just that I don't believe that those who perceive me in this way, can set aside their bias and will naturally argue from that point of view. It's only natural, but allow me the freedom to not want to pursue meaningless debates.

The last thing I'll say, just because you insisted, is that the concept is not about forcing anyone to do anything. That's actually what the concept is trying to circumvent.

The idea is that through education, people can potentially open to different ideas and think in different ways. It's not about shoving this down your throat or pretending that it's an objective truth that you must accept. It's not scientology in a wolf's clothing, or at least, that's not what I see.

It certainly isn't what I would do, and since they seem to agree with me on so many points, I can't imagine that's what they're intending.

I haven't studied it in-depth, so maybe it IS some kind of weird movement trying to convert everyone into sheep. So let's just say that my own vision isn't like that.
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