Friday, July 3, 2009

Imagining the Future

I no longer remember who it was that suggested I should take a look at Future By Design, the movie about Jacque Fresco, a man who has spent his already long life imagining the future. If it was you who made the suggestion, thank you: I watched it last night and found it fascinating and provocative. Here's a link to the trailer.

Fresco's vision goes further than a simple utopian dream. He is a practical man, a designer and inventor, who realizes his vision in multiple ways--everything from the large-scale completed architectural structures in the exemplary site that is a part of The Venus Project, to tiny surgical instruments. It seems, to judge from the story the film tells, that his genius has not reached to turning his invention to financial profit, and that he continues to labor more for the joy and dedication than for the material return. He wants nothing less than to revolutionize the way we humans think about ourselves and inhabit the planet on which we are fortunate to live--from habitable, well-organized, people-friendly cities...

... to fast, clean transportation systems ...

... and energy efficient housing.

But for Fresco, it's not just about the buildings, the technology, the things. These are simply the tools by which to achieve the larger vision, which is to re-invent the way society works, based on the availability of resources rather than the exchange of money. He is convinced--along with many others these days--that we cannot survive as a species if we continue along the path of cutthroat competition for resources that only seem to be increasingly scant: they are readily available, he argues, if only we devote our scientific research and our technological skills to bringing them to the service of all, rather than exploiting them for the benefit of the few. It's what he calls a resource-based economy.

An adamant and eloquent opponent of the magical thinking of religion, he sees our salvation in science. We are hamstrung, he argues, by social convention, and by habits of thought that we elevate, without scientific basis, to the status of immutable truth: war, sickness, hunger and poverty would be non-existent in a world in which science and technology are dedicated to the common good. We allow our beliefs, though often groundless and counter-productive, to stand between us and a healthy future in which all people share in common prosperity. All we need to do, in effect, is change our minds.

I think this is something like what the Buddha said two and a half thousand years ago--at least the part about changing our minds. The Buddha, of course, was less concerned with material well-being and comfort, and more with what he saw to be the lasting happiness that can only be found within. Perhaps that's the spiritual counterpart to Fresco's vision--which is well worth checking out.

1 comment:

Gary said...

How completely refreshing and constructive to review such sound designs for a future.
Hope Obama knows about this fellow!