The Venus Project is an attempt to create a perfect society through the application of technology, and by giving everyone whatever they want.
There is a lot of good in their ideas and a genuineness that is quite inspiring. They also level many legitimate criticisms on our current way of doing things.
I mean, why are there still starving people when we have the means to feed everyone on Earth? Why do millions of people die from preventable diseases? It isn’t that we lack the ability or the resources. We don’t even lack the money, all we lack is the correct APPLICATION of the money.
So there are a lot of things to think about after reading the Venus Projects’’ website. But there are also multiple flaws in the Venus Projects’ approach and they are, I’m sad to say, insoluble.
I’m not going to go into how it is impossible to ever completely prevent assault and rape or how daft it is to suppose that machines (which are programmed by biased, imperfect humans) could somehow be relied upon to make decisions that are completely unbiased and perfect.
No, instead I will deal with a practical problem that faces the outlawing of money: it’s impossible.
The Venus Project suggests that in a ‘resources based economy’ (which is actually code for “no actual economy at all”) everyone can simply be given everything they want. So let’s assume that, once the Projects’ aims become reality, this will become true. They flip the switch and suddenly there is no money.
The first thing that will happen is that everyone will go down to their local distribution centre and ask for their HumVee and their wide screen TV (or whatever the most desired consumer item is). At this point there won’t be enough for everyone to have one. So how do you decide who gets one?
The fairest way is to do it randomly. But if you do that then, low-and-behold, you’ve created an economy. Those who have their Hummers will be able to exchange them with those who do not yet have theirs.
Of course in theory, as time passes, people will start to get their free hummers and thus the desire to “buy” ones will decrease. But that won’t solve the problem. Because, there will always be a way to create demand for SOMETHING.
Let’s say I’m an artist. I have the ability to create the most amazing works of art for people to put on their HumVees. If people like my stuff I will be in great demand and thus we have an economy again.
But in the Project everything that people desire will be made for them. What does this mean for me as an artist? Will my designs be copied and given to people without my permission? That’s just unfair.
Or, worse still, will a computer program be written that produces works that are even better than my own?
Neither of those seems terribly fair, or utopian, to me.
And what about drugs? Will people be allowed to have as much cocaine and ecstacy as they want? Because if that is the case I’ma need to rewrite this article from a “no” into a “fuck yes!” :p
Because if drugs remain illegal then: bingo! You’ve got an economy again.
People also want to somehow be rewarded for their own hard work. If a scientist knows for a fact that she is three times more productive than the other scientists she works with then it is perfectly understandable that she might want to get more reward than they do.
The reward doesn’t need to be money, but it does need to be SOMETHING.
The problem here is that there is no way of removing people’s egos. People want to be different from each other, and most people want to be BETTER than each other as well. Humans constantly want MORE. It doesn’t matter how much we have, we want MORE! This is the engine that drives capitalist society. It is also the most significant factor in making us so unhappy all the time.
But recognising that it’s wrong and fixing it, are two different things.