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Mats Kaarbø

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Redefining Individuality

We all love our individuality. It is what shapes us as human beings and not some brainwashed robots, right? But how free and individual are we really? Can anybody, regardless of their situation, go to any local store and buy the food they need, rent an apartment that provides them with the human and sanitarian needs such as sleep, a shower to clean themselves and a place to cook their food or perhaps book a flight to India the next morning that would enrich their life personally and socially purely out of the enjoyment of visiting and exploring other cultures and places? No. You are only as free as your purchasing power. That means from the day you are born you are dependent on other people to take care of you and provide you with the necessities of life until you are old enough to attend school (assuming it is free), memorize the information that will hopefully grant you with a diploma and that would hopefully make you able to compete with many others to a job that will likely rob your personal freedom to express your individual desires to take on your own projects, just so you make enough money to survive. Is this truly individuality?

Now, what if we made a society where we utilized science and technology to intelligently manage and allocate our resources to meet the needs of all human beings on the planet by claiming all of Earths resources as the common heritage of all mankind. Where we collectively would utilize technology to free mankind (through automation of jobs and labor) in order for every human being to be able to reach their fullest potential personally, socially and culturally. That sounds like a society that cherishes the individual, right?

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    Nov 10 2012: I think I saw a video clip about the Venus Project in a film some time ago, and it made me very sad. (if it's the one I think it is) While I am very supportive of a moneyless society, I am not in support of "whitewashing" the future as the project seems to include. I find that I am quite turned off by the futuristic visions that involve uniformity and seems to sacrifice creative expression in the name of efficiency. I could be wrong of course, I haven't researched the ins and outs of that particular project. I think that instead of using technology to build a new vision of the future, we should use it to improve the one we have. Instead of building entirely new cities, renovating the existing ones. Recycling outdated technology into something more useful. I see the future as far more vibrant and expressive. There is absolutely room for innovation, but depending on technology for survival just seems a bit irresponsible to me. In my mind at least, it's far more realistic to plant a public orchard to eat from, for example, than to create some sort of complex mechanical system to make sure everyone gets fed. I think we as a society make things more complicated than they are. There are ways to thrive both physically and spiritually, without resorting to a mechanical system. It just takes a bit of creativity, which I believe the TED community has in spades. I think an automaton city may be the answer for some people perhaps, but for some of us, such as myself, there is much to be gained from having your hands in the earth and working as a community group. Of course, everyone's ideal society is different, that's just mine. I think any vision of the future must include room for the visions of others and the ability for them each to live up to their infinite potential as human beings. There is no right answer I think, only a right direction. :)
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      Nov 11 2012: Then I suggest you look more into it before you make anymore baseless claims about it. The Venus Project doesn't call for uniformity, it doesn't prohibit people from doing anything just because we automate certain jobs and labor and it absolutely call for diversity and value creative individuals that can innovate and build the technologies of tomorrow. The Venus Project doesn't call for a Utopia, it calls for an emergent society that will transform endlessly.
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        Nov 11 2012: Then we must agree to disagree.
        As I said, in my opinion, any vision of the future must include room for the visions of others. I respect your point of view, even if I don't agree with it. :)
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          Nov 11 2012: I like your sentiment, Rachel: "Any vision of the future must include room for the visions of others."
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          Nov 11 2012: Rachel, there _is_ room for the visions of others. Let me reiterate. The Venus Project doesn't call for a society dictated by The Venus Project, it calls for an _emergent_ society. They welcome any critiques or improvements to their design as they realize there is no Utopia. If you have any ideas in terms of the future or specifically regarding their design, why don't you confront them with it? If you really are interested in the making a difference that benefits all, join their activist team and work directly with The Venus Project sharing your voice and visions. However, if you are just here to disagree for the fun of it or to superimpose your values, you are wasting my time. I'm here for a dialogue, not a debate.

          Furthermore, the teachings or the information in the Venus Project is not what Jacque Fresco dictates. It’s first doing a survey of the carrying capacity of a given environment and maintaining a population in accordance of the Earth's resources, not Fresco's opinion. We have to learn how scientists arrive at decisions. Once you use the scientific method, it doesn't mean that your decisions will be perfect. They'll be far more accurate than just opinions. Opinions are very dangerous, because they aren't based on scientific studies.

          Here's a direct quote from the director of The Venus Project: "The social designs that are proposed in [The Venus Project] merely provide the opportunity for individuals to develop their fullest potential in whatever endeavor they choose without the fear of loss of individuality or submission to uniformity."
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        Nov 11 2012: I believe it with every fiber of my being. :)
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        Nov 11 2012: I think you misunderstand my intent. I have no interest in dismissing the project as folly. Quite the opposite in fact. In your original post you inquired if we thought that system was one that valued the individual. My response was that I, personally, do not believe it does, and why. That does not mean that I do not believe it holds any value. It means that it is not something I feel I would choose to include in my own vision of the future. I'm not attacking the project, just stating that I as an individual would not choose to be involved with it. My personal values lie elsewhere, that's all. :)
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          Nov 11 2012: I am not sure what original post you are referring to, so could you perhaps re-post the statement where you express your belief and why? Or you could just give a conclusive answer to why you think the project doesn't value individuality. This is important for me to address to avoid any misinformation.

          "I'm not attacking the project, just stating that I as an individual would not choose to be involved with it."

          That is fine. The project doesn't want to create followers, but thinkers. But if you have any inquires or questions towards the project, please feel free to address those directly to the project and don't post things that could be lead to misinformation by posing your personal opinion of it, without even looking into it thoroughly. I know its easy to fall for the temptation to just pose a comment on it, but that doesn't serve any constructive dialogue which we cannot afford in these trying times. You can tell I'm passionate to keep things clean and to the point and so should you, if you are interested in making a change. And I believe you are.
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        Nov 12 2012: How can I possibly add to a dialogue if I am not allowed to voice my opinion? That in itself stifles the individuality which this system supposedly encourages. Having opinions is part of the very foundation of individuality. The definition of dialogue according to Mirriam-Webster is:
        1di·a·logue noun ˈdī-ə-ˌlȯg, -ˌläg

        Definition of DIALOGUE

        1
        : a written composition in which two or more characters are represented as conversing
        2
        a : a conversation between two or more persons; also : a similar exchange between a person and something else (as a computer)
        b : an exchange of ideas and opinions
        c : a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution
        3
        : the conversational element of literary or dramatic composition
        4
        : a musical composition for two or more parts suggestive of a conversation

        After reading a fair bit about it, It seems that it is a very dangerous kind of social engineering. I think in theory perhaps it could be a good thing, but man's greed and lust for power will inevitably rear it's ugly head as it has since the beginning of time, and corrupt the system. At some point in the future, when humanity is able to overcome this, there may be room for this type of system. But who gets to make that decision? Who ultimately has the power to put this system into effect, and what happens to people like me that refuse to be a part of it? Do I have a right to choose not to conform to this system that requires the cooperation of the entire world? Don't you need my cooperation? It's a global socio-economic system. I am part of the globe. Once a system like this is established, where do I go and what do I do to protest a system I don't believe in? Am I then a societal outcast? Am I told that living under this system is what's best for me so I have to suck it up?
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          Nov 12 2012: "How can I possibly add to a dialogue if I am not allowed to voice my opinion? That in itself stifles the individuality which this system supposedly encourages. Having opinions is part of the very foundation of individuality."

          You have plenty of space to address your opinion, no one has ever denied you that. But how are we going to have a constructive dialogue if you merely point out the shortcomings of my proposals and do not offer an alternative or build on my ideas?

          "I think in theory perhaps it could be a good thing, but man's greed and lust for power will inevitably rear it's ugly head as it has since the beginning of time, and corrupt the system."

          I urge you to read and learn more about behaviorism.

          "But who gets to make that decision? Who ultimately has the power to put this system into effect, and what happens to people like me that refuse to be a part of it? Do I have a right to choose not to conform to this system that requires the cooperation of the entire world? Don't you need my cooperation? It's a global socio-economic system. I am part of the globe. Once a system like this is established, where do I go and what do I do to protest a system I don't believe in? Am I then a societal outcast? Am I told that living under this system is what's best for me so I have to suck it up?"

          Nobody makes the decision. There is never a quantum leap from one state to another. There is always in between systems. In terms of a moneyless society based on technological abundance, we all arrive at the decision that this is the way to go. If you don't approve of it, you are not forced to be a part of it and can live your life anyway you want to and you are always welcomed if you change you mind.

          Before I go into any further discussion with you, I want to ask you a question: Do you believe that people have free will? That we act without influence?
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        Nov 12 2012: I think we do have free will. But that there is no such thing as acting without influence. I cannot offer any suggestions for The Venus Project, because what I would suggest changing is at the very core of what makes the project what it is. As I look at the pictures and the proposed cities, there are some things noticeably absent. In these preplanned cities, there are no unique buildings, they're all the same. I have seen no playgrounds, no children, no animals. There is no color. There is no creative expression. There are curvy white buildings on a bed of grass, typically in a pattern of concentric circles. I submit to you that from someone who highly values individuality it looks like anything but a society that values individuality and creativity. It isn't the purpose of the project I disagree with, it's the proposed plan to get there. I think it takes away more than it gives. I'm not trying to change your mind or anyone else's. I'm simply saying that there is more than one path to the same goal, and that some people, such as myself, will choose to take the other road. I think the project has forgotten the human need of creative expression. If it addresses that, and depends less on robots, and explains what happens to already existing cities, then maybe I'd feel a little less strongly about it. What does happen to the existing cities anyway? Do they level them to get an even playing field? Or do they just build new ones in undeveloped area?
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          Nov 12 2012: Thank you for clearing that up, Rachel. I think I understand you much better now. In terms of the city designs proposed by the Venus Project, these are merely templates that showcase the most efficient use of resources. Nothing more. Everybody would be free to do whatever they would like with their house; the shape, the color etc. Knowing this, you could imagine the amount of creativeness that would occur in such a society, much more than is allowed today. There would be no fixed way of designing, there would in fact be a multitude of designs and cities that is based on the needs of the inhabitants. What is more beautiful than that? In other words, if you want a pink house with four giraffe statues on the roof, that is for you to choose. Check out the Venus Project's videos on their website under the menu 'Technology' to learn more about these possibilities.

          In terms of robots, I don't see how less usage of this would make any sense? Nearly everything you have in your house is made by automation and the fact is that robotics/automation is increasing our ability to produce abundance and is at the same time liberating us to focus on stuff we really want to do like creative things that enrich our lives, which you sought after. However, that doesn't mean that you wouldn't be allowed to be a chef and open up your own restaurant just because food production could be automated, if you know what I mean.

          The future of existing cities would depend on a couple of things. But the way I see it however, it would be much more effective to just build new ones and mine the old ones for resources needed for the new ones. Of course, some building and cities would be kept and preserved for future generations to see what kind of society we lived in before. But, its really not my call. Whatever happens in time, happens.
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        Nov 12 2012: What would be done with the old cities?
        Most of the old cities would be leveled and mined for their resources. They are too inefficient to maintain. Some of the cities would be set aside as museum cities.

        This is a direct quote from the website FAQ and for me, it's a deal breaker. If my city is one of the cities planned for levelling and mining, where do I go then? I have to suffer the loss of my home, and my community to build a "better" city someplace else? They will demolish an entire city because it's "too inefficient to maintain"? What if I don't want to move? I have to live in the skeleton of a demolished city? Why is it any less logical to take all of this incredible technology that is proposed in this project and implement them in existing cities to make them MORE efficient without destroying the homes of millions of people and erasing hundreds if not thousands of years in cherished local histories? And what of indigenous peoples that see their ancestral homes and lands as a part of who they are? If they are truly after making meaningful change, they really ought to start in a more practical way, such as helping to provide this technology in a more accessible way. To advocate these types of buildings in everyday construction situations. To work with what already exists to make it better rather than destroying what doesn't fit into their idea of perfection. This isn't global improvement, it's global replacement and I do not support erasing history to make room for a thinly veiled closed minded vision of the future. NOW I'm attacking the project and since I am now unable to comment without being overtly disdainful in my comments I will say no more on the matter. I wish you all the best, sincerely, and thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
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          Nov 12 2012: I am sorry you look at it this way and hopefully you will eventually see the benefits. Trust me, I felt exactly like you when I first discovered the project, being an artist myself and where I tend to romanticize such things instead of thinking them through rationally. I have now learned to appreciate both and move beyond certain hang-ups. I know this is a sensitive issue (it is for me as well), so I won't go any further into it.

          I wish you well and I hope I haven't completely turned you off to future discussions, since I admire your passion and insights.
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      Nov 11 2012: Hi Rachel,

      We depend on technology for survival nowadays, and our ancestors survived without our technology. I don't see it as mutually exclusive. I don't see any of them intrinsically better than the other

      I grew up into what i call a blue whale approach to knowledge, i try to extract something useful wherever i hear/read/see it, without caring of the useless info that surrounds it. Sometimes its tiny, and sometimes it comes from the most unexpected sources.

      Yes i too am aware of the venus project and the zeitgeist movement, and even from them i have learned some. It is in one of those videos that i heard a nice concept: technology is also a pencil and paper that allow us to put our ideas out of our heads. If given the choice, if we are to change or ways of living, i would like to keep pencil and paper in my toolkit. And a computer too, probably.

      I like your ideas about the future, and i don't see them too different from those of the venus project. The key concept seems to be to free people up so they can raise above their current limitations, and of course this can allow them to express themselves more, promote culture, technology, etc

      I guess one of my points is that a world explained and assisted by science and technology does not take away the beauty and mystery of what makes us, us.

      And if the lowest common denominator is the curiosity of what a money-less world would look like, is it worth putting heads together to build up from that minimum common?

      cheers
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        Nov 12 2012: To the contrary, I think there is much value in "mundane and menial" work. As a single mother of four children and caretaker to several more, menial and mundane work makes up a good majority of my time, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I glean much satisfaction from doing the things other people have relegated to machines. I think people thrive on purposeful work, and not ALL purposeful work must be curing cancer, writing symphonies or touring the Pyramids at Giza. I suppose it comes from being raised in a hearty Texas family where digging post holes, raking leaves, and changing the oil in my daddy's truck was valuable, character building work, not a a menial task no one wanted to do. It needed to be done, so you did it, and you felt pride at a job well done. Most of all, I think all of these huge hurdles and global issues needn't require a complex system of automatons and scientific study. Commitment to hard work, cooperation and simplifying our lives can do the job just as well, and probably better. :)

        I think science and technology have their place and should be balanced by an equal amount of hard work and creativity.

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