The Zeit-Geist (TREDITION CLASSICS)

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On this issue Zeitgeist has not much to say- thus the peculiar gap between Frescos circular cities, that remind us of Stanislaw Lems city landscape in Transfer or a scenery in Star Trek on the one hand, and the lucid although market-fixed critique of capital. Yes, we are all victims in some sort or theother. Yet, we are not bound to be victims, but interpret and reproduce orchange our social interactions constantly. This is done mainly in constant social struggles on all levels, from the household to the office.

Demonstrations are only a minor part of all those struggles — and even a rather superficial and often quite helpless one. So, we are not only victims, but at the same time people that resist domination, fight back and create spaces of freedom. Otherwise it would be a complete mystery why people such as Peter Joseph or Jacques Fresco can ever escape the position of a victim. This fits all to well into an affirmative view of science that seems to hold the solution to all problems.

A view, that the movie itself embodies, since practically all people that are interviewed have academic titles — and are all male with one exception and seemingly endowed with some sort of superior knowledge. While it is true, that technical problems of how to organize production are not to be solved in political terms — there is indeed no republican or liberal car — it is quite false to think of one solution for all and to imagine any technology as being neutral.

It seems that Zeitgeist wants to replace the absolutist authority of the state — which it correctly critizes — with another absolutist authority: that of science, the domination of an allegedly universal, neutral, and objective reason, mediated by similarly neutral, objective and — of course — well-meaning scientists. In the realist view, that Zeitgeist regrettably promotes, science is seen as a reflection of reality — this is certainly false.

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Reality is a construction, and this construction is done by different means, including everyday language and culture, modern and traditional, Western and Eastern science. The praise of science makes one chilling, when some of the interviewees shortly speak about the question of population and an assumed collusion with a so called carrying capacity. As a matter of fact, world population will most probably peak at 9 billion around And it is subject to — yes, what a surprise — scientific controversy and ideological battles as a part of class struggle, wether 9 billion people can lead a good life or billions are expected to vanish by way of catastrophes due to some sort of an alleged overshoot.

This mistake had its heyday in the interwar period. And it is not by chance that there also are the historical roots of the Zeitgeist-movement, which is an offspring of the so called technocratic movement that took and takes Frederick Engels saying that if suffices to replace the domination of people over people by the administration of things at face value.

The final, visionary part of the movie makes clear, that the satisfaction of human needs does not fail due to a lack of technological means indeed, this was probably never the case in human history, since needs are shaped by technology as well as the other way round. This is certainly true.

Zeitgeist and Nirmala Rajasekar November 12

Yet it is false to promoting the one universal solution of a utopia of technophile administrators, consisting of a global system of managementof resources, of production, and distribution. The fact that human needs are to some extent universal does not imply that the ways these needs are satisfied, interpreted and deployed converge on one and the same global path of societal development. Global cooperation might be useful, even partly necessary. But it cannot and should not rely on people functioning like machines, obeying the allegedly natural constraint of resource management which might be enforced by a scientific steering comitee — the movie interestingly enough is completely silent on such things as decision making and control of decision making institutions.

At this point, Fresco appears to be an anachronist variant of Le Corbusier. While Le Corbusier loved right angles, Fresco adores the circle. As long as the Corbusiers and Frescos of this world do not compel anyone to adopt their visions and suffer their consequences, this might be okay. Yet, to make the great solution out of it is simply wrong and potentially authoritarian. This is more in line with how Fresco himself has characterized this in his writing. The film also made the movement's best attempt yet at specifically defining the nature of a resource based economic system.

This was a breakthrough as the concept has never been present well in the Venus Project's own video media and has only ever been offered to the world in various written works.


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It's still going to be a difficult concept for many because there are few to no historic examples that the public has any collective memory of. And the notion of automating the management of world resources is quite alien to a society quite ignorant of just how automated economics already is today.

Zeitgeist and Nirmala Rajasekar November 12

So the concept is going to remain a hard sell. It seems, though, that, with this film, this Zeitgeist movement has moved beyond a class protest concerned with stimulating fear and anger for sake of public attention to what could be called an economic atheism with a potentially more coherent ideology -and potential for much greater credibility.

I see that as significant progress.


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However, as with the past films and as with the Venus Project in general, we're still left with no specific plans of action. No presentation of anything the audience is supposed to actually do about the dysfunctional status quo but embrace the suppressed reality of the situation. We are given an emotional impression of a fanciful near future global mass social uprising resulting from a spontaneous mass epiphany triggered by a 'tipping point' in economic failure and social strife.

But nowhere are we told how to functionally prepare for this imagined event. As a conclusion to the description of the new economic model we are presented with Fresco's model city of the future as an example of the rational habitat and its superlative lifestyle such a scientific approach to global resource management would produce.

But, beautiful as it is, frankly, it's very much a Greek Temple on a Golf Course. A scientifically engineered urban megastructure of the classic Modernist sort that exists as a set-piece of architecture, presumably springing from the aether fully formed and inhabited and devoid of the organic evolution that characterizes any real city.

It is, on the face of it, implausible because it can only exist and function in its finished full-scale form and would require a kind of nation-scale public works project of the likes -and time frame- of the Great Wall of China to create. If this is a suggestion of an objective, it's not a good one.

Where would you start? Emergent phenomenon. They are not planned but rather generated by an attractor formed by the convergence of interests on a geographically strategic location. They grow incrementally and must be functional and habitable at every stage of growth. One of the minor contradictions in the Venus Project vision is the way Fresco's mid-century Big Machine model of technology and architecture contradicts the core paradigms of a Post-Industrial culture and the contemporary trends in technological evolution he is otherwise advocating.

The Venus Project needs a more 21st century urban theory to compliment its economic theory. Maybe then it will have a functional model for a habitat it can actually aspire to build now, today, as an example for its new way of life. Still, overall this movie seems like real progress for this movement. A more general comment regarding the Venus Project, which is somehow related to the Zeitgeist Movement :.

But he's never had partners that could assume that implementation role. As brilliant as he is, most of his inventions have never gotten past concept stages because he's never been willing to get his own hands dirty in implementation and business development when no one else would. And this same thinking is reflected in the history of the Venus Project. For most of the, possibly, 50 years Fresco has been cultivating the Venus Project, he's been evangelizing its concepts through his designs.

In other words, he has been trying to sell its concepts to a general public that is not sophisticated enough to comprehend them directly by using an idyllic visual image of the future that contrasts the squalor of contemporary life and cultivates a desire for a higher standard of living only this new cultural paradigm can deliver.

The basic idea here is to cultivate collective desire through the appeal of a design such that people will be compelled to pick up the tools -intellectual and physical- to make it real. This is exactly the strategy you would expect from an industrial designer. That's how they normally sell ideas. But can you actually sell a whole society on a whole new cultural paradigm using pictures of its possible artifacts and visual impressions of its lifestyle?

That's basically what the Venus Project has been trying to do for decades -before Zeitgeist. They were very comfortable and complacent when Fresco started. Now they are under threat worldwide and looking for answers. I think you can usefully communicate many things this way, but it's got limits.

It can only be part of a larger strategy that seems to have eluded Fresco for much of his life.


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We certainly live in a visual culture and you can communicate a great deal about the nature of a culture through architecture and industrial design. Though a lot of contemporary designers seem oblivious to this, any given design is a reflection of production technology, economic paradigms, and common community aesthetics, which in turn are reflections of culture. You don't have to be an anthropologist to get this. Humans have an innate ability to reverse engineer things, relative to their inherent understanding of physics and materials, by looking at, touching, and using them.

This is how we perceive the value of many goods -and which corporations often try to trick through aspects of design to create a false perception of value. So we can, potentially, come to understand certain aspects of a proposed new culture through the nature of speculative designs of artifacts suggested to be products of it. This is the purpose of futurist visualization. And when you're doing futurist or technical visualization, as opposed to just SciFi, you are very deliberately trying to showcase those reasons through design because its those things that communicate the plausibility of the ideas you're trying to get across.

So we see in Fresco's design work an attempt to communicate through it an impression of how his imagined future culture works. How it makes things and the aspects of design that reflect its culture's values. His concepts for things like space structures and nanotechnology in particular remain way off the mark and his greatest anachronism is Big Machine fabrication.

My guess is that, due to an assumption that he was very far ahead of the curve to begin with and because at that point he started being more concerned with cultural theory, he hasn't kept up with the industrial and technological trends so his general design theory has not evolved -or, as with many architects, he just assumed he had achieved some kind of perfection and just never reviewed it later. But there's a more critical missing piece here; functional example.

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It's quite logical for the Venus Project to be very concerned with building a research city. That's the next step. Our society is so disillusioned, so hard-boiled, that we're now compulsively skeptical about any notion of the future that isn't dystopian.