Despite how it sounds, the Venus Project is not Elon Musk's latest proposal for an interplanetary expedition. Nor is it the enigmatic code name for a forthcoming J.J. Abrams sci-fi movie.
The Venus Project proposes something far more radical in its scope and design. It is an honest-to-goodness blueprint for a new global civilization.
From Sociocyberneering to Venus Project
The Venus Project was created by Roxanne Meadows who worked alongside the pioneering social engineer Jacques Fresco. Meadows is a trained architectural illustrator and model maker who studied under Fresco for four years.
"When I first met Jacque Fresco in 1976, he had a nonprofit organization called Sociocyberneering," Meadows recalls. The term condensed the key elements of Fresco's esoteric field, which applies engineering and cybernetics to the study of a social system.
He was using the word 'cyber' before it had been popularized by cyberspace or cyberpunk. However, Sociocyberneering was difficult to pronounce, remember, or spell so upon moving to Venus, Florida, the team called their project The Venus Project to make it simple.
In 1980, Fresco and Meadows began the construction of their 21-acre research center in a remote, rural outpost in central Florida.
The pristine natural setting was an ideal proving ground for their futurist city, which emphasizes a global economy based on the fair and equitable use of environmental resources.
The research center features 10 dome-shaped buildings designed and constructed by Fresco and Meadows. The dome appears prominently in existing and forthcoming architectural blueprints. According to their website, the shape provides maximum strength and stability while using a minimal amount of material to enclose a given area.
Moreover, "nature has evolved the dome configuration as the most efficient enclosure for the human brain; thus, it could be said that we all live in domes!"
What is Resource-Based Economy and how does it work?
While the dome is the key architectural concept, Resource-Based Economy is the central governing principle of the Venus Project.
Meadows and Fresco believe that "obsolete methods such as socialism, communism, fascism or the free enterprise system" cannot provide for every man, woman and child on Earth. As a child of the Great Depression in New York City, Fresco witnessed firsthand the mass poverty and dislocation of working people.
"Although industrial plants were largely dormant, people wanted work. Store windows filled with goods remained unsold as few had the money to buy anything."
At this point, he realized that the rules of the game needed to be changed. The Resource-Based Economy is "not based on someone's ideals or vision of 'utopia'... it is based on years of experimental study."
The system is something like an environmental positivism – it hinges on the idea that the Earth's resources should be "the common heritage of all the world's people." Meadows contends that the project goes beyond any planned community or commune because it presents an all-encompassing global system.
Among the many conceptual blueprints in their archive, there are massive circular cities, modular skyscrapers and water-bound marine research centers. Their vision extends to every corner of the earth, creating solutions for living in every possible climate.
We asked Meadows if the Venus Project is more relevant now given the rash of political instability across the world. She said it sometimes depends on "the march of events" that enables people to perceive an acute need for social change.
However, according to Meadows, the need for the Resource-Based Economy has been relevant for a long time:
"It takes conditions in society that actually convince people to look around and see that this is not working, such as losing confidence in their elected leaders...
It takes people losing their jobs to technological unemployment...
It takes climate change to threaten the lives of our own existence and people understanding that not much is being done about it...
It unfortunately also takes the poisoning of our food, air and water due to the mandate of profit over the mandate of global health and well-being."
In their current phase, the Venus Project maintains a network of volunteers across the world. Meadows is also currently working on everything from a TV series to a full-scale city. But the best way to make immediate contact with their vision is to visit the research center in Venus, Florida where they offer tours every Saturday.