It was only just recently that I became familiar with Jacques Fresco. And yes, I know that Les Visible pointed us all at him way back when, but what with me using an internet cafe wherein heavy downloads are a frowned upon no-no, I was unable to view the movie links he provided. But a lovely fellow who sits out the back of the cafe with me, gave me Zeitgeist Addendum straight from his hard drive. Finally I catch up.
And there it all was. The beauty of technology as a means of freeing us of want. With limitless energy providing limitless food, shelter, clothing, and transport, whole fields of unproductive un-endeavour would disappear. Without want, we'd see the end of crime and it's concomitant allopathic responses by way of the police, judiciary, and prisons. We'd have no need of the military. With money being unnecessary so would the industries dealing with it - banking, insurance, the stock market, all gone. Advertising too! Hurray! I'll bring the beers.
Sure enough, I'm down with all of the above. But as is my wont, I just had to pick at this thing. It occurred to me that it was less a case of, 'Here are the problems and now what is the answer?' than it was, 'Here is the answer and what problems may we solve with it?' The answer is technology sure enough. And clearly technology can solve many, many problems. And in doing so will, more or less, address the big picture. But it looks to me that the big picture view we have here has been assembled from lots of little pictures. Dig it, it's like a David Hockney photo montage.
But like a Hockney snapshot, what with the gaps in the pictures, the smooth flow of my mental eye stuttered. For mine, what Fresco's picture lacked was a coherency, a unifying overall philosophy. It seemed not to have anything to tie it together. I wondered about Fresco's world. If something were to pop up, some blemish on the perfection of it all, I had the impression that the response would be, 'What technology is there to throw at this?'
Hmm... maybe that'll work. Or maybe not. I'm thinking 'not'.
There are only two 'philosophers' (not the right word, but never mind) that I consider to be bullet-proof in their entirety. They are Charles Darwin and the Buddha. Me putting words in Darwin's mouth - food and protection from the elements are not the fundamental human drive. They are merely responses to what is the fundamental drive - the need to pass on one's genes. Or to put this more simply, any entity that exists must (wittingly or unwittingly, it really doesn't matter) seek to continue its existence. This is ipso-facto territory. Any entity that lacks this drive will cease to be an entity. Any entity that exists will have it. That's all there is to it.
The simple truth of existentialism - 'why am I here?' - is that there isn't one. Not beyond, 'a thing is'. The flipside of this is, 'a thing that isn't isn't'. Bloody genius, me. I've just done away with the whole field of existentialism. A fig for Descartes!
But forget such abstractions. Let's just view them as a basis for understanding the far more visceral phrase 'the sex drive'. Believe it or not, this 'drive' is existential in nature, not that that ever occurs to us. What does occur is something like 'Phwooar, look at that arse! You could bounce twenty cent coins off that!' Or is that just me? Anyway, every thirty seconds folks - you, me, the lot of us - a thought like this jolts our brain.
Believe it or not, such thoughts (by way of what drives them) are more fundamental in terms of the human condition than the basic needs of food and shelter. Sure, we need food and shelter to survive but we need to survive because of our 'without-it-we-wouldn't-be-here-to-begin-with' sex drive.
Back to Darwin now. Darwin says that there are various means of dealing with how to get it on with members of the opposite sex. Nature presents more variations on this theme than there are stars in the sky. Mates are chosen because they are: fat and sleek; good at fighting; have shiny feathers; sing well; dance well; build a better home; have superior artistic taste; on and on. Funny how humans barely differ from animals, birds, and fish isn't it? That's one of the beauties of Darwin. He says that anyone who thinks they're special is fooling themselves.
But that's only half the picture. All of the above responses are appeals by those hoping to be selected to those who'll be selecting. Those who select are after quality. For those being selected, quality is neither here nor there. They're after quantity. There's no point condemning this. Like any creature with a sex drive is going to stop with one partner. Honestly. Any creature that gets laid might be shagged out momentarily, but the sex drive doesn't take long to reassert. It only has one message and it says, 'Get Rooting!' Nor should any women out there feel smug. Nature is replete with examples of species which appear to be monogamous but are actually no such thing. Philandering abounds, females included.
So what was my point exactly? The point is that food and shelter cannot be divorced from our fundamental Darwinian sex drive. Even with all things provided for us we will still seek to find better partners and more of them. And we will do this by differentiating ourselves from our neighbours. Whoever has the biggest house, the best clothes, the shiniest car will get laid more often. Getting circular now - this need to one-up our neighbours must exist because we exist. And whatever Jacques Fresco promises us, it won't put a dent in it.
What a load of crap! We all know perfectly well that people who have nothing but generosity of spirit can get laid too. What about that huh?
I thank that imagined individual for segueing me into the Buddha. The Buddha acknowledges all that Darwin says, with his dictum 'life is suffering'. And suffering of course is desire. Of course, the Buddha doesn't dwell solely on the desire to get laid like Darwin does. He goes beyond Darwin to view things in terms of the 'self'. So what's the difference?
Hopefully I've done enough fleshing out above to save us yet more circuitousness and thus allow me to declare that there isn't one. Darwin's addressing of the necessity of 'being' and Buddha's view of the self as desire, are (if you cock your head and squint) the same thing. Our existence predicates the furthering of our existence and this necessarily places the self front-and-centre, first-and-foremost, the thing without which we are nothing.
The Buddha goes very very far in these thoughts. Too far for this discussion. Let's just stick to the Buddha as an answer to Darwin's imperatives. The Buddha has no beef with Darwin. He acknowledges the self but says that to view it as a thing separate to that-which-is-not-the-self is a mistake. Selflessness is not so much a rejection of yourself, ahem, but rather a means of viewing yourself in context.
Side note - Anyone who imagines a selfless person as being some idiot giving all their food to others and starving to death as a result, is being silly. Not only would this break Darwin's dictum but would also be a statement of separation of the self against that-not-the-self which is contrary to everything Buddha is on about. And yes, I can imagine a situation where such things would occur and still be described as 'right', but we shouldn't confuse extreme anomalies with the truth of the whole. In statistics, such extremities on the bell curve are discarded (2.1 standard deviations, blah blah, blah) and quite right too. Anomalies do not speak of a system but of its tolerances, a whole separate subject.
Anyway, with this selflessness as a lens, or a mindset, or a guiding principle perhaps, all of Darwin's dictums can be fulfilled. The world will function just fine. We'll all be fed, clothed, and sheltered and yes, even laid. Whilst it's no perfect 'Just one quick spray and it's gone!' antidote to Darwin's inevitable need to get laid more often, nor is it about anything else.
So hopefully you should have that mess of pottage above sitting in your head as a coherent perfect thought. Yes? Excellent. Now you understand the hole in Jacques Fresco's model of providing all that we need. He's got the cart before the horse. I don't know if anyone has ever actually tried to do this but I expect that with enough fiddling, it could be made to work. But not very well and not for very long. Likewise, Fresco's wish to sate our desires is one way of quenching the fires but not a very good one. The truth is desires cannot be sated. Like the TV show said - the nature of monkey is irrepressible. Subsequently any resemblance between Fresco's envisioned world and selflessness is merely a well-meaning coincidence.
Even viewed in solely practical terms the whole thing will be doomed to fail. In spite us of having all things in abundance, if the nature of the self is left unaddressed, those of a monstrous ego (pyschopaths if you prefer) will inevitably sacrifice all on the altar of their own regard. And frankly there seems to be nothing in Fresco's model to stop them.
In the big dreamy picture that is Jacques Fresco's brave new world, something big is lacking. There seems to be no coherent sense of 'This is who we are'. Or in negative terms, there is no 'When all else fails see rule 1'. Me, I reckon a continuum of selflessness provides a sense of 'who we are', a 'rule 1'. It does so as a stripped-down go-cart, a bare-bones lean-machine, a wonder tool good for any eventuality. It cannot be slurred or impeached since it favours none. It's as right as a thing can be.
Even if Fresco's plans were fully realised, it would eventually fail and we'd be back to where we started. On the other hand, if we could explode some kind of gigantic world-affecting Buddha-bomb and fill everyone's head with the truth of selflessness, the world that would result would pretty much resemble Fresco's vision anyway. And have a basis to it that made sense.
Brilliant! This and a thousand other mad dreams of a Buddhist dictator. What are the odds on Fresco's dreams seeing reality? Given that it threatens to replace insanely powerful and greedy institutions, who would rather fight to the death than let it live, it would have to be the bookie's dream. A buck will get you a million. Selflessness on the other hand is a personal trip. You can do it all on your own, and no maglev trains required.