How to Realize a Resource Based Economy (RBE)
In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the changes to employment that advanced technology and automation will soon bring, and how a Resource Based Economy is the only solution that we know of to that dilemma. We know what the problem is, and we even have the solution in hand, however, one sixty-four-million dollar question remains: how do we get there from here? The transition to a completely new socioeconomic system will be anything but easy. It will be the grandest challenge that Humanity has ever undertaken. however, it also holds the most promise for creating a sustainable future that is compatible with an advanced technological civilization.
The largest challenge facing the adoption of an Resource Based Economy is education. No one has ever tried to develop or implement this type of system before, so, people have no point of reference. They will grab bits and pieces of ideas and try to fit that into models of systems they are familiar with, some that were huge failures, and make false assumptions. The most common misperception centers on the idea of ownership.
Around 10,000 years ago, people went through a transition from hunter-gatherers to farming the land and living in one place for longer periods. For the first time in history people were staying in one place long enough to obtain and accumulate objects of value. This is probably when we first started seeing the concept of ownership of objects and lands take hold. Therefore, for the last 10,000 years or so, we have conditioned our society to measure our worth by the amount of stuff we can accumulate and own. Do we have a natural disposition to want to own things, to accumulate wealth? Are we destined to always be greedy and hoard material wealth? I think not. I think it is our nature to live in better harmony with our neighbors and the Earth. The last 10,000 years has been an aberration in our natural behavior.
We only have a few examples of other societies to get a glimpse of how we probably spent the majority of our time evolving. The Native Americans of the mid-west in America gave up farming to return to a life of hunting & gathering and developed a social structure based on sharing. They could not carry very much when it was time to pick up and move, so they put little value on accumulating things of value. People could no more own the land than they could own the air we breathe. What they did have, belonged to the entire tribe. Around the turn of the 20th century, many South Pacific island tribes had plenty of natural resources; food and water. Even though they stayed in one place, because there was such abundance there was no need to take more than you needed. They developed a very egalitarian culture were people openly shared everything. When our environment permits it, we can be rather nice to each other.
The fact is that humans are perfectly capable of living harmoniously in a society where ownership of things is not important. We think that we must accumulate things of value because that is what we have been taught our entire lives. It is part of our culture; the same culture that is willing to kill men, women and children just to get their oil. The need to have something that someone else has, to take it from them, is at the root of most of the crime and violence around the globe for the past 10,000 years. By eliminating money, and the value it associates with things we use, we can finally return to a society that values people and relationships over material wealth. By creating the technology to harvest energy and provide renewable resources in abundant supply, we will finally be free of the violence that emerges in a society that values possessions over people.
However, we still have a challenge. The challenge is convincing seven billion people to stop valuing material possessions, give up the need to own things, and put their trust in technology to provide for their every need.
Education and Building Faith in a New Way
Two things need to happen before the concept of a Resource Based economy will gain acceptance with the majority of the population.
- We must educate the people about what a Resource Based Economy is and how it works.
- In addition, we must prove to the people by example that these concepts will work in practice, not just theory.
The change to a Resource Based Economy is too radical to get the support of the majority of the worlds population without a major catastrophe driving them to accept anything that offers some hope of security. Unfortunately, there are powerful interests in the world that would use a global disaster to seize control. The only way to avoid a negative outcome is to educate the people about a better option, so that when the day comes, they can vote intelligently. What better way to educate people than by example.
The Path Forward
Millions of people have heard of The Venus Project (TVP) by now, and another popular initiative known as The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM). The Zeitgeist Movement began as the activist arm of The Venus Project, however their tactics for spreading the message of an RBE were not in keeping with the core values of The Venus Project, and therefore they split and went their separate ways. However, they still pursue the same goal, which is a Resource Based Economy.
As of this writing, The Venus Project is trying to raise the capital to create a full length movie that will show what life in a society that no longer uses money, has no need for war, and has access to abundant resources would be like. People will continue having a hard time visualizing that society without a frame of reference. The movie is a key educational tool that will give people that reference from which they can base their understanding. In addition to awareness, proceeds from the movie will be used to help fund the first experimental city.
The trailer below is not for the full length film mentioned above, however I think it will be very informative:
Once awareness is improved through education, additional funding can be raised to construct the first experimental prototype city. The first city will be a scaled down version of a full city concept. This prototype city will need to rely on funding to buy land, and pay for materials and equipment because it will still exist somewhere within our current monetary system. It will be constrained to the laws of the land, including taxation wherever it is built. It will probably also require manual labor since the automated construction and production techniques still need to be developed. Establishing a reliable and renewable energy source will be one of the first priorities.
If the people have been well educated about the vision for an RBE, then there will be enough skilled people available to volunteer their time to see that vision brought to life. Initially there will be a high demand for contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters; all the construction trades. We will also need people for first aid and emergency medical care, as well as agronomists to set up the first hydroponic farms. They will all live in the city as they construct it. Teams of architects, engineers, and IT professionals from all over the world are already volunteering their time to design this first new city and the computer systems that will run it. Hundreds more professionals have already signed up to help when the time comes.
Once the first prototype city is constructed, the first inhabitants in addition to the construction people will need to be researchers, engineers, technicians, scientists, and others with the required skills to develop the technology that will enable a Resource Based Economy to thrive by replacing manual labor with automation. However, researchers and scientists are expensive in today’s money based world. How might the first city function financially in a word that uses money?
The method of that operation has yet to be decided by the TVP team. This suggestion is but one approach that may be used and is presented here to illustrate that doing this is not a Utopian pipe dream, it can happen.
The Coop Approach
A Cooperative, or Coop (pronounced ‘koe-ahp’) for short, is a business organization where the members share ownership in the business. There is no corporate stock, and so no stockholders telling the business what to do. Members may be the customers of the coop business as with Credit Unions, Farming coops, and some insurance companies. The coops members can also be the employees of the coop as is becoming popular in Europe. In a coop where the members are the employees, the employees each own an equal share in that business. There is no single owner or boss controlling all of the others. It is the ultimate flat organizational structure. A coop may pay its members who do work a wage, but it is not required.
One way to structure the coop, would be to offer members the right to live in the city. They would have access to all of the cities resources; food, water, shelter and anything else the city is able to provide. People would not be paid a wage while living in the city. The research and technology produced, along with any excess power and products manufactured in the city can be sold to those outside the city. A priority will also be placed on establishing the ability to fabricate our own tools, equipment and supplies as early as possible so as to not be dependent on the outside world. However, there will inevitably be items beyond the early cities ability to manufacture; computer chips for example. The value received from trade would enable the early city to purchase additional material, supplies, tools and equipment that it could not manufacture, as well as things like medical care for situations beyond the cities early medical staffs ability to deal with.
Another option is to open the city up to college students who want to learn sustainable living. We may be able to attract a few college professors and offer a number of colleges a fully accredited course for their students spending a semester in the city doing research, learning and helping build the future.
An additional possibility is offering the city as an experimental testing ground for technology companies developing new automation techniques. Think Google’s new driverless car. These companies may not be ready to embrace a new way of life without money, but they may be interested in plugging their technology into an experimental infrastructure full of scientists and technicians who can provide valuable feedback.
The coop will be a legal entity, responsible to the country where it is built for all taxes and laws. Since members volunteer their efforts, they are not paid, and therefore not subject to taxation. If successful, enough capital can be raised to finance a larger city as part of the same coop business. In the second city, the automation technology developed in the first city is used to help construct it as well as the cities control and distribution systems.
It may be advantageous to have different cities specialize in different kinds of goods. That way one city does not have to establish the capability early on to be able to create everything it may need. A computerized distribution network will keep track of everything that is available in each city and arrange for transport between cities when needed. That computerized system is actually undergoing design as you read this. I know this because that is one of the roles I fill as a Software Architect volunteering on that project. We will also connect our cities with high speed rail service for both passenger and resource/goods distribution.
Another early feature that will appear in the first city is a municipal transportation system that goes beyond your typical mass transit system. The details of that system are still being worked out, but it will be both environmentally friendly, and convenient.
Some of the early initiative the city will need to achieve are:
- Establish manufacturing and fabrication labs. 3D printers for various materials will help accelerate this capacity. To the extent possible, the early city will want to only buy raw materials, and then manufacture finished goods on site. This will be the quickest road to self sufficiency.
- Establish self sufficiency with our food supply; hydroponic gardens, aquaponics, pigs, goats, sheep and chickens. Fish not only supply valuable and healthy protein, but their waste is a valuable fertilizer for the hydroponics gardens. Live stock should be restricted to those able to consume left over waste from the gardens.
- Establish a reliable source of power with 24×7 availability; This likely will be solar or wind with a storage device to supply energy at night.
- Establish a transit system. For the first year the city may be small enough to get anywhere reasonable by bike, but eventually a better method will be required, especially in bad weather. The details are yet to be worked out, but may simply be a small fleet of electric vehicles.
- Develop a local resource management system.
- A school, not just for the children, but adults as well. This will double as a place where people can visit the city and learn what we are about. Perhaps we call it RBE University.
Mid Term Development:
- Manufacture of our own solar cells and power conversion equipment. This will be used to expand our power availability as the city grows until geothermal comes online, eventually generating a surplus that may be sold to the outside.
- Manufacture of electronic components of moderate complexity. Sophisticated computer chips will be a late stage endeavor.
- Expanded manufacturing capacity, with fully equipped research labs for the development of new automated construction systems and manufacturing techniques.
- Build an electric arc furnace mini steel mill, and casting to manufacture recycled steel from scrap. Recycled scrap steel is not very expensive and readily available. The raw steel will be critical to expanding our manufacturing capacity.
- Develop a regional resource management system.
- Establish a smelter and foundry for other metals and minerals.
- Establish chemical processing capability for needed chemicals.
- Geothermal power plant. Geothermal is the most desirable long term solution, however, the construction effort is high (approximately $3400/kilowatt in a monetary economy).
- Comprehensive and fully automated manufacturing and fabrication of all needed materials,components, and equipment needed by a highly technical society.
- Produce our own high quality computers and equipment including the components such as chips.
- Manufacture of high speed transport system, and fully automated municipal ‘doorstep-to-doorstep’ transit systems.
- Expand the resource management system to a global scale.
- Completely 100% self sufficient and independence from the outside ‘monetary’ world.
In each new generation of city that we build, the technology and automation used in city construction, infrastructure, services and industrial areas will be improved. At some point, we will branch out and start building cities in other countries. Eventually our cities will be so successful that we will have a hard time building them fast enough to meet the demand for people who want to move in to them. Before long, there will be so many people living in our cities, and so many others wanting in, that the world’s governments will have no choice but to make the commitment and convert their economies.
We have a way forward; one that does not require a revolution, or depended on the total collapse of society. We have simply create an alternative that people will be able to look to as a successful and functioning way to live. As the number of cities grows, they will eventually reach a point of complete self-sufficiency where there is no longer any dependency on the outside world for any resources. At that time, we should be able to transition away from the temporary coop model that allowed us to trade for resources from the moneyed world. We will then be 100% running as a true Resource Based Economy. There will still be those on the outside though. The remaining world’s governments will have no choice but to listen to the millions of people still on the outside and wanting to join our superior way of doing things. A global referendum of the remaining outside citizens will drive the world’s governments to plan their own conversion and join us.
Only one thing is certain about the future. If we survive as an advanced technological civilization, eventually machines will be doing all the work. There is no logical way to avoid that conclusion. One can argue about the timing, but not the result. When we humans are no longer needed for labor, when the machines are doing all of the work, we will either evolve into a new society where the machines serve our needs, or we let the machines have this planet and wave farewell as we become just another chapter in the long history of Earth. The one thing that has gotten us this far, is the fact that we humans are experts at adaptation. We adapt and survive. I think we have it within us to adapt to the coming changes, to evolve to a new way of life. We will live among the machines and they will be our friends.