Sunday, December 09, 2007

Future By Design

I just went to a screening of Future By Design by William Gazecki. It features the thought and works of an extraordinary 91 year old inventor name Jacque Fresco. This man still spends his days thinking about ways to redesign cities in a way he wants to resist calling utopian but I can't think of a better description.

When Sir Thomas Moore wrote 500 years ago of an island he called Utopia he was making a play on words: The Greek ou-topos, meaning "no place", and eu-topos, meaning "good place". It is an imagined place of perfection that does not exist and some would say cannot exist. The ideas brought forth by Jacque Fresco are all within the realm of possibility but so many factors stand in the way of them ever coming to pass. I admire the determination of such a person but can't help but feel sad for his quixotic quest.

I know we will need to make some radical changes to the way we build, consume, govern, and do business to save this world but I'm afraid we probably won't really want to do these things until we're on the brink or past the brink of disaster. Unfortunately that is probably the worst time to make reasoned and rational choices. In such instances immediate survival will be chosen over long term benefits which consequently could make it worse.

Another reason I'm saddened is that even if we could all agree that we needed to redesign our entire world the unintended consequences of such radical overhauls are bound to be disastrous in their own right. You simply cannot remake a world with a single blueprint. There are millions of competing blueprints from which we're all simultaneously building our world. Whenever a single design is chosen it is bound to succeed on many fronts but fail on countless others.

Some of the city designs which Fresco advocates are marvels of rational, mathematically rigid design. All the cities in his world would be nearly identical and their efficiencies would be vastly superior. But what would we also lose? The architecture of a city influences and inspires it's inhabitants. Such a rationally pre-structured design doesn't allow room for a natural cultural growth. In such surroundings one could imagine that the very innovation required to continue improving the world and to grow culture would be diminished or lost.

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