Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thoughts on the Rudy Davis interview.

This conversation jumped around a lot on different tangents so I am going to try and organize different things that we talked about here. So what is in this blog is not really going to be in chronological order as to how the conversation actually took place.
Is The Venus Project or the Zeitgeist Movement advocating an “evil” system?
Mr. Davis made a YouTube video wherein he stated that the Venus Project system was an “evil system”. He went on to describe a few different times and in a few different ways during my interview with him how this was the case. In this blog I intend to go over a lot of the logical fallacies in his argument and to help the listeners understand the various ways Mr. Davis was conditioned to have the responses he did.

His reasons for believing this:

1. We were putting “the sovereignty of machines” over the “spirit of man”. He went on to elaborate his beliefs on the human soul.

2. “Machines should bow to man, not man to Machines.”

I went on to compare machines being used in decision making to a thermostat making the decision to turn on either your furnace or your air conditioner.

Now this is a very important point that people when hearing about the Venus Project often misunderstand. But it it is very important that we are very clear about what role machines have in decision making.

In order to understand this, first of all we have to look at what role we want any form of “government” to have in our lives. We want a world where there is no state ruling over people themselves. This is an extremely important point. No machine will be telling you who you can marry, what religion you will be part of, or what news you will see on Television. (Though it is possible obviously that the systems involved could take control over the air waves temporarily if there was an alert of danger in a given area.) Any limitations that a machine would suggest for human behavior would be based on available resources. Any any such limits to human activity based on a shortage of resources would be treated as a problem to be solved. Say there is not enough food in a given area for the population. The computer would alert us to the shortage and suggest that moving into that area or having children in that area would not be prudent until the food scarcity issue could be solved.

So when you take away the state's role in doing this all that is left is the state's power over infrastructure. Obviously we don't want man doing this either.

The analogy I usually give is the example of a “Department of Sewer” to deal with maintenance of the sewer systems within a given community. Directorship of this department would presumably be given to a locally elected official. Who would generally be influenced by companies that aided him financially in his campaign. People who had a problem with their local sewer would have to go to some sort of meeting to bring the problem to the attention of this elected official. A great deal of bureaucracy and red tape would likely be involved. Then the official in charge of this system would eventually be inclined to give a no-bid contract to a big corporation to fix the problem in the sewer. (One that likely donated to his campaign). The company and the people working for them would be inclined to make the job take as long as possible, using resources to fix it that would not necessarily be the best. After all, they want to be back fixing this sewer again in the relatively near future.


Our sewer system can be equipped with sensors that detect a problem when and where it happens. Deploy a robot that does not belong to a union, will not be taking lunch breaks. Or having the job take longer to ensure it's hourly wage for the task is profitable, and will use the best possible materials available with the intention for any such repair to last as long as possible. No one will profit off of the repair of the sewer so there is no incentive to do the job inefficiently. And hopefully no human even needs to be bothered by the entire issue.

In effect, what we are talking about is automating the tasks previously dealt with by conventional governments that people don't need to be bothered with. The system would be transparent so that if there was an issue people could be notified so that the issue could be solved. I stumbled on this definition on Wikipedia. It's called

Cyberocracy describes a form of government or an element of a government that rules by the effective use of information. The exact nature of a cyberocracy is largely speculative as currently there have been no cybercractic governments, however, a growing number prototype cybercratic elements can currently be found in many developed nations.

The fundamental feature of a cyberocracy would be the rapid transmission of relevant information from the source of a problem to the people in a position able to fix said problem, most likely via a system of interconnected computer networks and automated information sorting software, with human decision makers only be called into use in the case of unusual problems, problem trends, or through an appeal process pursued by an individual.

Cyberocracy is thefunctional antithesis oftraditional bureaucracies which sometimes notoriously suffer from fiefdomism, slowness, and a list of other unfortunate qualities. Ultimately a cyberocracy may use administrative AIs if not an AI as head of state forming a Machine Rulegovernment.

Now that last line would scare most people. But again, we are talking about a government wherein the concept of “rule” is extremely limited. And in the end, we the humans still have the power to alter that machine as needed. The benefits of this are many. Including if such a machine was tampered with, that “corruption” would be traceable to it's source. Whereas when a politician is corrupted in some fashion it is rarely possible to determine the exact source. And in our current system politicians being corrupted by monetary donations to their campaigns is accepted as the way it is. And any notion of telling corporations that they should not have the right to bribe politicians is considered a threat to freedom. Meanwhile, the rest of us from childhood on are brainwashed with this notion that this system functions perfectly. With corporations motivated by their own self interest and profit choosing what candidates we get to learn about. And what spin will be applied to make their agendas seem in their best interest.

Lets scale this issue down a bit. Lets say a fellow has a personal Resource Based Economy:
1. His food is produced through an automated farming system.
2. His energy is produced via renewable and clean methods. He has a solar array, and some wind power.
3. His heating and cooling is handled by a Geo-thermal system.
4. Because all of his worldly needs are handled automatically he is free to spend his time pursuing education, art, or whatever he takes an interest in. He could and should also become familiar with whatever technical knowledge he needs to maintain his personal ecology. So that he can fix any problems that his automated system cannot handle.

All of this is maintained and monitored by a central computer system in his home. He gets to determine what sort of crops he wants his system to make, but he is guided by information on what crops will yield the best results. And have the most nutritional value.

The central computer system monitors all of the automated systems within his home environment. It reports any possible shortages or catastrophes that it cannot account for so that the human in this equation can deal with those issues.
Now... does this machine RULE the person in question?
Clearly not.

We touched on the issue of a system that has no prisons or laws. He used examples such as child molestation and rape to illustrate that not all crimes are related to scarcity and the monetary system. I asked him what he believed the cause of such things were. I asked him if he thought it was Satan. He had previously stated that he believed in the “inherently sinful nature of man”.

“I believe that mankind is a sinful creature.”

He admitted that he believed that a lot of it had to do with the environment and the things we allow in society. But then repeated that if we do not look to a God almighty, something higher then man it was difficult if not impossible to get out of that state of being “inherently sinful”.

This is a common problem when talking to non-atheists about what we suggest. First of all it implies that mankind is evil because there is some boogeyman named Satan who runs around whispering in our ears convincing us to do evil things.

I remember one of the things I said in response to this later in the interview is that mankind does not need a “Satan” to commit evil acts and is perfectly capable of doing so without any supernatural being telling us to. That in fact mankind tends to use Satan as a “cop out” or “excuse” for actions that we as men and women should be taking responsibility for ourselves. Ironically I had originally heard this method of thinking from an article written by a Jewish Rabbi.

Furthermore, attributing behavior to the supernatural kind of puts us in a position like the “War on terror”. Since we will never defeat “Satan” there will forever be this war for your soul going on that will allow people to justify acts of tyranny in the name of “winning”.

Even many Christian friends of mine agree that focusing so much on Satan is not a good approach. Christianity in theory is supposed to be about love, not hatred for Satan. And that if you have chosen to be a good person solely out of fear of hell or Satan you are not exactly acting on “free will” and there is nothing genuine about your good nature. Anyone being coerced can be convinced to behave a certain way. It's when it is a free choice absent of fear that it actually means something.

It is often a concern that religious people have that Atheists cannot have morals without a “God Almighty” or being “God Fearing”. And therefore our system of identifying behaviors at their root cause absent any supernatural notions would be frightening to a religious person. Because then rather then having Satan to blame for their “sins” they might have to actually take responsibility for their environment and it's effects on their own behavior.

Next Mr. Davis was concerned that we would make preaching religion “illegal” or act to prevent him from spreading the word of his religion. I really have no idea where he got the idea that we would do this. But because of the large Atheist population within the Zeitgeist Movement it doesn't surprise me.

The official position of the Venus Project according to Jacque Fresco in his “Living on Purpose” interview, in a TVP society, all religions would have equal time in our communication mediums and equal access to resources the same as anyone else. We do not advocate telling anyone what beliefs they can and cannot hold. So long as their beliefs do not include feeling justified in acting to control the lives of others in pursuit of their religious beliefs. Theocracy, or government based in religion would not be permitted as we advocate a society governed by reason and the scientific method.

So if a women freely chooses to wear a scarf covering her head nobody would stop her in the society we suggest. But on the same token we would not stand by and permit a woman being punished by anyone for freely choosing not to participate in that tradition.

This position of free choice in regards to religion is not just about the morality of allowing free choice. It is because we understand that coercion and force are not an effective means to create social change or understanding anyway. If you ban religion it would just go underground, and even gain a new allure being “taboo” or “forbidden”.

Throughout history the negative impacts of superstition are slowly but steadily eroded through education and science, and far more effectively then actively acting to attack certain beliefs. We have a similar feeling about other lifestyle choices. Including the use of drugs, unhealthy food, etc.

Later on in the conversation I again have to try and point blank Mr. Davis with the question of why TVP is “evil”. He didn't want to outright admit that the only reason he felt that we were “evil” was because we were not Christian. I asked him pointedly more then once:

“Is TZM/TVP evil because there are a lot of Atheists involved?”

“Is TZM/TVP evil because we are not Christian?”

“Is it because we don't believe in God that we are evil?”

He always answered no to either of these questions yet the context of what he would say in response to that question always seemed to sound like he believed both of those things.

One of the things that he stated made him feel we were evil is because in his estimation we did not believe in a “right or wrong” or even the concept of “evil” itself.

I pointed out to him that we would not spend so much time in TZM exposing the “evils” of political corruption, wars, abuses, etc if we did not believe in right and wrong. If we did not believe in right and wrong what exactly would motivate us to change the world in the first place?

He then countered by asking “Who gets to define then what is evil? I will be looking for the answer to that question to a higher creator, and you would only be looking to what society determined was good or evil.”

It is often a pitfall that we see many religious people fall into that morality cannot arise out of anything absent a belief in the supernatural. I would counter this by saying that in fact morality itself in it's most basic sense is actually quite logical. Absent any belief in any deity.

1. It is logical to oppose murder. Because I don't want to be murdered. Nor would I want anyone to murder anyone I cared about.
2. It is logical to oppose rape for the same reason.
3. It is logical to oppose greed, because greed has serious impacts on the people in a community, and I could very well be one of those people negatively affected by it.
I could go on with examples like these for pages and pages, but it really amounts to this, the “Golden Rule” of Christianity is logical.

“Treat others as you would have them treat you.”

If everyone practiced it is completely reasonable that regardless of where mankind heard the idea from even if it was from his “Noodly Goodness” the world would quite rationally be a better place for everyone living here. I don't have to believe that Jesus said that to see the inherent logic in such a statement. And in fact many other religions have a similar rule or one that is so all encompassing that it would create vast tranquility if it were practiced.

This is completely logical. And by no means unique to Christianity. Lets take a look:

Buddhism:  560 BC,  From the Udanavarga 5:18-   "Hurt not others with that which pains yourself."
Judaism:  1300 BC,  from the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18-  "Thou shalt Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Hinduism:  3200 BC, From the Hitopadesa-  "One should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated."

Zoroastrianism:  600 BC, From the Shast-na-shayast 13:29-  "Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others."

Confucianism:  557 BC,  From the Analects  15:23-  "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Wicca: Do whatever you want so long as you harm none.

Christianity:  30 AD,  From the King James Version ,  7:12-  "Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you,  do ye even so to them."

It's interesting to note that this concept has found it's way to into so many completely unrelated religions from completely unrelated cultures.
Could this be because such a stance on how to conduct one's self is rather logical? And that the more people behave this way the more likely you will yourself will be treated well?

Mr. Davis really emphasized that it was critical that people believe in a human soul in order to be moral. And that it was our lack of belief in the soul that meant we were “evil”.

He again thought we intended to “stomp on the human soul”. So much of our problem came from him fearing that we intended to take things from him. The propaganda machine that was used to make people think Communism is evil causes people frequently to knee-jerk that any system that suggests that we share resources must also be a coercive entity.

We also touched on the concern most people who think that their guns and their ability to use violence protects them. This generally leads to the reaction to be concerned that we are going to take their guns.

I have pointed out in previous radio shows the ownership of the firearms that the average citizen has in the United States would in no way save us from a fascist takeover anyway.

I have also pointed out that it is not that we would make firearms illegal. It's a matter of working on the environment to make the ownership of firearms “obsolete”. Not taking your guns. Working on making it so nobody needs them anymore. And even then, nobody is going to come to your door and take your guns. The point is that violence and force are not just wrong. They are not effective in actually effecting change. If they were the presence of guns in our society would end crime.

I did find it dubious but sadly not surprising that Mr. Davis, a devout Christian would also value the teachings of Ayn Rand. We get into that more as the interview goes on.

Resource Based Economics vs. Free Market Economics:

Like many other Free Market advocates, Mr. Davis suggested that the real problem is not money, but the “FIAT” money system that is the problem. That if we went to an “honest” money system (a money system where the money is based on an actual tangible resource, like “The Gold standard”) that everything would be fine or at least a lot better.

One of the major problems with this kind of reasoning is something I wish I had brought up during the interview because at a later point in the conversation he goes on to say that all of the great technological innovations and infrastructure that has been developed in the United States was thanks to Capitalism. He as many other Free Market Capitalists tends to leave out a very pertinent point.

All of the marvels he is talking about as far as the great achievements of Capitalism were brought about using the fractional reserve “FIAT” money system! It was only through printing money out of thin air that our society within a Capitalist system was able to produce the capital necessary to do things such as the Hoover Dam. In a fixed economy the money to take on immense tasks such as these simply would not exist unless a great many people were willing to make huge sacrifices in their lifestyles. All expansion within a fixed or sound money economy is limited by the amount of money within that economy and the amount that is still in circulation beyond what is needed for everyone to individually sustain themselves.

As I brought up in one of my previous shows and blogs “Questions for Capitalists” one of the important questions I always ask that they never have an answer for is how would they implement their system? Would all of the people who made their immense fortunes in “FIAT” currency have to give up their fake money? Or would they be allowed to transfer all of that into the new “sound” or “honest” currency?

Couple this with total deregulation including getting rid of any regulations that stop monopolies and what would stop the rich from simply owning the world? Imagine a world with only so much money wherein the game starts with 5% of the world's population already being in possession of 40% of all the money in existence? Where any money loaned to a new business would have to come out of the hands of one of those 5%? (Which if they are going to create a competitive business is not exactly in their best interest. Would you loan someone money to start a business that would take business away from your own?) Even with the fractional reserve lending system allowing new businesses to take out loans only 1/3 of new businesses live out the first year. And only 1/3 of that number make it past four! This would create equality how? Can you imagine playing monopoly where two out of the five players owned 40% of the money in the game?

(Yes, I can hear the Free Market Capitalists already saying “But wait...you cannot have a monopoly in a true Free Market!” Another one of the near religious and completely irrational beliefs held by most Austrian Economists. And one of the major reasons that the Austrian school is not in fact held in very high regard by even main stream economists. It simply does not make sense.)

The only way they could ever implement such a system is if all of the assets of the rich were liquidated and everyone started on the same footing. Owning nothing and having nothing. The rich would obviously never go along with that. And they own all the guns. It would be far easier to convince them to help us build a world where everyone's standard of living is excellent. Which is why we feel our plan is far more realistic. We advocate liquidating assets and then everyone having a great lifestyle. And we can move in that direction whether the rich want to go along with it or not. We can develop communities that are not dependent on money. Trying to play the money game that is already rigged is like trying to ice skate uphill.
He went on to repeat that theory that most of mankind's problems were directly linked to FIAT currency more then once. To the point it was like a mantra. And that it was corruption, not money itself that was the problem. The problem is, that money is the cause of the corruption in the first place. But he is a Christian and believes that if we believe that there is a supernatural entity that will punish us for being immoral or greedy then everything will be fine. This reminded me of something that a Thecorat said to me once that Capitalism works a lot better when we have Christianity to guide people morally. He was right. But the fact that we have to all agree that such an entity, that we cannot prove the exsistence of , to motivate us not to be corrupt in the first place means that the monetary system being hinged on religion to function is doomed to failure.

He also felt that the wealth gap problems of huge pockets of poor compared to the tiny pockets of rich would be greatly reduced in an honest money system. (Despite the fact that even when money was made out of precious metals entirely this reality was present, and in fact has been present in every monetary system ever including the versions of Communism that used money.)

We discussed how the elite own the media. And I asked him a question that stumped him for several seconds of silence:

“In an honest money system what would prevent someone from owning the media?”
After a very long and uncomfortable pause the best he could come up with was that this problem would still exist but to a much lesser extent.

The entire concept that free market economics depends on when it comes to preventing monopolies is the notion that competition will prevent them. But in a closed money economy as we already addressed it would be far more difficult to get loans. And if the elite wanted to be sure that nobody else owned the media all they would have to do is be sure that banking institutions did not loan money to anyone who wanted to create their own media company. And in a “Free society” as they project there could be no regulations that would prevent them from excluding anyone from loans.

We move on in the conversation to where Rudy asks:

“Do you feel that people who work harder deserve to have more in life?”

I answered with:

“Actually, we believe it is better to simply find a way that nobody has to work hard anymore.”

The conversation that comes about from this is interesting.
But one of the things that popped up in my head afterward was that the people who make the most money actually almost inevitably are the ones doing the least actual “work”. The CEO of a company does not do anywhere near as much actual work in a given day as the common factory worker or construction worker. Yet the CEO gets great pay, benefits, vacation time. Generally a lifestyle far beyond anything the average worker will see in their whole lives! How does this happen? Because people can privately own the means of production, factories, infrastructure etc. that make the things that we require to survive. And by simply having a piece of paper called a deed they then have huge power over large groups of people who want the products produced or want to find work producing those products.

Sure a CEO goes to board meetings. Does paperwork. Answers phones. I would trade that for a day on the job site of a major construction company any day. Not to mention the health problems associated with doing such back breaking work everyday.
Ironically, after this point, he states that he cannot imagine an environment where he would not want to work. He goes on to elaborate that people would want to work to better themselves. Which is PRECISELY why we feel that the work that we could not or would not automate would still be done in a Resource Based Economy!
I pointed out that the greatest inventors in our time actually were not motivated by money. I used the example of the man who created the Polio vaccine. When asked who the vaccine belonged to, he answered “The people of the world.”
I also pointed out that your choices of what you would like to work on in this monetary system are also seriously limited by what you can make money doing. He agreed that this was unfortunate but did not really have a solution.

He went on to read a quote from Andrew Jackson, a hero to many members of the freedom movement for his opposition to central banking fiat currency systems. One of the problems I often see with this is the same problem with people who venerate many of the slave owning founding fathers. For all of Andrew Jackson's “freedom fighting” he also signed into law the “Indian Removal Act” which set the United States policy in place for the genocide of the native peoples who had the misfortune of living on land that the rich aristocrats of this country wanted for themselves. (Something I might add that “freedom loving” author Ayn Rand also completely justified, not only against the Native Americans but also the Arabs of the middle east. That any less developed culture did not deserve it's resources.)

We talk a bit more about Ayn Rand. He didn't like the term “the rich people” and suggested the term “the producers and achievers”. I point out that the notion of hoarding wealth when people are starving doesn't sound very Christian. And I quote Jesus saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to get into heaven.

This is another one of the critical problems wherein Capitalism and Christianity don't seem to be calling from the same playbook. When you watch “The Century of Self” and “Psywar” they touch on the propaganda campaign that was launched to make Capitalism seem to go hand in hand with the principles in the bible. One of the things that come to my mind when I think about this was when Michael Moore in his film “Capitalism: A love story” where he dubs over the scene in a movie with Jesus in it where this mythical figure refuses to cure someone because they have a per-existing condition. And suggests that he will have to pay out of pocket for treatment.

I asked Mr. Davis how much work Jesus asked the people that he fed with a couple of pieces of bread and a couple of fish (magically) to work for that food.
Mr. Davis went on to explain that he did not feel that any such message would be to suggest that people should be lazy. And that nobody should get anything for free. He placed a great deal of emphasis on the need for everyone to be working. He also seemed to project the “lazy” concept onto anyone who might be in a position to seek charity. This is another problem that comes out of the Capitalist mentality. Particularly if your going to follow Ayn Rand's method of thinking. That anyone who is poor or in need obviously deserves their suffering because they are not working hard enough. Otherwise they would not be poor or suffering.

This idea of course does not take into account that in our monetary system many people who are not lazy at all are still not in a position to make money. In order to survive in a monetary system people must find a way to be useful to other people to survive. The problem with this is that it is not in the best interest of someone to be dependent on anyone else. Hence, needing labor or the requirement of someone to have a job working for you is not in your best interest. Particularly when profit is your motive. And with technology advancing as it is the system is finding ways to eliminate jobs, not create more. So in other words, as society progresses there are going to be a lot more people who are not lazy whatsoever yet still cannot find employment. And cannot find capital to start a business of their own that is extremely likely to fail anyway. (Especially if we found ourselves in a sound money system again.)

We got into a conversation about how actual Communism and Socialism would work and how the soviet example was not the correct example of either. I brought up the example of collectively owned businesses wherein the workers themselves all own an equal share and therefore have an equal interest in the profit of a business and the well being of a company and the people who work in it.

His answer to that was to bring up a story from one of Ayn Rand's books wherein such a company existed and failed. In the story people in this business would demand that profits from the company be given to those who were in need rather then those who had worked harder. Examples such as one worker's child needing braces, and another worker's grandmother having a disease were used. And that it eventually destroyed the company.

“Atlas Shrugged” was a work of fiction. And the author in question had a certain agenda for the stories in the book. So of course anything collectively owned that proved that the workers could be the ones in charge of their own destiny as opposed to the “Producers and Achievers” (who actually end up doing the least amount of work should end up with the majority of the profits of a given company) would have to fail in one of her stories. Any notion that people could work together to collectively be better off rather then agreeing to be slaves for a few elites is dangerous to someone like Rand.

Then he went on again saying that hopefully these “Producers and Achievers” would be Christian and would therefore use their reward to benefit everyone else. Once again:

Mark 10:25
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god.”

This seems self defeating. Because even the bible itself doesn't seem to indicate that such a thing is likely. But in a serious contradiction, Mr. Davis venerates the “Producers and Achievers” as if they are entitled to have more while other people have less. The problem is according to the bible, there are not going to be too many “Producers and Achievers” in heaven.

These “Producers and Achievers” also get to determine who is President or holds public office. Because they have the money to decide who is heard or seen.
We then talked about how the monetary system seems to hold back certain technologies because they would render certain markets obsolete. He stated that he acknowledged that such things were due to “evil” and corrupt behavior.

So again, for Capitalism to work, people have to believe it is “evil” and that they will be punished by some entity who has not done anything tangible on this earth for centuries if ever, to prevent behavior like keeping electric cars out of the mainstream because you don't want to lose your money gained through the oil trade.
I remember pointing that out to him again, when he suggested that what we propose is “too idealistic”. The notion that his system will only work if Christianity is the glue that holds it together. He didn't really have a reply to that point.

There was a lot of repetition and tangents throughout this conversation. And a lot of my regular listeners were chomping at the bit wanting to call in to debate with Rudy. But in the end one of the major reasons I wanted to have this conversation with Rudy was to prove a few key points. If I had attacked Rudy and his beliefs we would not of exchanged any information. If the conversation was full of personal attacks no real value would of come out of the conversation. This is one of the reasons that Jacque tells stories about how he handled his mother's racism, or the racism of the KKK. This conversation was an important example that we cannot reach each other as people if we cannot freely and honestly exchange our beliefs.

Even in this very positive conversation I doubt that Mr. Davis was highly impacted by what I said. But I can say that I guarantee that seeds were planted by this conversation that he will not forget. Some time ago I had a guest on and one of my listeners suggested that the guest would never “get it”. I pointed out that many people will not “get it”. But at least they can know we are not enemies. And that goal I believe was achieved with this show.