March 13, 1916 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Occupation||Futurist, social engineer, structural engineer, architectural designer, industrial designer, author, lecturer|
|Known for||The Venus Project, resource-based economy ideas.|
|Notable work(s)||Looking Forward (1969), The Best That Money Can't Buy (2002)|
Jacque Fresco (born March 13, 1916), is an American futurist and self-described social engineer. Fresco is self-taught and has worked in a variety of positions related to industrial design and the aircraft industry.
Fresco writes and lectures his views on sustainable cities, energy efficiency, natural-resource management, cybernetic technology, automation, and the role of science in society. Fresco is the director of The Venus Project. Fresco advocates global implementation of a socioeconomic system which he refers to as a "resource-based economy."
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Midlife
- 4 Venus Project and later career
- 5 Personal life and family
- 6 Critical appraisals
- 7 Works
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Born March 13, 1916, Jacque Fresco grew up in a Sephardi Jewish home in Bensonhurst in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. According to Fresco, he had no interest with formal schooling and "dropped out of school at 14." Fresco grew up during the Great Depression period.
Fresco spent time with friends discussing Darwin, Einstein, science, and the future. Fresco attended the Young Communist League. After a discussion with the League president during a meeting Fresco was 'physically ejected' after loudly stating that 'Karl Marx was wrong!' Fresco later turned his attention to Technocracy. In the mid-1930s, Fresco traveled west to Los Angeles where he began a career as a structural designer.
Fresco found work at Douglas Aircraft Company in the California during the late 1930s. Fresco presented alternative designs and they included both flying wings and disk-shaped aircraft he referred to as a "flying saucer." Some of his designs were considered impractical at the time. Fresco encountered resistance to his proposals and designs, and thereafter resigned from Douglas due to design disagreements.
In 1942, Fresco was drafted into the United States Army. He was assigned technical design duties for the Army Air Force at Wright Field design laboratories in Dayton, Ohio. He was reported to have produced up to forty designs a day. One was a "radical variable camber wing" with which he attempted to optimize flight control by allowing the pilot to adjust the thickness of the wings during lift and flight. Fresco did not adjust to military life and was discharged. Fresco had advanced ideas for airplane design. He gained a reputation according to some commentary of being "a man twenty years ahead of his time."
Fresco was commissioned by Earl Muntz, to design a form of housing under the conditions that it be low cost, composed of available materials, be functional, and avoid radicalism. Fresco along with his associates Harry Giaretto and Eli Catran then conceived, designed and engineered the project house.
This took place in the summer of 1948. Fresco, then 32 years old, perhaps came closest to traditional career success with this project called the Trend Home. Built mostly of aluminum and glass, it was on prominent display at Stage 8 of the Warner Bros. Sunset Lot in Hollywood. It took 10 men eight hours to construct the Trend Home.
The cost to tour the Trend Home during the three months it was on display was one dollar. Proceeds went to the Cancer Prevention Society. The Trend Home needed federal funding. An official from the Federal Housing Administration arrived at Muntz’s office at Warner Brothers Studios during the summer of 1948 but denied funding for the plan.
Scientific Research Laboratories
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Fresco created and was director of Scientific Research Laboratories in Los Angeles. Here he also gave lectures, and taught technical design, meanwhile researching and working on inventions as a freelance inventor and scientific consultant. During this period, Fresco struggled to get his research funded and faced setbacks and financial difficulties. In 1955, Fresco left California after his lab was removed to build the Golden State Freeway.
In 1955 Fresco moved to Miami, Florida. He began a business as a psychological consultant though he had no formal education in that area of expertise. He received a 'barrage of criticism' from the American Psychological Association after which Fresco stopped that business. In a newspaper article from that time period Fresco claimed to have a degree from Sierra University, Los Angeles California, which was unverified.
In later life, Fresco described white supremacist organizations he claims he joined to test the feasibility of changing people. He describes joining the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Council in an attempt to change their views about racial discrimination.
In Miami Fresco attempted to showcase his design of a circular city. Fresco made his living working as an industrial designer for various companies such as Alcoa and the Major Realty Corporation.
In 1961, with Pietro Belluschi and C. Frederick Wise, Fresco collaborated on a project, known as the Sandwich House. Consisting of mostly prefabricated components, partitions, and aluminum, it sold for $2,950, or $7,500 with foundation and all internal installations. During this period, Fresco supported his projects by designing prefabricated aluminum devices through Jacque Fresco Enterprises Inc.
From 1955 to 1969 Fresco named his social ideas "Project Americana."
Looking Forward was published in 1969. Author Ken Keyes Jr., and Jacques Fresco coauthored the book. Looking Forward, is a speculative look at the future. The authors picture an ideal 'cybernetic society in which want has been banished and work and personal possessions no longer exist; individual gratification is the total concern'.
Fresco formed a new non-profit called "Sociocyberneering." It was a non-political, non-sectarian membership organization claiming 250 members according to an interview of Fresco. Fresco frequently hosted educational lectures in Miami Beach and four nights a week at his home in Coral Gables Fresco promoted his organization by lecturing at universities and appearing on radio and television.
Fresco located land in south Florida to build an experimental community. Due to complications with a zoning board, the development did not materialize. Eventually the investment was abandoned and the land sold. Land for a different project by Fresco was located in rural Venus, Florida. Fresco then established a research center in 1980. With help from some previous members, some buildings were constructed at the Venus site.
Venus Project and later career
In 1994, Fresco incorporated The Venus Project. The Venus Project is presented in its literature as the culmination of Fresco's life work. It is located in central Florida near west Lake Okeechobee about fifty miles northeast of Fort Myers. On its 21.5-acre lot, there are ten buildings designed by Fresco. It is partly a research center for Fresco and Roxanne Meadows and partly an educational center for supporters. They produce videos and literature presenting their goals and ideas. According to their literature, their ultimate goal is to improve society by moving towards global, sustainable, technological social design which they call a "resource-based economy".
Fresco, with his partner Roxanne Meadows, supported the project in the 1990s through freelance inventing, industrial engineering, conventional architectural modeling, and invention consultations.
In 2002, Fresco published his main work The Best That Money Can't Buy. In 2006, William Gazecki directed the semi-biographical film about Fresco, "Future by Design" In 2008, Peter Joseph featured Fresco in the film Zeitgeist Addendum where his ideas of the future were given as possible alternatives. Peter Joseph, founder of The Zeitgeist Movement began advocating Fresco's approach. In April 2012, the two groups disassociated due to disagreements regarding goals and objectives.
In 2010, Fresco attempted to trademark the phrase "resource-based economy" The phrase was reviewed and found to be too generic, and the trademark was denied.
Throughout 2010, Fresco traveled with Meadows, worldwide to promote interest in The Venus Project. On January 15, 2011, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward was released in theaters, featuring Fresco.
In November 2011, Fresco spoke to protesters at the "occupy Miami" site at Government Center in Miami. In April 2012, Roxanne Meadows released a film, Paradise or Oblivion, summarizing the goals and proposals of the Venus Project. In June 2012, Maja Borg screened her film, Future My Love, at the Edinburgh International Film Festival featuring the work of Fresco and Roxanne Meadows.
Currently, Fresco holds lectures and tours at The Venus Project location.
Personal life and family
Fresco was born to immigrants from the Middle East, Isaac and Lena Fresco. His father was born in 1880 and around 1905 immigrated from Istanbul to New York where he worked as a horticulturalist. He died in 1963. Fresco's mother was born in 1887 in Jerusalem and also migrated to New York around 1904. She died in 1988. Fresco was brother to two siblings, a sister, Freda, and a brother, David. Fresco had two marriages when he lived in Los Angeles and carried his second marriage through his first couple years in Miami. He divorced his second wife in 1957 and remained unmarried thereafter. His second wife, Patricia, gave birth to a son, Richard, in 1953 and a daughter, Bambi, in 1956. Richard was an army private and died in 1976. Bambi died of cancer in 2010.
It’s a 'lack of professional engagement', William Gazecki who in 2006 completed Future by Design, a feature-length profile of Jacque Fresco says, that has hurt Fresco the most. “The real missing link in Jacque’s world is having put Jacque to work,” Gazecki says, “[It’s] exemplified when people say: ‘Well, show me some buildings he’s built. And I don’t mean the domes out in Venus. I mean, let’s see an office building, let’s see a manufacturing plant, let’s see a circular city.’ And that’s where he should have been 30 years ago. He should have been applying his work, in the real world … [but] he’s not a collaborator, and I think that’s why he’s never had great public achievements.”
Fresco on Fresco: When asked by a FOX reporter why he has such difficulty actualizing his many ideas, Fresco responded, "Because I can't get to anybody."
Some aspects of Fresco's ideas have been compared to thinkers from the nineteenth century. Titles such as The Paradise within the Reach of all Men without Labor by Powers of Nature and Machinery, Emigration to the Tropical World for the Melioration of All Classes of People of All Nations, and The New World or Mechanical System were written in the 1800s by John Adolphus Etzler who has been described by independent scholar, Anna Notaro, as an early forerunner to Fresco's ideas. Likewise, Ebenezer Howard and his book Garden Cities of Tomorrow, as well as the Garden City Movement during the early 1900s has been described, by Morten Grønborg of Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, as another predecessor.
Fresco's proposed economy removes the mechanics of traditional economics and his critical view of modern economics has been compared to Thorstein Veblen's concept of "the predatory phase in human development," according to an article in the journal of Society and Business Review. Grønborg has labeled other facets of Fresco's ideology a "tabula rasa approach."
Also noted by synergetics theorist, Arthur Coulter, is the organic nature of Fresco's city designs and the evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) development he expects them to take. Coulter posits such cities as the answer to Walter B. Cannon's idea of achieving homeostasis for society.
Fresco's work has been compared to the work of Paolo Soleri and Buckminster Fuller who, according to The Futurist, are classed as "comprehensive designers seeking to realize in practical terms their grand visions of a better future world" while struggling to implement it.
Form of Governance, Human Nature, Scientism, Calculation Problem
His hypothesis of a resource-based economy is sometimes equated with Marxism, socialism, communism, or fascism. Fresco responds to these comparisons by stating, "The aims of The Venus Project have no parallel in history, not with communism, socialism, fascism or any other political ideology. This is true because cybernation is of recent origin. With this system, the system of financial influence and control will no longer exist."
Writing for the Naples Daily News, Steve Schmadeke, notes, "it's also true that his system of governance, in which authority is given to the expert in each field – in this case, specially programmed computers – is one that many writers, including Nobel-prize-winner Friedrich Hayek, have shown to be disastrous."
Independent scholar, Anna Notaro, has suggested a scientistic approach due to Fresco's heavy emphasis on science alone to overcome humanity's obstacles,
His vision is eminently practical, and although this constitutes an innovative and welcome element with reference to previous utopian projections, his focus on science alone makes him fail as a generalist – the criticism Fresco himself passed on academics and scientists. Today's pressing problems require a holistic approach – various disciplines, arts science, philosophy working on a "convergence mode", unfortunately Fresco's vision seems to consolidate the long established view that the "two cultures" (Science and Art) are antagonistic.
Writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Robert P. Murphy has raised the calculation problem against a resource-based economy. In a resource-based economy, Murphy claims there is no ability to calculate the availability and desirability of resources because the price mechanism is not utilized. Addressing this aspect, another article in the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, states criticism of 'central plannings' computation problem applies to the ideas of Fresco.
Question of Utopianism
Exploring whether Fresco's ideology is utopian, Viktor Vakhshtayn, the director of the Department of Sociology at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, claims that Fresco has carried forth a perspective that bypassed utopian perspectives of the twentieth-century. He describes the whole of Fresco's ideology as "telling us about the deep past of the future." That, "in fact, the whole history of the 20th century is the history of death of utopia. This is in fact what gives Jacque Fresco such power. He jumped from the 19th century to the 21st century, leap-frogging the 20th century. It's a single step from Jules Verne to Jacque Fresco. This is very powerful. This keeps amazing me."
With a broader conception of utopianism than Fresco, Vakhshtayn upon initial assessment states that Fresco appears to have four out of five characteristic features of utopianism of the nineteenth-century, namely, the belief in rationality of science, belief in the technological process, that technology should better human life, and the overseeing of cities from a center. The only feature remaining to close the question of utopianism is a "final frontier, and this is exactly the element that Fresco is stressing so much." Vakhshtayn concludes by saying, "When we say utopia, we don't mean it cannot be implemented. So many utopias have been implemented in the twentieth-century. And they were discredited because they were actually put into life." Vakhshtayn further accuses Fresco of not answering the "epistemological" question, i.e. how does one certainly know that a course of events will unfold as one expects them to.
Focusing on accusations of utopianism, Nikolina Olsen-Rule, writing for the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, remarks, "For most people, the promise of the project sounds like an unattainable utopia, but if you examine it more closely, there are surprisingly many scientifically founded arguments that open up an entire new world of possibilities." Morten Grønborg, also of Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, points out,
Perhaps the modern interpretation of the word "utopia" is to blame when the Renaissance man and futurist Jacque Fresco says ... he doesn't want to call his life work, The Venus Project, a utopia. However, this visionary idea of a future society has many characteristics in common with the utopia. ... the word utopia carries a double meaning, since in Greek it can mean both the good place (eutopia) and the nonexisting place (outopia). A good place is precisely what Fresco has devoted his life to describing and fighting for.
Comments on Fresco
Hans-Ulrich Obrist notes, "Fresco's future may, of course, seem outmoded and his writings have been subject to critique for their fascistic undertones of order and similitude, but his contributions are etched in the popular psyche and his eco-friendly concepts continue to influence our present generation of progressive architects, city planners and designers."
Fresco's work gained the attention of science fiction enthusiast and critic, Forrest J Ackerman, Fresco would later attract Star Trek animator, Doug Drexler, who worked with Fresco to produce several computer renderings of his designs.
Commenting on what he sees as Fresco's inspirational and charismatic teaching methods, physicist, Paul G. Hewitt, cites Fresco as being one of the three major sources of inspiration, turning him toward a career in physical science.
|Library resources about
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- Official website – The Venus Project