Recognized as the largest grassroots movement in history, with 1000+ chapters (awareness activism groups) in 120+ countries; The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM for short) is possibly the most historically significant movement in history, because it is the first global movement that is working towards a single goal. — TZM’s defining goal is a new socio-economic model using technical approach to global resource management, allocation and distribution — more specifically systems engineering. Known as a “Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy,” it is about updating the workings of society to the most advanced and proven methods science has to offer
I find there are two angles when communicating these ideas —- one is the dominant value program of the culture, where the goal of our awareness activism is essentially to update the cultural mindset, and hence the cultural values. The other is understanding actual structure of social operation in regards to the model that we express, and how it works.
Understanding a Natural Law / Resource Based Economy
What outcome do we want from our socioeconomic system, if the goal is the meet our life needs in a sustainable way? Let’s look at the main component of the word “socioeconomic” and define it. Economics is derived from the Greek to mean “management of a household.” With the aim of the economy to actually economize — to economize is to conserve — to conserve is to create efficiency; and what is efficiency? Efficiency is absence of waste. Keep that in mind as I describe attributes of this structure. —- What is referred to as the “efficiency mechanism” is inherent throughout a systems approach to social organization.
When we consider our relationship to the larger environment – the economic organization of interdependent living systems (us) is through a physical referent to the largest order closed system that contains our life need. In this regard we refer to the Earth as essentially a closed system (since it contains life capacity within its biosphere), This is why we refer to the Earth so much – It’s not just a pretty, unifying symbol; it is a physical starting point and from this logic we see how a very different economy system would result.
We are living systems in constant exchange with life resource from an essentially finite Earth. — This is the fundamental connection of the human species – and our place in the physical world confirms that we are not separate entities, in any respect. We must arrive at a working social model based on this logic if we expect to survive.
There are many components in a “Natural Law Model”, but I’ll touch on three of them which become self-evident with regards to responsible decision making: 1) RESOURCE ACCOUNTING 2) DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM and 3) STRATEGIC DESIGN
We have to account for what there is, while taking into account renewal attributes of our resources that we consume, and then being strategic in our designs to maximize efficiency. Now, the efficiency mechanism is a core attribute to these components – remember, it’s not a separate “thing,” which may be confusing if you’re looking at this from a linear perspective.
In regards to Resource Accounting, our natural resources and ecosystems are spread throughout the globe and they work together as a whole earth system. Each resource and species has a function in preservation, recycling & regeneration of life, and are accounted for as SYSTEM COMPONENTS in a Natural Law Model. —- We must account for what we have available and this can be done through scanning & surveying our habitat – proper economic resource allocation can’t really be made until we have a clear understanding of what we have, and where it is.
It might seem fanciful to have a survey of the Earth’s resources as part of a global resource management system (and in our current economic climate, I agree with you). But the reality is we’re doing much of this right now. Now it’s currently not integrated, because there’s no reason to do so — we live in a world of patents, trade secrets, market shares & copyrights. The cooperation needed to create this kind of global system would undermine the NEED for a monetary system all together! – And that is partially why it is not done. The point is, our current ability to measure & survey our world is a current technical realty happening right now.
Once we collect data from our survey mechanism, we have to rate each source based on its renewability, pollution output and all other factors – in order to weigh the degree of sustainability. This compiling would be done with advanced computer systems since the amount of data to deal with is just far too immense, and can only be managed through A.I. systems. Now accounting is just the first step – we have to track rates of change of regeneration where they apply.
Now let’s look at Dynamic Equilibrium – We have resource inflows in our economic system, there is a stock of goods, and there are outputs to production and distribution of those goods. This is hence a core component of a Natural Law Economy.
The classic example of disregard for dynamic equilibrium today is deforestation. Trees have a natural life cycle and if our use of wood exceeds the rates of regeneration (which is of course what we have today) we have a problem that is unsustainable. —— This logic applies to ALL systems and not just our forests. It applies to how we organize our agriculture, food production, traffic systems (taking into account outputs of pollution, fuel consumption, not to mention the waste of human life sitting in traffic), and also applies to use of our oceans and sustaining our habitats. We can even use this principle when tracking ground water.
Observing the dynamic equilibrium of all systems is inherent in a Natural Law Economy. Now remember, the current monetary model require as much consumption as possible to keep the growing population employed, and the market economy operational. When accounting for life capacity in a systems approach, what we’re doing now is complete ecocide. If efficiency is absence of waste, then inefficiency could not be more fully realized then in what we have today.
And this leads us to Strategic Design. As you move away from market inefficiency – things will be designed to last. The multiplicity of goods, stratification of quality, and the planned or intrinsic obsolescence will no longer be necessary because consumption would no longer be the driver of economic activity.
Instead it is optimum efficiency, conservation, preservation – through designing everything to be the best that it can be, and last as long as it can. —– To produce what is the most “technically correct” for any application or need. The waste reduction alone from producing only the best of what is needed, without multiplicity, without stratification, or the breakdown of goods would be immense. Along with recycling, updating and the longevity DESIGNED INTO the products that we use. This would be part of the ongoing efficiency mechanism.
To quote Jacque Fresco, of the Venus Project —- “The design must be based on the carrying capacity of the planet, its resources and the needs of its inhabitants. To sustain our civilization we must coordinate vast technology, available resources with a humane systems approach.”
Our world has become more complex — the traditional methods of problem solving, politics, and monetary economics is obsolete. —- And due to the increasing complexity of our world needs, and the problems our lifestyles generate — it is necessary that we strive for a holistic approach to managing our environment.
Systems thinking makes it possible for us to update, change, and adapt – and ultimately be an EMERGENT society. Through this lens, we have a wider range of choices before us for what it means to be sustainable—allowing us to seek new opportunities to problem resolution for all human kind.
What are some common objections the Zeitgeist Movement has to deal with?
One of the big issues is understanding “What is human need? or Life need? —– One of the best ways I’ve heard “Life Need” expressed is: that without which life capacity is reduced. I like this definition because it cuts out a lot of the cultural distortions about what life needs are. Need, as expressed here, is distinct from human wants – which relate to the conditioning of your cultural environment, but not directly related to life need.
From a technical or scientific standpoint — there is a Spectrum of Life Need common to all living human systems on the planet, regardless of race, creed, religion or social class. These needs are noted as: Atmospheric, Physiological, Environmental, Shelter, Social and Vocational. —- now these are broad descriptions that contain the life ground attributes of: Clean Air, Nutrition, Water, Social Interaction and Education. à This is the empirical life ground that is shared by every human being.
When it comes to what we believe about meeting needs – what is general accepted today is that monetary economics and free market are the pinnacle of social organization for bringing prosperity to the masses. Well, in order to claim that title, from a systems view, you have to account for the whole system. If we assess what is happening in the current structure – almost half the world (which is over 3 billion people) live on less than $2.50 a day (as total purchasing power for their life need.) —— and if we climb up the ladder, we see that 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 per day.
So I think we can cut the crap about market economics being the pinnacle — it’s nothing more than an assumption at this point.
I want to touch on another misunderstood aspect of this model: GOVERNANCE. If there ever was a sticky topic, this would be it. Fortunately, it’s not that complicated – Here’s why:
GOVERNANCE is not to be confused by (what we call) “Government.” ——- Politics, opinion, private interest, lobbying, being in popular vote are used in the process of making policy – forcing laws through penal action or imposed restriction – such as imprisonment. —– Today we control human behavior through the enactment of laws, without considering the cultural or social conditions responsible for producing that aberrant behavior in the first place. —- Usually we project a right or wrong value judgment onto the offending party – whether a political leader, corporation or another country – and we call that “the source of the corruption.”
A systems approach to governance has nothing to do with centralized power, or a mystery group of evil men behind a curtain while the rest of us our enslaved. —- Such statements are better suited as an accurate metaphor for the system that we live in today.
Rather governance refers to: PROCESSES THAT ENSURE THE EFFECTIVE MANAGMENT OF A PROJECT, ORGANIZATION OR SYSTEM.
Of course whatever path unfolds between a monetary system, and a Natural Law Economy will likely require the needs to governments and laws as you know it. But as new systems are implemented, and production of goods are automated, and as we start meeting the needs of the human population — you will see a drastic reduction in violence. And hence the need to government, laws and enforcement will diminish over time.
There is a Hierarchy in Natural Systems — which is quite different from the idea the word conjures up (for most of us) where one group has power over another. My goal here is to put the concept of hierarchy into context.
Let’s look at the example of a tree – or better said, it is a representation of a system that we refer to as “tree”. There is diversity in the branches, which are subsystems to the tree – and the subsystem of the roots also has multiple functions — for nutrient and moisture needs. ——- Now all working together, interdependent and interconnected systems ———– No voting, no hiring, no firing, no warfare. All components getting what they need – but none with power over the other.
For a modern example of a hierarchical system — look no further than the internet. Each computer connected to the internet is part of a network. Rest assured, when you look at the totality of the internet system – it’s is a dynamic, complex, and resilient system.
Of course we need to put this in the context of how people would relate to each other — that’s the big fear of all this right? WHO’s going to be telling me what to do? —– Well this fear shows a social aberrancy which gets reinforced in a system where it gets hard to trust anyone. —- The good thing is YOU get to decide what interests you. —– This may come as a surprise because many of us are not prepared for the liberating responsibility, since we’ve been robbed of our ability to contribute, by being dumbed down to the level of workers and consumers, and saddled by the burdens of debt and stresses of economic inequality.
The social structure of a natural law economy is a COLLABORATIVE one. Where people contribute based on their interests and are given the skills to do so through the learning process – where the sharing of ideas and information is not restricted through monetary exchange. This is happening right now through the internet revolution, open source projects, along with countless hours of volunteering done by people worldwide who are not IN IT for themselves. There is plenty of research that show that higher levels of happiness and innovation RELATES TO economic equality. And how natural it is for humans to cooperate and contribute, outside of the narrow self-interest that we call “the profit incentive”
Things get done through a cooperative structure known as “interdisciplinary teams.” Such teams are a collaboration between different disciplines or areas of study – to achieve innovative solutions during the creation process. New tools allow large groups to collaborate in innovative ways by taking advantage of non-financial motivation and by allowing for differing levels of contribution, based on the state of technology, skill sets, and knowledge. The connection of these teams the sharing of knowledge create a unified data set where the component innovations of everyone, add to the quality of life for everyone.
In this model the market is NOT the exchange or multiplication of money ——- The real market becomes the MARKET OF IDEAS – built upon by coordinated teams and skills each adding to the body of knowledge of the whole, and by cooperating with each other, rather than competing for self-interest.
Lastly, there is no more “WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS?” ———– DECISIONS ARE ARRIVED AT THROUGH FEEDBACK – based upon current knowledge, the introduction of newer technologies, the Earth’s carrying capacity, a systems approach to problem solving makes use of interdisciplinary teams, aided by computer technology which provide feedback from the environment – in order to arrive at the best possible decisions and solutions AT THAT TIME.
In the broad view, our public health is the greatest measure, along with the intelligent management of the Earth (which provides the core resources that we need) and coupled with the social conditions necessary for a healthy society. A society based on concerns DESIGNS IN access abundance, a healthy environment, thereby encouraging a new social value where human needs are met. The mechanism of differential advantage removed, and incentive is created out of knowing the integrity of the social system is directly related to you own personal integrity.
Remember, in system – behavior is related to the structure.
When applied in a humane manner, the coming cybernetic age could see the merging of technology and cybernetics into a workable synergy for all people. It could achieve a world free of hunger, war and poverty – a world humanity has failed to achieve throughout history. But if civilization continues on its present course, we will simply repeat the same mistakes all over again.
If we apply what we already know to enhance life on Earth, we can protect the environment and the symbiotic processes of living systems. It is now mandatory that we intelligently rearrange human affairs so as to live within the limits of available resources. The proposals the Zeitgeist Movement advocates show limitless untapped potentials in the future application of new technologies where our health, intellect, and well-being are involved. These are potentials not only in a material sense, but they also involve a deep concern for one another. Only in this way can science and technology support a meaningful and humane civilization.
– What is the Venus Project?
– What about: Non-profit Organizations & Intentional Communities