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Why Jacque Fresco is One of My Heroes

March 1, 2012

Jacque Fresco is one of my heroes. He has spent his life trying to convince the rest of us that the problems we see around us are environmental problems, not human problems. He tells us over and over that aberrant human behavior is a result of a flawed environment, not flawed individuals. I think much of the resistance to this position stems from the fear of being reduced, philosophically, to automatons. If I am a product of my environment, I must not have free will, or so I suspect the reasoning goes. I would reconcile this conflict as follows. Free will, as the subjective experience of making a choice, is undeniable. Equally undeniable is the deterministic nature of causal relationships in the natural world. Neither negates the other, and confounding the two leads to conundrums. Just don’t do it.

I suspect that some resistance also comes from the attachment to blame. If we look for systemic influences on abberant behavior whenever it shows up, that seems to remove our rationale for blaming wrongdoers. Our story has to change from “He did this because he is bad” or “She could have done something better but chose not to” to “This behavior is likely to emerge under these conditions”. I would say that this is true and good. The appeal of blame is that it is soothing to the ego, but blame invokes ego defense much more than it motivates problem solving, and a habit of placing blame is a hindrance to emotional maturity.

I believe that if you unconfound free will and determinism, and relinquish the need to place blame, the line of his reasoning is crystal clear. So what exactly does Jacques say? He says things like the following, paraphrased by me.

If you set up a tray of plants and give them everything they need to be healthy in the form of nutrients, water, light, and warmth, then all of the plants in that tray will grow normally. But if you set up another identical tray and deprive the plants of the things they need, then those plants will not develop normally. Moral: Humans, like plants, are biological organisms. In an environment where our needs are met, we uniformly flourish. If we grow in an environment where our needs are not met, then our development will be negatively affected as well.

If you ask a tribal hunter what he wants in life, he will say something like “a good spear and plenty of game to hunt”. If you ask a rural farmer the same thing, he will say something like “fair weather and good crops”. If you ask the same question of a modern city dweller, she is likely to say something along the lines of “a good job and a nice house”. Moral: Many of our basic desires and much of our vision of the good life are socially constructed, not innate.

Jacque lived through the FIRST great depression, and is still busy as hell transforming the world.  Here’s to you Jacque, for being ahead of your time and doing your best to help the rest of us catch up.

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