Jacque Fresco, Futurist Who Envisioned a Society Without Money, Dies at 101


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“I would like to see an end to war, poverty and unnecessary human suffering,” he said in an interview on his website. “But I can’t see it in a monetary-based system where the richest nations control most of the world’s resources. I cannot see that happening. I see a constant repeat of the same series of events: war, poverty, recession, boom, bust and war again.”

He wanted all sovereign nations to declare the world’s resources — clean air and water, arable land, education, health care, energy and food — the “common heritage” of all people. In his so-called resource-based economy, he said, people would get what they want through computers. He looked upon his plan as a practical, even inevitable response to the inequities rampant in the modern world. But he conceded that only a catastrophe would lead to the adoption of his concept.

“Economic collapse,” he said, would demonstrate to people that elected politicians “aren’t competent enough to get us out of these problems, and they will look to possible solutions.”

Robert Murphy, an associate scholar at the Mises Institute, which promotes the teaching of Austrian economics, wrote in 2010 that idealists like Mr. Fresco were “wrong to blame our current dysfunctional world on capitalism or money per se.” Instead, Mr. Murphy wrote, if property rights were respected by all, “humanity would become fantastically wealthy.”

Mr. Fresco’s abiding faith in computers led him to say that they would someday run nearly everything, including government.

“Computers don’t have ambition,” he said. “They don’t say, ‘I want to control people.’ They don’t have gut instincts.”

Jacque Fresco was born in Brooklyn on March 13, 1916, to Isaac Fresco, a horticulturalist, and the former Lena Friedlich, a homemaker. His parents wanted him to be a sign painter, like his uncle, but he was devoted to studying mathematics, conducting science experiments in the family bathroom and building advanced models of ships and aircraft. At 13, he designed a fan with rubber or fabric blades after a relative was hurt when he stuck his hand into a metal fan.

“I submitted the design to some companies, but they showed no interest,” he said in a 2011 interview on Facebook. “Shortly after that the product came out on the market. That was my introduction to the marketplace.”

He did not like attending school and was often a truant. By his early teens, he was on his own.

At some point, he said, he went to Florida, where he caught poisonous snakes in the Everglades and sold them to circuses. He never attended college and occasionally fretted in later years that his lack of academic credentials might have limited his impact.

After hitchhiking to California, he started a career as an aircraft and architectural designer, research engineer, creator of rocket models for science-fiction films and designer of prefabricated aluminum homes that were displayed at the Warner Bros. studio. During World War II, he said, he served in the Army Air Forces’ design and development unit at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

He predicted in 1956 that there would be “saucerlike” space stations, elevators that moved horizontally as well as vertically and, presciently, driverless cars.

Cars, he said, would have “proximity control” that would render collisions “impossible.”

Mr. Fresco had been thinking of a planned city, like the one laid out in Project Venus, since at least the 1950s. His work on it intensified after he moved to Florida, where he sketched out “Project Americana,” a scheme in which “sensitive machines” would react to the environment to cool and clean the city, direct traffic and close floodgates, he told Florida Living magazine in 1961.

For the Venus Project, he and Ms. Meadows built 10 steel and concrete structures on their compound, half of them domed, using processes that would be models for the architecture of the project’s proposed cities. Inside one dome, Mr. Fresco’s workshop was filled with hundreds of models and renderings of futuristic houses, apartment buildings, helicopters and cars.

Ms. Meadows, the co-founder of the Venus Project, said that Mr. Fresco understood how improbable it would be for his vision to be adopted.

“He wasn’t naïve,” she said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “But I think people are naïve to think that the current system would work for the betterment of people. We’re heading toward annihilation in many areas.”

And, she added, “he came up with many positive solutions for the future.”

Ms. Meadows is Mr. Fresco’s only survivor. His two marriages ended in divorce, and his son, Richard, and daughter, Bambi, are dead.

Mr. Fresco, who believed fervently in science’s power to transform life for the better, said on Facebook: “We have the technology to build a global paradise on earth, and at the same time we have the power to end life as we know it. I am a futurist. I cannot predict the actual future — only what it can be if we manage the earth and its resources intelligently.”

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