January 26, 2020, 11:13:58 PM

Author Topic: So what is a true utopia?  (Read 1715 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

So what is a true utopia?
« on: April 06, 2017, 10:40:52 PM »
I am, somewhat to my dismay, an atheist. But I have occasionally, as a little thinking exercise, tried to wrap my head around what paradise would actually be like. I haven't had much success, if one assumes it would be something comprehensible to our ordinary senses and human mind.

A couple of hours ago I got yet another idea for a fantasy series, one that will either fade away as it fails to gather substance, or plant itself in the back of my mind and gradually sprout. The basic idea is that the setting is the result of a long-past utopia that wound up failing and collapsing, and now certain characters are attempting to restore it, meaning to do it right this time, but with a big question mark hanging over whether or not they are right to do so.

I like this idea as it allows me to mull over some philosophical questions, and play with imagery I quite like.

But what IS a utopia? What kind of place/existence would a person conceivably consider perfect, or close to it at least? And what would sow the seeds of its downfall? Can human beings really be satisfied? As I said, this idea is very fresh in my head, but I wonder if the root problem isn't that anything gets old. Even something pleasurable loses its lustre if it is constant and unchanging.

Thoughts? A while ago I made a post about the idea of utopia at a price, a very common theme in fiction. I guess this is sort of a sequel.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline Lanko

  • Sherlanko Holmes, Jiin Wei and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2893
  • Total likes: 1977
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Lanko's Goodreads
Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2017, 11:59:13 PM »
Since people have infinite different needs and wants, for me the only possible true utopia is an individual made up Matrix.

Remember that scene in The Matrix when Cipher is selling the group to Smith and they're eating at a restaurant? He say he wants to be rich, famous (an actor) and most importantly, he doesn't want to remember anything.

In this utopia you're the center of the universe, everyone loves you and anyone who doesn't  is easily "defeated" or shamed away - and they're unknowingly created by you for this very purpose of display - any wish and desire you have come true, no matter how innocent or depraved they are, and nobody judges you.

However, you'll need to be the only person with free will in it and everyone else merely automatons. For me even real family wouldn't work with this privilege, because conflicts as children grow or when they marry to strangers and have more children would generate even more differences and conflict, causing a risk to the whole system. In this utopia your family would never give you any trouble, your kids will never anger or cause mischief, your wife/husband will always be there, happy and smiling for you all the time.

And lastly and perhaps more importantly, we like to think our achievements are earned and deserved, that everything goes our way because of our strength, intelligence, charisma, wit, whatever have you, not because we have infinite uses of a magical lamp.

That's why Cipher asks to forget everything. My view of utopia would do that too, everything is rigged for that person but he/she doesn't know it, and thus, the illusion will feel like a superb reality and they'll have far greater pleasure thinking everything that happens is because of his/her efforts. It would be different if this person simply knew they are manipulating everything and no one and nothing has any choice and say on the matter.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 12:06:40 AM by Lanko »
Slow and steady wins the race.

Lanko's Year in Books 2019

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2017, 12:14:01 AM »
That's why Cipher asks to forget everything. My view of utopia would do that too, everything is rigged for that person but he/she doesn't know it, and thus, the illusion will feel like a superb reality and they'll have far greater pleasure thinking everything that happens is because of his/her efforts. It would be different if this person simply knew they are manipulating everything and no one and nothing has any choice and say on the matter.

Interesting answers. But then there's the old question "What is life without hardship?" There is a satisfaction in achievement, in knowing that you had to work for what you're enjoying, even if it's just a nice cake you baked at home. Would someone in this perfect, individualised matrix appreciate it, with no failures or conflict to contrast all the goodness? I recall that being an issue raised in the otherwise awful sequels: Humanity rejected the original Matrix for being too perfect.

I think that might serve as a good seed for the eventual downfall of the utopia.

Another idea I have is that it was static: There were no births, no deaths, and nothing ever really changed.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline Lanko

  • Sherlanko Holmes, Jiin Wei and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2893
  • Total likes: 1977
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Lanko's Goodreads
Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2017, 12:18:33 AM »
That's why Cipher asks to forget everything. My view of utopia would do that too, everything is rigged for that person but he/she doesn't know it, and thus, the illusion will feel like a superb reality and they'll have far greater pleasure thinking everything that happens is because of his/her efforts. It would be different if this person simply knew they are manipulating everything and no one and nothing has any choice and say on the matter.

Interesting answers. But then there's the old question "What is life without hardship?" There is a satisfaction in achievement, in knowing that you had to work for what you're enjoying, even if it's just a nice cake you baked at home. Would someone in this perfect, individualised matrix appreciate it, with no failures or conflict to contrast all the goodness? I recall that being an issue raised in the otherwise awful sequels: Humanity rejected the original Matrix for being too perfect.

I think that might serve as a good seed for the eventual downfall of the utopia.

Another idea I have is that it was static: There were no births, no deaths, and nothing ever really changed.

Yes, that's why I said there would even be adversaries and conflict, but they would be created exactly to 1)display your power, 2)show you're right and/or 3)give the sense your achievements are being earned indeed through effort and hardship .

Of course, everything is rigged, but the person won't know and thus will believe they're important, unique and indispensable to others. Even if their utopia doesn't involve any world-changing events and they simply want the most possible amount of pleasure and entertainment, it would give a sense they're achieving everything through their own effort, making this utopia the perfect illusion.

You create the illusion of hardship, give someone some trouble, but always allow them to win in the end and nobody will ever want to leave. At some point they might wish for someone or something that challenges them, someone say no to them or whatever, and that will also happen to further the illusion.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 12:21:46 AM by Lanko »
Slow and steady wins the race.

Lanko's Year in Books 2019

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2017, 12:24:56 AM »

Yes, that's why I said there would even be adversaries and conflict, but they would be created exactly to 1)display your power, 2)show you're right and/or 3)give the sense your achievements are being earned indeed through effort and hardship .

. . .

You create the illusion of hardship, give someone some trouble, but always allow them to win in the end and nobody will ever want to leave. At some point they might wish for someone or something that challenges them, someone say no to them or whatever, and that will also happen to further the illusion.

Oh, right. I missed that part somehow.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline The Gem Cutter

  • Captain Analogy
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2960
  • Total likes: 2437
  • Gender: Male
  • We've exhausted all possibilities - time to begin.
    • View Profile
    • The Gem Cutter Tales
Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2017, 01:54:11 AM »
Not to be argumentative, but the notion's a knot - comfort and ease and prosperity sound terrific, and they are when one transitions from privation, struggle, and discomfort. But never-ending good cannot be appreciated or enjoyed, or even understood without their unpleasant cousins. We are competitive beings, and require something or someone to test ourselves against or we atrophy, or worse, never develop ourselves in the first place.

For my part, I am increasingly convinced I am already in heaven, where we all rule as One, as Mr. Watts describes:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xCFoJ0aywc[/youtube]
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2017, 10:45:45 AM »
A planet devoid of humans. Because they all died from the attempt to create a Utopia.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline ScarletBea

  • Welcome party and bringer of Cake. 2nd-in-Command of the Writing Contest
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 11493
  • Total likes: 6620
  • Gender: Female
  • Geeky Reading Introvert
    • View Profile
    • LibraryThing profile
Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2017, 01:43:56 PM »
I can't remember why I didn't reply at the time, but I have to say that I would hate to live in an utopia, especially the type described by Lanko :-\
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

I'm "She Who Reigns Over Us All In Crimson Cheer", according to Peat!

Offline Dan D Jones

Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2017, 06:17:17 PM »
Are you asking about a utopia or a paradise?  Most of the answers here seem to be more addressing the question "What would be your personal paradise?" than they do "What is a utopia?"

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utopia:

Definition of utopia
1 :  an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
2 often capitalized :  a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
3 :  an impractical scheme for social improvement

Definition #2 would seem to be the relevant one here.  A utopia is a place where society/government is perfected.  I think a utopia would, or at least could, still have some instances of unhappiness, unfairness, and/or injustice.  It's just that those things would not flow from imperfections in government or society.  Government and society would strive mightily to eliminate those where possible, of course.  But if my dream is to be a jockey, there's not much either government or society could do.  I'm over six feet tall and weigh over 200 pounds.  Nothing short of magic (either real magic or something like the Matrix where magic is apparently/effectively real) would ever make me a successful jockey.

I can imagine a utopia in terms of government.  Suppose a world where advanced but non-intelligent machines perform all the labor (or perhaps machines who are intelligent but engineered to be happy performing labor - although that could very easily be the initial conditions for a dystopian as much as a utopian novel.)  All human material needs are provided at no cost.  Government, such as it exists, treats everyone fairly and equally.  Every person is his/her own and only master, free to pursue whatever goals and accomplishments they like so long as they do not impinge upon the person or property of another.  I'd think such a world would be deserving of the title of utopia.

But even in such a world, human beings would find cause for conflict and discord.  There would be jealousy and prejudice and antipathy.  The only way to completely eliminate that would be to alter human beings to the point that they're no longer recognizably human.  I think conflict is written into the human soul, and a perfect society without friction is impossible not only in practice but even in theory.  That being said, I'd happily settle for the reasonable utopia I described in the previous paragraph. 

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2017, 05:02:50 PM »
Are you asking about a utopia or a paradise?  Most of the answers here seem to be more addressing the question "What would be your personal paradise?" than they do "What is a utopia?"

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utopia:

Definition of utopia
1 :  an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
2 often capitalized :  a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
3 :  an impractical scheme for social improvement

Ah. It seems I've misunderstood the word a little bit.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline Mike Brooks

  • Soulfinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 80
  • Total likes: 53
  • Gender: Male
  • Scifi. Fantasy. Related shenanigans.
    • View Profile
    • My website
Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2017, 11:12:59 PM »
I'd agree that utopia/paradise would be impossible to accurately portray, let alone construct, unless it is for the sole benefit of one individual. I'm very much of a mind with the notion that humanity as we understand ourselves wants to be challenged, in general: not necessarily strong, violent or insurmountable challenges, but most people like the feeling of achievement having performed something difficult, or having achieved something that they've previously failed to manage. Yet most people hate failing (to varying degrees). So any sort of *complete* utopia would have to factor all that in, which is basically impossible. Humanity is not designed to be perfectly happy (and it's arguable that if we're never unhappy, we don't have any frame of reference to know what "happy" is anyway).
I'm an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on, in your existence, is never understanding why.

http://mikebrooks.co.uk

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: So what is a true utopia?
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2017, 01:49:19 AM »
I'd agree that utopia/paradise would be impossible to accurately portray, let alone construct, unless it is for the sole benefit of one individual. I'm very much of a mind with the notion that humanity as we understand ourselves wants to be challenged, in general: not necessarily strong, violent or insurmountable challenges, but most people like the feeling of achievement having performed something difficult, or having achieved something that they've previously failed to manage. Yet most people hate failing (to varying degrees). So any sort of *complete* utopia would have to factor all that in, which is basically impossible. Humanity is not designed to be perfectly happy (and it's arguable that if we're never unhappy, we don't have any frame of reference to know what "happy" is anyway).

An interesting point of view. And probably an accurate one. It does fit with my general idea of a paradise that eventually failed, and which certain characters might or might not be justified in trying to bring back.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!