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April 26, 2017

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"Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization." —Agent Smith

That's exactly what I immediately thought of, CharlesWT.

Utopias are boring.

Why, it would be like Valhalla, but without the drinking, brawling and wenching.

The Dispossessed, An Ambiguous Utopia

Just sayin'

Heaven for the climate
Hell for the company

Have you seen Mark Twain's evisceration of the conventional notion of Heaven of his day ?
(Floating about in the empyrean, harp music, every voice raised in a mighty never-ending chorus of praise to God)
Do people notably like harp music ?
Seek it out ? No.
Do most people sing ?
When they do, is it heavenly ?
Would they be happy continually singing for eternity ?
All the things that people _do_ seek out in life are missing : food, sex, intoxicants, sleep, distinctions of status, accomplishments.

Rivendell was a kind of utopia. But

“... things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.

Constant reader de-lurking here.

What about Iain M Banks Culture series? It essentially interrogates what happens when a benign post-scarcity utopian [Pan-human, galactic] society encounters less benign (and often less advanced) cultures etc.

Wondering whether Dr. science has some views (as resident noted sci-fi guru).

That's a good counter example, and googling Banks and Utopia gets a lot of interesting articles and interviews. I really liked Banks, but then, it had the Star Trek effect: Everyone was so accomplished and expert that they didn't really have room for, well, people like me.

Of course, there is a thread in the Culture series that would probably drive a few people up the wall here. Banks says:

The way the Culture came about initially was as—I thought at the time—a single-use solution to a particular problem. I was getting ready to write Use of Weapons and I knew that Zakalwe was this sort of ultimate warrior guy, just very martially able, but I wanted him to be on the side of the good guys somehow. Squaring that circle was the problem, so I came up with the idea of the Culture as his ultimate employers: a society basically on the side of the angels but willing to use people like Zakalwe (utopia spawning few warriors, as the later-written poem says) to do its dirty but justified work.

http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/a-few-questions-about-the-culture-an-interview-with-iain-banks/

Another interesting article

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-ambiguous-utopia-of-iain-m-banks

Gosh I miss the Culture. Thanks for this lj, it allowed me to forget my current difficulties for a few moments (ongoing demented-mother problems) and lose myself once again in the various plots.

By the way, for any Culture fans out there: it makes me laugh when various commentators say "Inversions" may be a Culture novel - to me it clearly is, with the added wrinkle that it is in addition a sort of fairy tale, medieval fantasy-type novel, a kind of three-fer (in a way that "Matter" somehow isn't). Very satisfying.

as the prophet David Byrne told us: Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

stories are about the effects and resolution of conflict. but Utopia means there isn't any conflict: it's all good. and boring.

But worlds a lot better than ours could still have conflict. Our world, with all its violence, injustice and suffering, is utopian compared to some historical alternatives.

Star Trek used boundaries for conflict: most of the action on the various shows and movies didn't happen in the heart of the Federation (and if it did, you could be sure there was an apocalyptic threat facing it); it was out where the Federation was scraping up against other cultures.

That's always the challenge for a utopia: if it isn't totally isolated, it has to figure out how to deal with non-utopian neighbors.

"if it isn't totally isolated, it has to figure out how to deal with non-utopian neighbors."

An alien or computer with god-like powers usually does the trick. Until some damn cowboy from Earth ruins the whole thing, at least.

One person's utopia is another's dystopia.

Seriously, assume the post-labor world people talk about. How many people are going to have trouble just filling up their days?

Based on my experience with other early retirees, I seem to be kind of a fluke. I have a US partition project that requires learning a great deal about several subjects, and writing a book-sized explanation, even if it's all hypothetical and never comes to pass. I have a variety of software projects, including embedded devices, because I don't like the commercial products available. I help run the Colorado Division of USA Fencing. I have at least one math theorem that I think can be proved. I'm busy -- I'll probably die before I finish the list.

But a number of other (usually forced) early retirees I know are desperate to fill up their time with something they enjoy.

I think that some people are perfectly happy finding stuff to do for themselves, and then doing it. Pretty much everybody here seems to be of that personality(?) type.

But there are a lot of people who need an external source to provide stuff to do and generally structure their time. Which, for most of their lives, has been work. Without it, i.e. in retirement, they are seriously lost.

As a side note, it's interesting that far more men than women seem to have the terrible problem with finding something to do in retirement.

That may be because women are accustomed to doing the kind of housework which never goes away. And which they have always had to organize for themselves. If so, I would guess that the problem doesn't arise for them until they reach the point of going into a retirement facility where someone else does the cooking and cleaning.

I suspect that more than a few men, after retirement, discovered that most of their social connections were related to their work.

no author has ever been able to write a decent story about a utopia

I thought Aldous Huxley's "Island" was pretty good.

Islandia is only a decent story -- not as good as Dispossessed, I think -- but it's a life-changing book. A sideways utopia, as someone described it.

As the main character's best friend says, "We still suffer. Life is too beautiful. Those we love die."

I am late.

I didn't mind the covert action side in the Culture series. For one thing, it is SF, not real life. Second, the Culture sort of knew what it was doing most of the time. Again, you know, it was science fiction, not real life where we wreck societies under Presidents of both political parties and feel basically no guilt or any inclination to change our ways. And third, when they screwed up they felt monumentally and spectacularly guilty about it. I forgot the name of the book that was specifically on that theme-- weirdly, as others have pointed out, it was sort of like a comment on 9/ 11, except it was written before 9/11. And unlike the real 9/11, the Culture Minds acknowledged the horrific blunders they had committed which led to the terrorist hatred of their society.

I actually came to post the link below on some open thread, but there isn't a live one. It is about economists being wrong about sweatshops. What a shock.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/27/opinion/do-sweatshops-lift-workers-out-of-poverty.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

Also, regarding the Culture, the Minds are basically godlike not just in terms of raw physical power, but in intellect. They could run a Sim computer program with sentient characters if it weren't for ethical problems. That sets the sort of standard you need if you are going to play god and muck around with covert overthrows of government, changing societies, etc.. you can play god if you are a sort of god.

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