Friday, June 7, 2013

Utopia

So, yesterday, I suggested that if we really want to ensure the survival and well-being of all of humanity, we can't do it through legislation; we have to do it through invention.

But even if we modify ourselves so that we no longer suffer from hunger, or thirst, or heatstroke or hypothermia or disease or genetic disorders or any of that, there's still plenty of room for misery and abuse.

We can provide free access to goods once we invent universal fabricators; we can provide free access to information once we ... actually, we've already (mostly) solved that one, so, yay for us.

But we still haven't prevented us from being jerks to each other. Passing laws doesn't solve that problem. It's illegal to murder someone in the United States, but murders occur every day. Laws don't prevent offences, they just ensure that offences are punished.

Even if you re-engineer our bodies so that we can't be killed, and that we can't suffer the effects of violence, we still have plenty of ways to hurt each other. Discrimination and hatred can be purely psychological and can be just as devastating.

So what then? Do we tinker with our own minds so that we are incapable of hatred, or conversely, so that we are incapable of feeling depressed or afraid or insulted? In fact, if we're all perfectly content all the time, then we wouldn't even have greed or discrimination or anything like that, would we?

If we've altered our emotions so that we no longer feel the impulses that would lead us to act like jerks to each other, then what do we become? Utopia is universal happiness; do we have to get there by making it literally impossible for anyone to be unhappy?

Alternately, is it at all reasonable to assume that at some point, we will be so philosophically mature that we will all just naturally choose to be nice to each other? This seems like wishful thinking. If you invent some sort of pill that makes you immortal and indestructible and you give it away for free, everyone is going to want one. If you devise a philosophy of non-violence and mutual respect, not everyone is going to buy into it.

So if the best you can ever hope to do is to eliminate humanity's basic physical needs, have you really improved the human condition? Or have you just given folks different things to be unhappy about?

Is all progress futile, since it accomplishes nothing more than to give us different props and scenery to use when we're acting out our various tragedies?

Isn't that a cheerful thought to start the weekend with?