Thursday, October 30, 2014

Things That I Like: The Utopians: Theory, More Practice

In light of my earlier article on dystopias, I thought it would be appropriate to bring back an aborted setting that I worked on a long, long time ago. The premise was that there was a great conflict by a number of groups, called the Utopians, who were each genuinely trying to better everyone’s lives. But they disagreed on methods and they disagreed on ends. Even though they acknowledged that they were all trying to do a good job they couldn’t work together because each of the others sacrificed or didn’t address something which they considered to be of vital importance.
That’s what this is about, by demonstrating and giving examples.  Good Guys— or at least Decent Guys— who still can’t get along because they have such differing value systems, and the myriad ways that a utopia can take root.
Feel free to rob these and adapt them as little or as much as you’d like, as always.
The Republicans are one of the oldest human Utopian groups, basing their ideas (and possibly being founded by) the philosopher Zeno. They advocate such things as loose marriages and the communal raising of children. Each child is tattooed with the year of birth on per forehead, sex is discouraged between people who are 20-25 years apart from each other in age, and reproduction and the creation of children will only occur between the ages of twenty and twenty-five. Sterilization occurs after this point so that forced celibacy doesn’t have to be a factor. Together these things prevent incest between groups, and incest within groups will be prevented by putting individuals that share a parent into the same group, allowing the Westermarck Effect to prevent sexual attraction from developing between siblings.
The aim of their society is the fullest possible cultivation of a feeling of love and loyalty between citizens, who are encouraged to fulfill their potential. Military service is mandatory, men and women wear the same kind of clothing, buildings are simple and functional, and the outer trappings of religion are dropped in favor of quiet and respectful spirituality.
Other Utopians object to such things as the destruction of parent-child relationships, the mandatory military service, and the loss of art from various spheres of life. Many also disagree that the Republicans have found the root of the problem in the first place.
The Valhallans hardwire themselves so that pain and pleasure affect them all the same, with an additional mental “tag” attached to pain that serves to alert that, while the experience is pleasurable, it is nevertheless liable to cause harm and may already be doing so. They also provide back-up and “flexi” personalities to take over in part or in whole in the case of traumatic experiences, or even prematurely activate in order to prevent trauma from being experienced (someone who is being emotionally abused will spontaneously develop psychological traits that prevent the abuse from having any effect, for example).
Other Utopians object to the gross restructuring of personality involved. Not only are whole fields of art incomprehensible to the Valhallans (imagine trying to figuring out any of Shakespeare’s tragedies without having an unmodified understanding of pain) but restructuring can occur with very little warning and without limitation. Many also consider the use of flexi personalities to be a kind of human sacrifice, because they involve the generation of legitimate sub-minds to experience things that cannot be avoided but could potentially cause psychological damage even with Valhallan modifications.
The Gatherers are in support of a Communist democracy. They arose during a period roughly equivalent to our modern era but are not of human origin; their focus was on an internet-like system that finally made global democracy a workable concept. Already communally-inclined, they decided to bridge the gap and remove the few problems that still existed after communication issues had been solved. Originally through eugenics and but finally through full-blown genetic engineering, they cultivated an instinctual need for companionship and an unwillingness to force one’s will on another person.
Having succeeded among their own people they wish to spread their model of utopia to all species. Other Utopians, however, often object to the psychological engineering, and the Valhallans feel that it violates a certain individualistic bent that they value.
The Heaven-makers wish to use virtual reality in order to give each person their own personal world, which will modify itself continuously in accordance with the subject’s subconscious desires. Each person’s memory will be modified before being connected to the VR so that no one is aware that these worlds are false (because some people will not enjoy a perfect world if they do not believe that it is real). The computers will continue to modify their memories whenever necessary so that they do not doubt the authenticity of their worlds. Each person will spend eternity hooked up to the machines in this way and there will be no births.
Other Utopians object to the anti-natalism of the Heaven-makers, the deception involved, and the altering of memories. The Valhallans especially take issue with this last one, which is one reason why they use flexi personalities as proxies rather than rewrite damaging memories after the fact.
The Empathists have the goal of linking everyone in such a way that should anyone feel pain, all people will feel discomfort and be ill at ease, encouraging them to help the person who is in pain. They will, furthermore, be psychologically incapable of causing pain. The Empathists have three levels in their organization: Alfs, who feel pain when they perceive others to be experiencing pain and are psychologically incapable of performing any action which will directly result in another’s pain or harm (including ordering someone else to commit harm); Bets, who feel the pain of others but lack the blocks; and Gamls, who are unmodified in any way.
Alfs are no less dangerous for their inabilities, being masters of psychological manipulation. They are theoretically in charge of the organization but the Bets are responsible for handling all of the “dirty” affairs, such as giving orders that will result in the suffering of others, and they control the flow of information so that the Alfs do not know this. The memory modifications necessary to do this are just problem that other Utopians have with the Empathists. The Valhallans, for example, object to the sanctioning of pain.
The Arcadians believe that technology and scientific advancement bring opportunities for great joy but that a simpler existence has less room for sorrows, and they are more concerned with minimizing suffering than increasing joy. On the other hand, though, they are unwilling to go as far as the Valhallans and remove the very capability to suffer.
They wish to use science to eradicate disease and improve other biological concerns. Over and on worlds under their influence they have placed androids charged with protecting all local biological life forms from threats such as cosmic radiation and meteor impacts. A primary concern of the Arcadians is developing an AI intelligent enough that it can be left alone to work on some means of slowing or even reversing entropy. On these worlds civilization has regressed to a hunter-gatherer state. “Unfulfilled” Arcadians envy their siblings here but recognize that a sacrifice is necessary to ensure that all people may one day thrive in an Arcadian world.
Other Utopians object to them because, well, they prefer scientific advancement and complexity over simplicity. Some of them even use high technology as a fundamental part of their Utopia.
R. Donald James Gauvreau maintains a blog at, where he regularly posts story ideas, free fiction, and other goodies, including a free guide to comparative mythology that was written specifically with worldbuilding in mind.
He is probably not a spider.

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