First Meeting – What is Utopia anyway?

A very sunny Bank Holiday weekend for our first meeting, and we ended up heading to the park to talk about what Utopia means to us and what the group should be.

As it turns out, it’s really hard to define what Utopia is. In Greek and in Thomas More’s original book it means ‘nowhere place’, a non-existent and impossible place. But that doesn’t work for us – we want to understand ideas about making Utopia real.

So we spent a lot of time asking questions like:

  • Is Utopia the absence of dystopia and problems, or can it exist by itself?
  • Is it possible and/or desirable for many ideas of Utopia to co-exist, or must Utopia be a single universal concept?
  • Is work necessary for people to feel fulfilled? If so, would full automation be a threat to human dignity?
  • Would anyone want to live forever? What would the consequences of people living forever be for society?

The bigger questions here are: What does Utopia look like to us as individuals and as a group? How does Utopia interact with the way that we see human beings and the source of human happiness?

Feel free to post your ideas in the comments below or in the forums!

Books

We’re deciding which book to read out of the following three options:

  • Utopia for Realists by Rutger Brennan – a good overview of ideas around modern utopian thought, such as reducing the working week and introducing a universal basic income, as well as some interesting reflections on how these ideas could come into reality.
  • Postcapitalism by Paul Mason – a journalistic account of how capitalism is collapsing in on itself in the wake of the 2008 crisis and the rise of AI and automation, as well as considerations on where future alternatives could come from, why we need them, and how to get there.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin – a novel playing with different ideas of utopian society between anarchist and communist thought, and presenting utopia as ambiguous.

You can vote below!

Which book shall we read next?

  • Utopia for Realists (50%, 3 Votes)
  • The Dispossessed (33%, 2 Votes)
  • Postcapitalism (17%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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For next time…

Next meeting we’d like to explore the foundational values we associate with Utopia. We’ll do a group exercise next time but want to start a debate right now – see our forums for more info.

We also really want to bring as many people as possible to meetings! So please jump on Tweetbook and invite your friends to come – we’ll be announcing the time, date, and place very soon and in a separate post, but every little bit of publicity helps. If you’re interested in helping with our social media channels please get in touch and we can set you up.

Finally, we want to come up with ideas for charitable and utopian projects which we could make happen and look at how to get the people / resources to make them real. Again, please suggest any ideas you have below or on the forums.

That’s all for this time.

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