Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Designing Utopia

The idea of trying to design utopia is a non-starter for 95% of the population. It is just too big, too nebulous, too daunting for most finite human brains to even care to think about. Design a shoe or a toothbrush - now that's something I can handle but something that actually works, over a long period of time, for a large number of people, over a large area just makes our brains go tilt.

Designing a dystopia is easy. It is somehow easier for us to imagine everything that could go wrong in the future than it is to think of how it could possibly look if everything went relatively well. Science fiction novels, movies and TV shows provide us with a wide variety of ways things can go terribly wrong but very few, if any, show us a future in which any of us would like to live.

What we have here is a failure of the imagination. There are over 6 billion people on the planet and we have been around for hundreds of thousands of years but no one so far has developed the capacity to imagine a future worth living into. This is a design problem so far too difficult for the human brain to even attack let alone solve.

Designing a utopia is the marathon of mental imaging. It would take a dedicated person willing to train and prepare for a long time to be able to endure the mental discipline and imagination required to even attempt such a venture. If someone started early, training their imagination, developing their visualization skills, cross-training by studying the physical, social and psychological requirements and focusing their attention on the problem over a period of time, they might be able to endure the mental and creative stress it would take just to stay in the game.

Designing a utopian future, like other extreme sports, is not for the timid. Be alert for any students with the stamina and imagination to even attempt to envision a utopia. Encourage them, provide them the coaching and training they will need to survive the mental rigor of such an endeavor. Provide them the staged development and cross-training any endurance athlete must have to succeed. See if, in your lifetime, you come across the one-in-a-million (one in 6 billion?) who might just be able to envision a future worth living into and nurture them.

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