6
$\begingroup$

In a far away future, when/where technology has erased scarcity, competition and poverty, what purpose does civilisation still have?

Suppose a civilisation reaches a level at which it can harvest solar energy to fuel energy matter constructors and use these devices to create any object in any quantity forever, have automated robot workforce to fill in any remaining menial tasks available (run by limited virtual intelligence so as to avoid a matrix or terminator apocalypse), and have the ability to heal any wound or illness through nanotechnology or cloning.

A true, honest-to-God utopia.

a true, honest to god utopia.

Does civilisation hold any meaning any more? Do people have any purpose left? Is society as a whole left with any meaning?

(Assuming for the purpose of this query that we don't turn into some form of religious zealots.)

Also, besides it being a better alternative to a dystopian future, do we actually want to evolve into a utopia?

$\endgroup$

closed as off-topic by GrandmasterB, JBH, Frostfyre, ShadoCat, Renan Sep 12 '18 at 21:05

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – GrandmasterB, JBH, Frostfyre, ShadoCat
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 10
    $\begingroup$ In the '60es we went to the Moon. 50 years later there are people claiming the Earth is flat and the landing on the Moon is a hoax. Don't take civilization for granted. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Sep 12 '18 at 18:46
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like a question more for philosophy.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ – Qami Sep 12 '18 at 18:54
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I don't vote OT:NAW very often, but I must this time. Whether your world is utopic or dystopic (or anything in between the extremes of everything-is-perfect and everything-is-broken) is storybuilding. Whether or not it was worth it to be whatever choice you, the author, made is storybuilding. How will you justify the best answer to this question when every answer for can be argued con and vice-versa? It's all about the point you want to make as an author. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 12 '18 at 19:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Based on the picture, arches = utopia. So just keep building! $\endgroup$ – Punintended Sep 12 '18 at 19:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Punintended not to the person whose home used to sit at the base of one of those arches and didn't want to move. For them, this government is corrupt. Can't be a utopia for everyone. $\endgroup$ – Mr.Mindor Sep 12 '18 at 20:32
15
$\begingroup$

It's time for your civilization to be asking The Last Question.

Because...

If a civilisation reaches a level at which it can harvest solar energy to fuel energy matter constructors and use these devices to create any object in any quantity forever, ...

It's not "forever". Our sun, and indeed the universe itself, is like a spring-powered clock which is slowly winding down. The laws of thermodynamics, as we currently understand them, preclude the possibility of a truly perpetual, life-sustaining physical existence.

So, the search for a solution/workaround to the problem of entropy becomes the main project of civilization, and supporting projects would include finding ways to prolong our long-term existence while we try to solve that problem.

This answer was brought to you by Isaav Asimov's short story, The Last Question. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Question

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 19:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Indeed! I'll take that as a reference to the story, as opposed to a critique of my response. ;) $\endgroup$ – Qami Sep 12 '18 at 19:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Quami: That is as I intended it. You’ve got my +1. Hyper advanced civilisations trying to stave off the heat death of the universe is the theme of a fair few blooming good sci fi books. A personal favourite of mine is the Time Odyssey series, where a society with this goal deems it better in the long run to lob a planet into our sun and kill off the entire human race (while simultaneously running a pocket dimension as a memorial of sorts) than to allow an inefficient, wasteful race like ours to exist. Naturally we don’t all die, and the resulting war probably hastens the end, but hey! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 12 '18 at 20:25
9
$\begingroup$

The Greek Ideal

Your society haven't eliminated all work, only the manual work. You have robots and AI's doing the most mudanes tasks, allowing the humans to focus on the arts, the science, philosophy, and basically anything they desire.

A regular citizen will be a true renaissance man, studied in several different art and scientific school, they will create the most beautiful sculptures and write melodic poems while machines keep the sewers clean and farm for food.

Without having to worry about budget limits and constant inquiry from a board of directors, people will be able to pursue scientific knowledge with ease, free to explore the more arcane areas of the sciences without having to worry about profits.

Sports will always be popular, with the possibility of cloning even death sports becomes a possibility. For those in search of a bigger challenge, they could even clone strange and mutated animals for sport hunting.

Finally, there will be the exploration of space, ships being sent towards distant systems, and even if no alien life is found out there, then it just means that it's time for these humans to start themselves seeding the universe with life.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 Ah Sasha! Now I don't get to answer! Very well done. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 12 '18 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ We have absolutely no reason to believe that the Utopia's citizens will do any of those things, and several contemporary historical examples that should lead us to believe that they won't. No population supported in idleness in the modern era does any of it, in more than incredibly minuscule percentages; why would a future population supported in idleness do any of it? $\endgroup$ – tbrookside Sep 16 '18 at 17:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @tbrookside what would you consider a "population supported in idleness"? $\endgroup$ – Sasha Sep 17 '18 at 0:33
6
$\begingroup$

An interesting take on this question (the substance of it, if not the exact technological detail) can be seen in EM Forster's The Machine Stops.

Within three generations, humanity would no longer have the capacity to manage even trivial failures in the overall system. If this utopia was achieved, it would likely crash as soon as the automated maintenance systems encountered a situation for which they were not designed. A problem-solving autonomous AI might get around that limit, but you specified that your setup doesn't have that due to "Terminator Risk".

Edited to add:

It strikes me that I didn't describe the mechanism by which humanity would lose the ability to maintain the system over a three-generation span. Essentially, think of your utopia as an office with custom software that runs everything. Now eliminate everyone who knows how that software was written, and even everyone who knows what software is. Now wait 100 years.

Unless you intend to keep the founding generation alive forever, and enslave them to all subsequent generations. And even then...good luck keeping up the level of expertise you'll need after the first 1000 years of total idleness on the part of even that founding generation. I can't remember everything about the code I wrote a year ago.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

A perfect Utopia is impossible

At least with humans (as they are). There will always be greed, envy, hate. A certain percentage of people are born psychopaths. Whilst they benefit a population in crisis, they are a burden in peaceful times.

It is a natural human drive to strive for more. To distinguish themselves from others through status or status symbols. You will never have a perfect human society.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Sep 13 '18 at 16:04
4
$\begingroup$

As others have mentioned, you can't erase scarcity and competition. What you're proposing is displacing scarcity from resource and wealth scarcity to some other aspect, like ability. We can both 3D-print any sculpture we imagine, but I'm better than you at imagining sculptures. This creates a competition, where I want to stay on top and you want to become better than me. For this reason we have local sports tournaments played by non-professionals who don't aspire to become professionals players. This could easily (with the resources you propose) be escalated to a global level, where many, many disciplines are recognized and everyone is ranked in the disciplines they pursue. Something like the olympic games but with a couple of orders of magnitude more disciplines (including all arts and all videogames) and almost the whole population participating. Those who don't participate are too busy inventing new disciplines!

Also, while you propose eliminating scarcity of resources, there is still the matter of scarcity of energy (our sun produces a limited amount of energy, which presumably could be converted to a limited amount of whatever-you-want), and the scarcity of available space (unless you can 3D-print a real TARDIS, bigger on the inside).

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Though barely a passing note at the end of your answer, scarcity of space is one of the biggest issues, as anyone who values space can attest. I think it glossed over by many because people are used to living a conventional city life, possibly in apartment units surrounded by others. I abhor that lifestyle for myself. If I could have any 1 thing right now that money can buy, it would be a huge plot of land covering at least hundreds of acres of prime land. Everyone can't have that, as there's about 5 acres per human on the planet, including wastelands (and I wanted prime). +1 $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 15 '18 at 21:10
1
$\begingroup$

You cannot erase scarcity and competition. People will always want more. Better food, prettier clothes, cooler gadgets, bigger house, etc. B/c for humans, "enough" means "more than average".

If you look at quality of life that people had 100 years ago, you can easily get achieve and exceed it by living on welfare (at least in Europe). Yet most people want more, and are willing to work and compete for it.

If enough people are convinced that they cannot improve their lives, then you will indeed have end of progress and stagnation. I believe this was the case throughout most of ancient history and middle ages. Some would argue that this mindset affects the able-bodied people who stay on welfare for years and years.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ You certainly CAN erase scarcity; and competition can be channeled into sports and other contests, be they mental or physical pursuits, they don't have to be about money and wanting "more". They can be about, for example, social fame, being an excellent actor, singer, musician, fiction writer, sports star, etc. A society that seeks social fame by, for example, designing a prettier dress, and publishing the plan on the Net so anybody can wear it, gets their "reward" as fame points because lots of people wear it. Consumers got it free (even the energy and robots to make it was free). $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 12 '18 at 21:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus Are you suggesting somehow forcing everyone to channel all of their competitiveness into those things you propose? Even those who would rather want more personal space and more stuff? Your comment sounds like a dystopia to everyone who does not share your preferences about what they want from life. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 15 '18 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron YES, I am suggesting they be "forced" into that. The Romans liked competition in which gladiators fought to the death. Other barbarians had competition for how many kills they made, and kept trophies like right ears. We don't allow that kind of competition, anymore, in fact it is punishable by death. Instead, we "force" competition via various kinds of sports that are usually safe, and winners roar as if they killed somebody. If anybody thinks "real" competition demands killing somebody, then we consider them mentally ill, criminally insane, and we imprison them. In a utopia, ... $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 15 '18 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ ... We would prevent such mental illness from occurring, we would not allow gene combinations that make psychopathy or sociopathy intractable, and we would treat any of the tractable forms that arose through our advanced medicine and psychotherapy (which we DO have, because this is a utopia, by the OP's ground rules for this game). $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 15 '18 at 20:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus Alas, your "utopia" sounds like it actually would be a dystopia for me. I care little for sports, and I care a very lot about having a large plot of land to call my own. In fact, all of the examples you cave in your original comment are not important to me, and other similar activities likewise aren't. Your proposed utopia hasn't erased scarcity for me, and by forcing my lifestyle I now have the saddest face. :( $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 15 '18 at 20:52
1
$\begingroup$

It depends on your philosophical axioms.

If your concept of "purpose" is set up in a way that satisfaction of sentient beings is the ultimate purpose then the answer is yes, the Utopia is definitely worth it. The ultimately evolved civilization serves its individuals by providing them with pain-free, stress-free life, while simultaneously quenching intellectual thirst. Everybody can relax and enjoy infinite possibilities without fear of any harm falling upon them.

If, on the other hand, every sentient individual has to fulfill a purpose (but towards what or who?), then maybe not. For some strange reasons I can't quite fathom, this philosophical opinion seems to be more popular among the general population of people who think about the concept of purpose.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.