Following on from my previous utopia-based question (Could compulsory experience-sharing make a utopia actually work?), I'm wondering whether a website could ever be a utopia.

Firstly, are there any problems inherent in this premise? If I take Stack Exchange as my basis, I feel like it's a pretty good start to a utopia:

  1. It's meritocratic, and offers incentives for its citizens to improve and take a more active part in the community, while also implementing sensible constraints for its newbie children.
  2. Everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. Off-topic posts are redirected to other sections of the site; overly-broad questions are coaxed into specificity; inappropriate or offensive remarks are moderated and removed. Punishment is possible, but the system mainly works on teaching/learning.
  3. It offers a comforting sense of distance. People have the freedom to be anonymous, and the opportunity to be as much or as little a part of it as they wish, but also can locate individual members.
  4. More active members are rewarded with greater privileges that come hand in hand with greater responsibility (I assume that if a moderator doesn't take his/her/their job seriously, they'll probably end up having moderator privileges removed from them). In effect, it's a self-policing system.

In short, could a website utopia be mapped onto a real-life system? Or does it only work because it's a website?

One initial problem I can foresee with having this as a real-world system would be: what happens if a new user posts inappropriate/offensive stuff and gets banned from the website? Would that parallel as exile (which the user can that choose to return from at any time), or execution..?

Also, I guess economy is an issue, but I'm not quite sure how to approach that.


I'm defining utopia as a society characterised, at heart, by peace. Free from suffering/poverty/lack of opportunity, absence of war, etc. (Kind of a difficult one to pin down, and "as close to a perfect society as possible" feels kind of vague, but I hope this helps.)

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    $\begingroup$ Define your idea of "Utopia" please. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Sep 6 '17 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ A website has a well-defined address (in our case it's at worldbuilding.stackexchange.com), so it cannot be a Utopia (< Ουτοπία, "Nowhere land", "Noplacia"): it must be a Paradise! $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 6 '17 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ "What is normal for the spider, is chaos for the fly" We are different in how we interpret what means "justice" and "happiness" for some we are already in a Utopia, for others this is hell. $\endgroup$ – Tridam Sep 6 '17 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ A website can be a utopia in the same sense that any place in the physical world can be a utopia, that is to say: yes, it is hypothetically possible. Reality soon ensues though... $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Sep 6 '17 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ I hate to admit it, but as you gain experience with StackExchange websites, you'll find they're not the utopia you think they are. There will always be politics, differences of opinion, etc. To egregiously quote The Sniper from Team Fortress 2... "At the end of the day, as long as there's two people left on the planet, someone's gonna want someone dead." $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 6 '17 at 18:45

13 Answers 13


Like Stack Exchange, modern temporary utopias such as Burning Man, or Rainbow Gatherings work because participation is opt in.

They greatly reduce the problems of non-compliant members by making participation voluntary. Those that are a burden on the system will have a worse time and probably choose not to return in the future. For a permanent society this will be a problem. Stack Exchange works as part of the larger ecosystem of the internet. They specialize on one thing: Questions and Answers. If you want a discussion, or feedback on your work, the site tells you to go elsewhere.

Going elsewhere is easy to do when all you need to do is type in a different URL. It's a much more costly endeavor to pack up your things and move to another country.

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    $\begingroup$ This with a note that even on a relaxed forum like this there are people that make life irritating for others, there are people who you'll be ticking off and who I'll be ticking off and who everyone will be ticking off, you get that in any community. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 6 '17 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @LeeLeon If you feel that you can do a better job explaining the concept, that's worth sharing. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Sep 6 '17 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ And, regrettably, the reason every opt-in utopic commune has failed is because eventually people want to opt-out. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 6 '17 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ There's a long argument that opt in government can and has functioned in the past. It's a very common refrain among the more anarchist-like libertarians. They often talk about "opt-in" as participation more than proximity and space, however. $\endgroup$ – frеdsbend Sep 6 '17 at 21:52

The Specific Answer

The answer is "no solution." This question is based on false premises.

There are plenty of people who contribute to StackExchange who believe it is highly flawed. Many people disagree on what actions should be taken ("Is this on-topic or not?" "Should this be on this SE or that SE?" etc.) Many people take the "vote your conscience" thing to weird places that do not help the site. Sometimes whether your question is given "protected" status or "closed" depends on which band of high-rep users happens to be around at the time.

Many people who are active in cleaning up the site are more interested in whether your question or answer is technically on-topic than whether it is a good fit for the community or makes StackExchange better or worse. In fact, on some of the SE meta sites when people have asked questions about how to deal with certain types of actions, I have more than once included in my answers statements to the effect of "Ultimately, is your action going to make StackExchange a little bit better or a little bit worse overall? That is more important than a legalist interpretation of the rules." and had such answers yield a total negative score.

There is nothing "Utopian" about StackExchange. StackExchange's principles would no more bring about a physical utopia than they have a virtual one, since they haven't.

The Generic Answer

That addresses the body of your question. But the title, and some aspects of the body, also seem to be asking a more general question: If there were some utopian website that did exist, and if that website's principles were applied to physical, real-world governance, could the real state likewise be a utopia?

The answer to that question would be a bit different. Since we have no first-hand records of any people documenting any nation in a state of utopia, and I know of no large groups of people who even collectively agree about how to bring about a utopia, it is difficult to know. In fact, it might be impossible to answer this question: if we cannot even agree how to bring about a utopia at all, even in theory, then is it even possible to discuss how to transfer the principles from one medium to another? I'm not sure.

The "Anti-Utopia" Proof

I will tell you one thing that I do know though: if a utopia is perfection, all it takes is one person who believes that they are worse off to, by definition, make a situation non-utopian; so if you applied StackExchange's principles to my country's governing structure, I can tell you right now that there is near-zero possibility that any utopia could result since I would be miserable every time some group of 5 (or make it 500) "trusted" individuals voted to suppress what I was doing that day. You are going to get a lot of super-pissed-off people. Right now I live in a constitutional-republic with a semi-democratic election process (the U.S.), and it is already bad enough that my neighbors have so much control over my life - I would not want to give them even more control.

Thanks to discussion with @aslum for teasing out the following paragraph...

The problem here is with defining a utopia by terms of perfection. If we instead defined a utopia as just "a really good state where the average happiness per person is maximized," then things would be different and you might be able to accuse me of a "No true Scotsman" fallacy. As it stands, asserting "Everything is perfect" is easily disproven every time anyone complains (reasonably) about anything.

For this reason, it might well be literally impossible to have a complete and true utopia as long as it is defined as such, since all it takes is two people with mutually-exclusive desires to make the utopia impossible.

For example, I roll my eyes at "anti-gun" people, I believe that being allowed to open-carry firearms is necessary to a safe society, and I absolutely hate it that my state cracks down on firearms - I really don't care what anti-gun people think. For me, a utopia simply cannot ban open-carry of firearms. But I know that someone else might freak out every time they see me with a firearm, and they might (irrationally, in my opinion, but my opinion is irrelevant to this person) think I'm going to rob them; for this person, a utopia simply cannot include people open-carrying firearms. Our utopias are mutually exclusive. Therefore, if we use a definition wherein the neighborhood is perfect for both of us, our neighborhood utopia is not possible.

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    $\begingroup$ Funny note: I expect my answer here to get fewer up-votes because of how critical it is of StackExchange, yet people disagreeing with me on this only proves that point all the more. If anyone down-votes because of my first section, they are proving that first section correct. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 6 '17 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ Ahh, so if I upvote I disagree?! $\endgroup$ – aslum Sep 6 '17 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @aslum Funny ;) However, if p -> q does not imply if ^p -> ^q, so no. Unfortunately, there is no way to logically, successfully disagree with a correct proof of counter-example. The problem here is with defining a utopia by terms of perfection. If we instead defined a utopia as just "a really good state where the average happiness per person is maximized," then things would be different and you might be able to accuse me of a "No true Scottsman" fallacy. As it stands, asserting "Everything is perfect" is easily disproven every time anyone complains (reasonably) about anything. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 6 '17 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that a utopia precludes the need for self-defense (as it would always be perfectly safe to go outside), but I get that's your point. $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 7 '17 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Azor-Ahai Perhaps. I suppose that, if " a state where *everything* is perfect" literally means everything, as in, even the animals will not attack you, then yes, there may be no need for self-defense. I took "everything" to mean "everything within the sphere of influence of the state you are calling a utopia," meaning animals still attack, and even neighbors from a non-utopic state may attack. Your state is perfect, but does that mean every aspect of life is perfect? This is why I don't like arguing semantics, and why, despite my answer, dislike debates based on such strict definitions. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 8 '17 at 13:55

Building on @sphennings answer (which I upvoted):

Another rather large problem is communities like StackExchange do give some visibility and "prizes", but those are completely "moral" things.

You cannot buy an ice cone with its "reputation" points.

If rewards for work would be more "substantial" the site would experience all sort of attempts to bend its rules.

A few examples:

  • competition would be fierce and current fair-play rarer (e.g.: would I have started this post in the way I did? I'm speaking about different things, after all, why acknowledge?)
  • a (large) subset of users would coordinate to upvote their "work" (either questions or answers) and downvote everything else.
  • you could have vote trading.
  • editing privileges could be used to subtly deface "competitors".
  • moderators have a very high power, wouldn't they be tempted to use it (for their own use)?

Sorry, I do insist: Utopias are something that won't work in the real world, probably ever. It is much better to accept there are certain impulses and try to create rules to constrain them without strangling the society.

The idea man (or woman, of course) is essentially "good" and it is external influence that makes him "bad" has been proven false over and over again throughout all History.

It might be we will "evolve" into something capable of giving rise to Utopias, but that may take as much as it took to arrive here (about a billion years) and we won't be "humankind" anymore.

  • $\begingroup$ There is little to no evidence that utopias are fundimentally impossible. Of course, it's also true that there is little to no evidence that utopias are possible. My point though, is the overreliance on the phrase "it can't work in real life!" or "It just can't be possible!" just comes off, for me atleast, as naive, pointless and tripe. Before probably every single great breakthrough in human progress, people vehemently believed the thing in question was impossible to achieve, be it going to the Moon, aircrafts, democracy, etc. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Sep 6 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @AngelPray: I might have been a bit too terse. As I pointed out in another answer the fundamental problem with most utopias (actually that's the reason we call them in that way) is they, in some way, try to disregard (or suppress) some part of our current set of instincts, often ingrained since before fishes decided to colonize land. This will never work in practice, at least for extended periods of time. Sometime those instincts are "obsolete" in current society, but that doesn't change the facts. $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Sep 6 '17 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ On second thought I suppose we might have different definitions of what constitutes a utopia. But regardless, while it is true that essentially every plan for a Utopia that I've seen does suffer from that flaw to varying degrees, there is no reason to believe that a Utopia would necessarily require the elimination of a basic human instinct or quality to be possible. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Sep 6 '17 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AngelPray: agreed. Actually the fact we have no news of anybody older than a about 130 years it doesn't mean it cannot be done. I just won't hold my breath. You're probably right also about divergence in definition of "utopia" itself. In my book it essentially means exactly that: some nice plan that doesn't take human nature into account; I guess this may be seen as a bit tautological. Anyways I always try to explain why, IMHO, a specific plan won't work (i.e.: it is a "proper" Utopia). $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Sep 6 '17 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling: that's ok, but if some real interest (read: money) would have been involved the algorithms would need to be able to demonstrate fraudulent behavior or they would have to be to be disabled to avoid legal suits. SE can do whatever because we are just playing, but if those rules are forced on everybody (as OP implies) then you can't change rules at will (and I bet rules won't be "neutral" anymore). $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Sep 6 '17 at 20:38

The existing answers do a great job of explaining the difference between optional and compulsory systems, but I'd like to take a different approach.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the question is that the token economy (like Stack Exchange) is a frequent dystopian trope. Just one recent example.

Invariably, the system is rigged in some fashion or other by whoever awards the 'points' (tokens) or otherwise sets the bar. There are classic sci-fi novels where your standing in society is a essentially a function of how many twitter/instagram/youtube subscribers you have. So no, the created society would almost certainly be dystopian, not utopian. Of course, many dystopias are wolves in utopian sheep's clothes.

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    $\begingroup$ "Of course, many dystopias are wolves in utopian sheep's clothes." Well said! Plus one for an extremely valid point. $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 7 '17 at 9:41

I'm defining utopia as a society characterised, at heart, by peace. Free from suffering/poverty/lack of opportunity, absence of war, etc.

Well, a simple way to get there is to murder all the poor, the angry, the violent, everyone with IQ below say 130, etc, and after a short period of inconvenience, your definition of a utopia should apply.

The best utopias are opt-in only. That avoids the "getting rid of everyone who disagrees" phase...

It's meritocratic, and offers incentives for its citizens to improve and take a more active part in the community

"Meritocratic" needs clarification. Here the metric is votes. This could result in several things: the best answer can be selected. But it can also be the most flattering to the readers, or the most consensual. It can also be completely wrong, if most people are wrong on the subject. For example, asking if the earth was round (or how to cure an infection) 1500 years ago would most likely not have resulted in the right answer... There is a lot of subjectivity in this process.

In other words, this could stifle innovation, because by definition a new idea isn't part of the consensus.

On the other hand, sharing ideas provokes new ideas.

I would say that this system works well for determining what the common (acceptable, and fashionable) knowledge is about a given topic at a given point in time. Also useful for solving specific problems. But definitely not the free-thinking utopia you envision.

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    $\begingroup$ I will accept that you are likely joking, but it still needs to be said that murdering those who you believe to be holding back the utopia is going to, by definition, take you farther away from utopia; at least for the current generation and maybe another 1 or 2 generations after. Being murdered does not sound perfect to me. And then there's the whole thing where you have now created a Billion angry, violent people because you murdered a Million angry, violent people. That said, your opt-in point is likely right on. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 6 '17 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, but you gotta admit utopias have a certain tendency to result in mass murder when their implementation involves coercing people into them. By definition, if it is such a perfect and desirable utopia, then it is worth killing for. It's self-defeating... $\endgroup$ – bobflux Sep 6 '17 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ ...or, if it is opt-in, say a group of hippies decide to live according to their ideals while bothering absolutely no-one, at some point the Govt will step in and force them to pay taxes and other inconveniences... $\endgroup$ – bobflux Sep 6 '17 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ I see; I think I misunderstood your intention. I thought perhaps you were joking, but it sounds like it was more sarcasm. "if it is so perfect... then it is worth killing for" which you then clarify with "It's self-defeating." I agree. Your next comment about opt-in is, very unfortunately and sadly, probably true. Another answer suggested that "packing up and moving is harder than typing a different url," but for some people packing up and moving simply is not possible, or at least not feasible, making opt-in a difficult requirement. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 6 '17 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's exactly what I meant. I would even go as far as saying that since an utopia is perfect, coercing others into it is for their own good! Again, self-defeating ;) $\endgroup$ – bobflux Sep 6 '17 at 18:24

Stack exchange is not a utopia

Consider this situation: You walk into a room to speak to someone, a group of other people stand around you. You ask a question, the people around you discuss whether it's appropriate to ask that question in that room. They decide it isn't and shut you down.

Consider another situation: You walk into a room and say "Hi, how are you?" A group of people around you inform you that this question has been asked before, you cannot ask it again and should check previous responses.

Stack Exchange has a purpose to its design, which means there are situations where the system would work. There's a story told of meetings during the Manhattan project where a question would be asked. Each person round the table would, in turn, give an answer, then from the answers given, one would be selected as the way to proceed. There would be no raised voices, no attempt to persuade beyond the giving of the answer. Can you imagine meetings like that? How much more time could you spend actually getting on with important things rather than pandering to the guy who hasn't read the documents.

The system works here because it's not real time. There's a question, the question is considered for its merits and answers are considered. The answer can be given hours, days or even months later, then the answers are then considered on their merits. They can also be re-considered months and years later and referred back to. People tend to get quite upset when you refer back to things they said or did years earlier, they usually prefer it to be forgotten.

  • $\begingroup$ I think, your initial examples are way off: Stack exchange is quite close to a utopia for technical people seeking answers to their technical questions (and for professionals seeking for interesting answers they might wish to answer). It's features like the absence of inappropriate questions, or the linking of questions to previously asked ones that make SE more of a utopia to these people! (Of course, it's still quite far from being a real utopia: An answer has to be much better than a previous answer with positive votes to be able to overtake it. I call this a self-amplification bias.) $\endgroup$ – cmaster - reinstate monica Sep 8 '17 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @cmaster, not so much way off as deliberately provocative. Our social judgement is public, as is our control of what people are or are not allowed to say and where they're allowed to say it. For what SE is, that's correct, but as a model for a society it's distinctly dystopian. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 8 '17 at 12:38

Utopias are essentially imposed. They are accepted as workable and generally beneficial by their subjects. Note that, although Utopias are imposed upon their subjects, this is not resented. Utopias require an element of docility and compliance, which is possibly unrealistic considering human nature.

Stack Exchange allows people to subscribe in, and if they feel being part of Stack Exchange is worthwhile, and personally rewarding, they will stay, but Stack Exchange is not government and is effectively selective, although the members in practice select themselves.

People, generally, do not have a great say in the society that they find themselves in. Some societies are undoubtedly better than others, but all societies have conventions of normality, and acceptable ranges of behaviours which are recognised as acceptable beyond that. Individuals, being individuals, are likely to consider what is personally acceptable to them slightly differently. Individuals form friendships with others who think similarly and groups form in which peer pressure develops a common culture. Schisms form.

It really all comes down to:

a. Peoples ability to get on with each other and,

b. Peoples inability to get on with each other.

The answer is NO.


Stack Exchange has one major flaw, that becomes most obvious in the Stack Overflow community (and maybe others I don't know), which I would call the "Reign of the stupid"

In Stack Overflow I hold the silver medal "Tenacious" badge, which is rewarded for having a certain amount of accepted answers with zero upvotes. What does that mean?

There are questions that I correctly answered, others however did not accept that answer as correct, even though it was. In a particular case for example someone required a solution for a threading problem that I provided, and - beside that I was correct and everyone could have tested that - the other community members downvoted my answer, and added various comments on how this just couldn't be right. It turned out that they were all wrong.

Now as a result I (and many other people in the same situation) loose interest in providing professional knowledge (for free) to help other people, if you always have to work your way through a wall of disbelieve first. Essentially, over time, people like me stop answering questions, and as a direct result the average level of expertise drops slightly. That also means that the amount of people that downvote out of ignorance increased slightly. Let that run for a few years, and the average level of expertise has decreased substantially, while the amount of 'blocker Lemmings' as I like to call them has increased. At a certain ratio the whole system will either stabilize (when it is still useful) or fall apart (if it no longer is useful in that state).

You can see similar effects in feedback/suggestion forums of games, in company management, or even in Democracy itself (take the social justice warriors as example). Eventually, simply because they are the majority, the stupid will degrade any system, unless there is an incentive for the "smart" to endure them, and constantly fix the damage they do.

Because of that any Utopia is doomed to fail, if stupid people are allowed to rule (see Dunning-Kruger effect). And it will also fail, if those people are suppressed by a group of elitists, because either the elitist group degenerates out of arrogance, or the stupid become rebellious. The only Utopia that can sustain, is one where the average person is above the level of intelligence required to understand that you don't understand everything and never will.

  • $\begingroup$ I like it, delegating the minimum purpose of government requires the members of society to accept that the purposes are needed and that others are better suited. On SO the problem is that the system does not actively correct errors if it even find them and mediocrity wins. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Sep 9 '17 at 20:13

The main problem with utopias is that they are populated by fanciful, farcical, fallen humanity. The structure of a society is important, and endless attempts have been made to find the best one, but it's always those pesky primates who ruin everything.

As an example, I recall I read through some unsuccessful candidacies for people wanting to become wikipedia administrators. I was at once amused and appalled by the cliquishness, pettiness, and overall peevishness revealed therein. You can see for yourself:


All that said, sure you could give it a shot. These kinds of community reputation-based sites do have their virtues in a grassroots democracy sort of way. They have their characteristic weaknesses, too. A dash of groupthink, potential over-puissance of strong personalities, and in the case of this site, you might find a lack of flexibility to new ideas which don't fit existing rules and guidelines.

Take this with a massive boulder of rock salt... I'm new here. ;D

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    $\begingroup$ That's the full list of unsuccessful adminship candidacies. I wonder if you could cite any examples to more clearly make your point? $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Sep 7 '17 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ Dear @Wildcard ... I went through a bunch of them in a spurt of horrified fascination; afraid it'd be hard to find any exact one. Look for ones where one person has had several unsuccessful attempts (they're in alpha order, so easy to find). $\endgroup$ – akaioi Sep 8 '17 at 14:54

Stackexchange is based on good-faith participation: over time, it has defined itself and its own rules, and formed a community around it. If someone wants to opine and not answer a question, it's not the site for them. There is, for the most part, a single agenda for the site that everyone is on board with, otherwise, they don't traffic the site. If they're not answering the question at hand, they are either simply not visiting the site, or not answering, or trolling, and being moderated.

Politics, on the other hand, could theoretically implicate all aspects of life.

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. ~ Pericles

You are involved in politics whether you like it or not. You can't leave your country to enter another without a visa-- that's politics. You can't do whatever you want without risking arrest and imprisonment because of laws. You have to pay taxes (libertarian critiques aside).

Politics is not just a forum, discussion, or debate club; it's the potholes on the street, the police cruiser catching speeders, the bridge being built, the tax you pay, the war your country is waging. These are all activities taking place in the real world, alongside people's opinions and lawmaker's debates. The stackexchange model doesn't provide for any of this. As a model of a utopia, it doesn't provide for much at all.

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    $\begingroup$ "Politics: the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power." —New Oxford American Dictionary Penal codes, economic codes, infrastructure maintenance are not "politics." They are certainly influenced by it, but economic ignorance has more impact on your life than political debates per se. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Sep 7 '17 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Wildcard That is splitting hairs. Look at the end of your definition: "parties having or hoping to achieve power." Power over what? Over penal codes, economic codes, etc.. These things are part of the "governance of a country" seen at the beginning of that definition. Concerning your last statement: political debates, and the legislation that comes from them, affect my life more than economic ignorance. I grind my own wheat and drink water; I care little for economics, but I care a ton about what I am or am not allowed to do, and I'm legally barred from doing a lot of peaceful activities. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Jan 5 '18 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron Point taken. The proper supercategory is really “administration,” which includes laws, penal codes, economic codes, and even politics (in all senses) as specialized subcategories, along with accounting and other elements that do indeed affect everyone’s life. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Jan 5 '18 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Wildcard where do laws, penal codes, and economic codes originate from in your country? $\endgroup$ – user151841 Jan 6 '18 at 18:56

Nope. Certain stack exchange websites just don't work that well. There's no way for you to ask for clarification on someone else's problem if you're below around 20 privilege. That means that people who need this site the most are forced to break the rules to get their questions and answers heard. This seems like a minor detail, but wars have been fought over far less.

Starting out your utopia with a class of people who feel they're ignored is probably not a good idea.


The short answer is, although Stack Exchange is wonderfully designed and extremely useful, it is not a model for utopia because there is no such thing as Utopia.

There can not be any utopian society without unlimited resources and information. Since humanity is limited in knowledge and power, that can't happen.

There can be no utopia because one man's heaven is another's hell.

When people try to create Utopia, they create a special kind of living hell and millions die. Names like Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, and Hitler were made famous by trying to achieve a utopia. The dreamer says "If we just would eliminate these people here, then we will be in Utopia!"


No. Even leaving aside the question of how well Stack Exchange fills its current purpose, and how well it would survive the conversion to reality, you have misjudged the fundamental structure of the Stack network from the beginning. It is a dictatorship - or, at best, an oligarchy, run by the owners and employees of the company. It it a largely enlightened dictatorship/oligarchy, with some interesting ideas on how to maintain effectiveness and morale, but at the end of the day, it is constantly having to adjust to reality, and the people who make the final decisions on how to adjust are essentially governmental. This whole reputation system is essentially a decoration on top of the real power structure, and is beholden to it.

As far as forms of government go, true enlightened dictatorships work very well... and they last until the dictator either is replaced by someone not so enlightened or becomes not so enlightened themselves, at which point things generally get pretty unfortunate.

  • $\begingroup$ You have also voiced the reason why sometimes the rules do not make sense. The fact that many are accepting of the top down governing process even in the META discussions is a bit of a puzzle to me. What makes me sad the most though is the fact that our part in this is not honestly respected as the true content creators but merely as lucky game players. The internet is merely a place to hold content, the tools are always in flux. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Sep 9 '17 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @KalleMP - We accept the top-down governing process because that is the thing that works. Part of my point here is that without the core of dictatorship making course corrections, "the principles of stack exchange" would likely turn into a dystopia pretty quickly. It is only because there is no true power for the users to aspire to that the system works as well as it does. $\endgroup$ – Ben Barden Sep 11 '17 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ true we accept this for lack of alternatives if we understand the limitations or due to ignorance of the true source of power. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Sep 11 '17 at 20:55

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