My question is how long a utopia would last until the community inside of it consider it normal, or even get bratty about it? I'm starting to write a novel about a mega-building built to have the perfect living conditions (utopia) and the society within it, so I want to consider the lifetime and making it seem real. (moderately)

My current idea is that, within some timeframe around 10-20 years, (also starting to consider something like a generation) the government and civilians start to dislike the building, maybe due to other causes (like corrupt government, unclean conditions, discrimination, etc., ) if there's no reason for the utopia collapse. Hope you guys have some creative insights on this, it's my first post on this forum! :)

Also here's a rough blender model of the building: https://i.sstatic.net/NW8or.jpg

  • $\begingroup$ What would be social structure of your utopia? Without it, any answer would be a wild guess (and I'm afraid still a guess even if we know it). $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't considered that, thanks for that! And yeah, in the end, it's all a guess, as it just depends on the society within the building. (like what user39743 said in his answer) $\endgroup$
    – drbitey
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There was a rash of utopian communities that happened, mainly, in the 19th century and part of the early 20th. While they began with shared ideals held by idealistic people, the communities failed within 10-20 years. Roughly the timescale you anticipated. State-sized pseudo-utopian societies like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge, the People's Republic of China, and, even, the USA have been more variable in their longevity. Bigger may be better for even pseudo-utopias. Pseudo-utopias are societies bound together by high ideals, their reality may be different. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ Hm. a sciety with corrupt government etc. would not be an utopia in my Eyes. But the people will arrange quite fast and will see this as normal within short time. The utopia can collapse if a group of people want to change it, maybe because they want a bigger share of the cake for themselves? Or maybe the outer conditions change, like climate or external politics. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 6:43
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, drbitey. Please note that we strongly encourage users to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer to give all users a chance to see the question and possibly provide a better answer. Also, don't forget to upvote answers you find helpful; you can upvote multiple answers, but only accept one as the answer to your question. If you haven't already, feel free to take the tour to get a better understanding of the site. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 12:27

3 Answers 3


The snarker in me wants to say "about as long as it takes for a baby to become a teenager" ;D

But let's break it down a little further.

Let's make some assumptions (you might want to put some more deets in your question BTW, so I don't have to assume), just to make a game of it. Okay:

  • The designers of the utopia are legit nice guys, this is not some secret tyranny.

  • The physical needs of people and building are fairly well met. Nobody's starving, building is maintained, the community is adequately policed.

  • There's no "unfair underclass" of people who are put down because of religion, or color, or language, and so on.

Okay, what does that leave us to work with?

  • Envy -- Somebody has a better view. Somebody is closer to the hot-water pipes. Humans are pattern-seeing machines; we can construct a pattern, or conspiracy theory, from three data points. Might be some latitude for unrest there. Any inequality -- any inequality -- in lifestyle, education opportunities can be exploited.

  • Jealousy -- Folks want to keep what's theirs. Specifically, you want your kids to have every advantage over the next guy's kids. Guess whose kids will be best situated with opportunity? Yep, the administrators'. Cue envy, above. ;D

  • Social Control -- this is endemic to utopian societies. The founders have a vision, right? They want that vision to endure, right? Well, you have to keep the hoi-polloi in line with the vision. Whether it be with propaganda, taxation, instant executions, or whatever ... The Plan will have some provision to coerce people to follow along with how the Founders believe people should behave. People are smart (pattern-seers, roit?) and will notice that they're being influenced. Some of them will resent it.

  • Changing Conditions -- This is the killer. Utopias are usually designed by angry, bitter philosophers who are furious about the state of the society the came from. So their utopias will be engineered -- dare I say overengineered? -- to combat what they hate most about their current society. Their vision will become less and less relevant to the changing conditions of the building as the years go by. But, per above, is still being enforced. Uh-oh... Ex: Let's say the building was made as an "environmental redoubt" to shelter the remains of the human race and lower its footprint on the world. So extreme recycling and resource rationing is enforced. Over time, as people realize that the world has healed, and is empty, beckoning for recolonization, but the leaders still won't let them out...

  • Out-of-context problem -- Related to changing conditions. What if there's a huge earthquake, which opens huge gaps in the walls? What if solar activity lessens, so the solar panels can't get enough juice? What if the residents can see towns spring up outside the building which look really fun? All these things stress the society.

So ... what does all this add up to?

Honestly, I give it 3 generations, tops. First (founding) generation is full of zeal for the plan. Second generation is used to it; they're not excited about the utopia. It's just boring humdrum life to them. The big problems are all solved, ambitious people are starting to squabble over smaller and smaller stakes. Third generation is restless...

I encourage you to check out "The Fourth Turning", which posits a generational clock in American society!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! I hadn't considered those types of changing conditions, and agree with your end answer. I had also dismissed the idea of multiple generations due to the thought that it just seemed WAY too long, but now that you give some context that I didn't think about, I'm gonna think a lot more about that plan. I'll make sure to read the book when I can, too, thanks for the recommendation! $\endgroup$
    – drbitey
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 21:56

Well it all depends on the type of people there. Are they all trained to know no other way than this utopia from birth? Even if they are, it will be a relatively short time, I'd say about 50 years, until a person realizes what humanity once was and wants out. It's human nature that we don't want to be boxed in. However, if the utopia was designed to make it feel open, this might be avoided. Thing is, the perfect utopia for the entire population is almost impossible to create. But I'd say that someone has to deal with the dirty work, it can't all be machines. They would probably revolt, seen in isaac Asimov's story 'strikebreaker'.


I'd say the utopia becomes broken after a few weeks. Utopias for humans are inherently unstable systems because any small disturbance out of perfection sends it from being the utopia you imagined. Your city might not be burning after a few weeks but there would already be social constructs that makes the whole system somewhat uneven. There would be groups that form with social ladders (even small groups of friends usually have some hierarchy of social power), people would be gossiping to gain social status. Small things would be left out or exaggerate for personal gains. All of which destroys the whole concepts of the utopian society.

The corruption would start small as people start from an even playing field but as social structures form, people are going to gain power over others. Larger forms of corruption within systems are going to come out because any greedy system will gain positive feedback. This means any imperfect human nature will manifest itself and then spread within the whole community if it can gain something. People who abuse this will generally become better off just from the fact that if others don't know and there are no laws against it, anything they can use to gain power will be used.

To combat the runaway effects of the greedy system that is human nature in our own society we have laws for the greater good of everyone. However laws introduce bureaucracy and imperfect systems of laws eventually becomes corrupted anyways as those with power within the law can abuse it for their own gains. Due to the imperfect nature of humans, laws become complex to fix all the loopholes and in the end you don't get what people consider an utopia. However even if you had enough rules and they are perfect, your utopia general looks more like a dystopia than anything else. The creation of a lot of rules to cover all the cases that people can abuse just restricts individual freedom to the point of eventually making everyone like a robot.

If your system is adaptive with governments like ours and some very basic levels of social support and motivations then it can be stable for a long time even if there are cases of corruption. However if there is fundamental problems with your initial government and it does not adapt the the sentiments of the people, then it becomes a problem very quickly. There are government systems in countries with power struggles and no governments or even system of government last more than a couple years. As long as the public perceives that the current system is better than any easy alternatives then you can keep the system going. Either by artificially making other systems hard gain support by actively destroying rebellious people/idea or by making your system decent enough that most people aren't active looking for alternatives.


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