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Dystopia Is What Results from the Attempt to Create Utopia (kirkcenter.org)
236 points by unquote 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 212 comments



I don't strongly disagree on any particular point, per se, but the fact that the author's thoughts are rooted in a religious worldview felt like it was snuck in there at the end:

"Moreover, this world is fallen, so it is by nature flawed...The utopian visions that animate real places...seek to remake humanity and society in someone’s image—and that is not the image of the Creator."

For further context, the website it's on is "The Russel Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal"; from its Wikipedia page: "The Center is known for promoting traditionalist conservatism and regularly publishing Studies in Burke and His Time and The University Bookman, the oldest conservative book review in the United States."

Not that these things invalidate it necessarily, but they're important context to place it in.

Overall I'd say the article is more an argument about semantic nuance than a grand social commentary. Probably a valid semantic critique, but nonetheless.


From the article: Two key identifying marks of dystopia are social regimentation and an inevitable totalitarianism.

"Conform or be cast out." --Rush, Subdivisions, Signals, 1982

"Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences."

From the article: Next, dystopia is marked by dehumanization

How one tweet can ruin your life | Jon Ronson -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIP6fI0NAI

From the article: The abuse of technology is another characteristic of dystopia.

Google. Facebook.

From the article: Next, dystopia empowers a new class of rulers and uses propaganda and state terror to maintain the power of the regime...The ultimate result of dystopia can be seen in the tragedy of an individual.

Instead of only relying on state terror, there is a new brand of current day authoritarianism which is trying to use non-state power through media, social media, and non-governmental civic groups. The new twist is to erode freedom of speech, but not have it be technically illegal, because the government isn't doing it. The new twist is to erode due process and presumption of innocence, but it's not technically illegal, because trial by public opinion and media isn't a judicial process. The new twist is to disenfranchise people, but not in person, only online and in social media, because it's not "technically illegal." However, all of the above violates various principles of individual rights in spirit. To me, they are all dishonest means of having coercive, authoritarian effects on people at large, without being "technically illegal."

People who actually believe in universal principles of human rights don't try and coerce people. People who actually believe in those principles actually try to convince people, and when they can't convince, they listen. It's authoritarians who have succumbed to groupthink who seek to use power to coerce people into acquiescence. In my life experience, it's only those who believe another group are less than human, who give up dialogue and trying to convince.


There's a story in the news today about a Coast Guard lieutenant with extreme political views who was planning to go on an Anders Breivik style murder spree. Your model doesn't seem to include people who have zero interest in dialogue or persuasion and are willing to simply eliminate people they find disagreeable. Regrettably, it's not hard to find people who subscribe to eliminationist ideologies, and having found them it is not difficult to figure out the content of such ideologies.

At what point do you consider the listening process sufficient for conclusions to be drawn, or any other action to be taken? If all you do is gather data and you never analyze or act upon it, what use is it?


> At what point do you consider the listening process sufficient for conclusions to be drawn, or any other action to be taken

At the point where you have sufficient evidence to charge them with "conspiracy to commit X", where X is a non-speech crime.


A conspiracy requires 2 or more people. I am guessing you were using the term loosely but the problem is many cases fall into a gray area. This coast guard guy I mentioned was arrested on drug abuse charges as a legal convenience, but on currently available information, seems to have operated alone in the furtherance of his criminal plan.

Prosecutors like conspiracy charges because it provides evidence of intent. Otherwise any amount of preparation for commission of a crime could be spun in court as harmless curiosity. A common example of this is where people get caught with child pronography and claim they were just trying to research the topic. I know of a person in an extremist political group who was found by police to have a pile of explosives in the garage and was able to explain it away by claiming it was for model rocketry.

The bottom line is that that some people have intentions to do harm at scale, but intentions are tricky to prove, and surveillance sufficiently good to interrupt harmful acts is expensive to deploy. That's why law enforcement uses entrapment strategies so often, although these are problematic int heir own way because they can tilt into encouraging criminal behavior rather than merely detecting it.

This is challenging because few criminals say 'I, John Doe, intend to commit [crime] at [time and place] and I'm 100% serious' in unambiguous fashion. Many obvious-seeming criminal threats are little more than nasty trolling, and although that is a crime it doesn't make it any easier to identify non-confessor criminals. On the other hand someone can legally acquire significant destructive capacity and widely broadcast opinions that correlate with but do not constitute intent, like longitudinal hostility to some individual or group, but you may not be able to formally demonstrate the existence of intent until the crime is actually committed even when there's a preponderance of evidence to suggest it ahead of time.


Let's rephrase it as "when they act in furtherance to committing a crime", then (i.e. the definition of conspiracy sans requiring multiple people).

And yes, it does mean that you won't catch all such people, only most. It's the case of diminishing returns - you have to radically increase surveillance and police state intrusiveness to go after fewer and fewer people, while also affecting more and more people who aren't actually violent.


That's all true, but only considers state-criminal relations. I urge reconsidering this from the point of view of political conflict rather than simple criminology.


But this story is about state-criminal relations - people like these are terrorists, and we have laws against terrorism, so it's just the matter of enforcing those laws.

If you mean, when one should start worrying about one's political opponents, the answer is, and always has been - as soon as their support starts growing for any reason. In that sense, the time for anybody on the left to worry about right-wing extremist politics has been many years ago, as was the time to translate it into action (i.e. vote strategically to defeat them as the highest priority).


That's true, but it's often not so clear-cut, nor does it line up with electoral goals or established political parties in many contexts.


I regret that I have but one upvote to give.


One thing nobody seems to be putting a lot of attention on is how what he wrote was in a draft.

It was not sent, it was not finalized, it was a thought he laid down in what we can likely presume to be gmail and never hit send.

Is this just normal now?


Your model doesn't seem to include people who have zero interest in dialogue or persuasion and are willing to simply eliminate people they find disagreeable.

I see this time and time again: Instead of engaging with dissenters, forums, groups of all kinds just evict people who are perfectly willing to talk. In principle, that's also acting to "simply eliminate people they find disagreeable." Often, it turns out that saying, "freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences," turns out to be a way to "find people who subscribe to eliminationist ideologies." They are not as bad, by any means. Instead of using bullets, they might use accusations and namecalling instead. In the past few years, people claiming to be on the Left have even used clubs, vandalism, and assault.

At what point do you consider the listening process sufficient for conclusions to be drawn, or any other action to be taken?

Certainly someone who reaches the level of Anders Breivik's extremism is beyond talking to. However, it's the height of arrogance and immorality to treat people who are perfectly willing to talk as if they are him. What I see so much of is the treatment of sincere questions as if they are such extremism.

If all you do is gather data and you never analyze or act upon it, what use is it?

What I see most of, is people not gathering data, not communicating, and eliminating first, asking questions never. "You are either with us, or against us." It stunk to high heaven when George W. Bush said it. It's just as coercive and authoritarian when such tactics are used by others today. (Worse, when it's used by people who are supposed to be against such things!)

If you would fear the unreasonable who are beyond talking to, it behooves you to reach out to those perfectly willing to talk. In fact, I can confidently say that you can find plenty of common ground, if you look hard enough. In 2019, in the current climate, the easy, facile thing to do is to give into the outrage mongering, your personal information bubble, and the groupthink and othering of the other side.


Ok but if someone is just perfectly willing to talk about how Breivik is a hero and they wish more people would have the guts to do what he did it is of course not the same as actually doing what Breivik did but it seems sort of not worth talking to either, like if Breivik were the enemy of life they would be providing aid and comfort to the enemy without ever actually going out and shooting a bunch of people.


People who will do violence in support of their political beliefs are in the wrong. People who support people who do violence should be questioned, regardless of where on the political spectrum they lie, or whether they are an "your side" or the "other." The people who are going around in masks, with clubs and guns committing assaults and other violent crimes need to be recognized as the terrorists and proto-terrorists they are. The media that preferentially cover one side over another, and people who give their tacit support to such things need to be called out as well.

What disturbs me the most, are the people who are supposed to be peace-loving giving their tacit support to such political violence and intimidation. The remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk. It's when people feel like they can't talk, that they seek more extreme means.


The people who are going around in masks, with clubs and guns committing assaults and other violent crimes need to be recognized as the terrorists and proto-terrorists they are.

And my question to you is what you do about people like that.

The remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk. It's when people feel like they can't talk, that they seek more extreme means.

[Citation needed]

There are lots of extremists who have little to no difficulty in getting their opinions off their chest and who continue to maintain or escalate their extremist views. You whole theory seems to be that people just need an opportunity to vent their feels and that will cause aggressive or atrocious feelings to subside. This may work great in therapeutic contexts but I'm not willing to accept that it holds true in the world at large. Look at all the people recruited by ISIS; why didn't they just vent their feelings and then go back to their everyday lives?


You whole theory seems to be that people just need an opportunity to vent their feels and that will cause aggressive or atrocious feelings to subside.

No. However, not letting people speak will make it more likely that they will feel there are no other options for them. That's just common sense. If you take away an option, people feel they have one less option.

This may work great in therapeutic contexts but I'm not willing to accept that it holds true in the world at large.

You're conflating the therapeutic context with the societal context. Sure, therapy is probabilistic, with no guarantees for any given individual. Effectively, you have been straw-manning by conflating the two. In the US, we can vote. We have freedom of speech. This is a big reason why we can resolve differences and exchange power without violence. If you make people feel they only "technically" have freedom of speech, but not really, then they resort to violence. This is just history.

Your conflating the therapeutic context feeds into a narrative your'e pushing about certain people being irredeemable. Certainly, certain individuals in a therapeutic context aren't going to be easily redeemable, if at all. That doesn't mean that entire groups or swathes of the political spectrum or cohorts of political populations should be treated as irredeemable. That way lies madness. The endpoint of that is either violence or camps. However, it is convenient to do such conflating, if one wants to tar a particular subgroup for political reasons.

I don't speak up for extremists. I speak against extremists. There is a widespread manipulation across society and the media where mainstream/fairly centrist people are being tarred as extremists. This too is being prosecuted by extremists.


No. However, not letting people speak will make it more likely that they will feel there are no other options for them. That's just common sense. If you take away an option, people feel they have one less option.

Good thing that I am not making such an argument then. But you have asserted that 'the remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk,' and I would like evidence for that claim, which I don't think is unreasonable.

Sure, therapy is probabilistic, with no guarantees for any given individual. Effectively, you have been straw-manning by conflating the two.

You're attributing an awful lot of statements to me that I haven't made. How can I be conflating therapeutic and societal contexts when I distinguished between them in the first place, and agreed that your approach might function well in the therapeutic context?

Your conflating the therapeutic context feeds into a narrative your'e pushing about certain people being irredeemable.

I don't have opinions about redemption, I observe that some people express violent animus against others within an ideological framework and then go on and commit violence much as they said they wanted to do. That this happens is an empirical fact, and you don't seem to have any strategy for dealing with it. Earlier on in your post, you said:

In the US, we can vote. We have freedom of speech. This is a big reason why we can resolve differences and exchange power without violence.

But there is already a lot of political violence in the US and it includes a lot of murders. Many of the people committing said murders had a presence on social media where there stated approval of political violence were variously tolerated, shared, or encouraged, even if they were unpopular with the public at large. Do you have any strategy for dealing with this beyond listening to people talk?


But you have asserted that 'the remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk

In that case, I expressed myself incorrectly. There is no guaranteed remedy for such people in a therapeutic sense. From a political sense, we know that societies where people can express themselves have an outlet. It's more correct to say that free speech is a preventative factor, while suppressing free speech is an aggravating one. Homicidal lone crazies will always latch onto political issues. They seem to latch onto the political issues which are surrounded by outrage. Squashing free speech exacerbates this.

But there is already a lot of political violence in the US and it includes a lot of murders.

1) Eliminate other forms of political intimidation and violence. These are aggravating factors to political murder.

2) Encourage Free Speech and prohibit de-platforming.

3) Encourage objective journalism

4) Find out the other reasons why the segments of the population that feel disenfranchised feel that way

Many of the people committing said murders had a presence on social media where there stated approval of political violence were variously tolerated, shared, or encouraged

Like the doxxing and harassment encouraged by prominent celebrities and journalists on Twitter? The fact that there's no consequences for them from Twitter is encouraging extremism in two different ways.

Do you have any strategy for dealing with this beyond listening to people talk?

Letting people express themselves is vital to a free society which can regulate power without violence. Letting people talk has to be a part of any strategy. There will always be lone crazies. I'm a lot more concerned about large numbers of crazies suppressing speech, taking over campuses, taking over downtown Portland, and wearing masks while committing crimes meant to cause political intimidation by the hundreds of incidents.


Weird how everyone you disagree with you tag as crazy and all concerns about murders are folded into 'there will always be lone crazies' as if their motives were inscrutable. You sure have an odd set of priorities.


Weird how everyone you disagree with you tag as crazy

If their disagreement comes in the form of de-platforming, evidence-free defamatory tarring, and violence, then yes, I would say they're in this "crazy" category. This certainly fits

all concerns about murders are folded into 'there will always be lone crazies' as if their motives were inscrutable

Do ideologies cause crazies, or do crazies latch onto ideologies? If it's the former, then we should be more concerned about the Far Left variant! (See below)

You sure have an odd set of priorities.

Only if you weight things by mainstream media coverage and history going back 3 decades. However, if you look at what's actually happening in the past few years, there were twice as many killings by Far Left extremists as Far Right extremists in the US, along with several hundreds of incidents of Far Left political violence. Of course, I'm much more concerned about the extremism which is more frequently violent which is somehow getting a free pass with the US media. Should I be more concerned about a lone crazy who was caught and who everyone already knows to be bad, or more concerned about legions of violent crazies (many of whom march openly with semi-auto rifles) who seem to be getting a free pass and propaganda work done on their behalf?


However, if you look at what's actually happening in the past few years, there were twice as many killings by Far Left extremists as Far Right extremists in the US

That is not true, or anything close to true. I cannot imagine why you would say make such abundantly false claims, and I challenge you to identify any of these 'far left extremists' or their victims. I also reject your dismissal of all who commit such extreme violence as 'crazies' which suggests they are not in the full possession of their mental faculties and is often referred to as a 'no true scotsman' fallacy.

I can easily point out specific right wing examples of extreme violence, most notably the guy shot shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people just a couple of months ago.


>> However, if you look at what's actually happening in the past few years, there were twice as many killings by Far Left extremists as Far Right extremists in the US

> That is not true, or anything close to true.

Source: Forbes.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/08/21/which-ideol...

"Left Wing terrorists killed only 23 people in terrorist attacks during this time, about 0.7% of the total number of murders, but 13 since the beginning of 2016. Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists have only killed five since then, including Charlottesville."

So if you go back historically, across many decades, Right Wing terrorists have killed vastly more people. However in just the past few years, Left Wing terrorists have been outpacing Right Wing terrorists in domestic US killings by 2 to 1.


The synagogue shooter was a leftist who hated Trump and pretty much quotes Farrakhan.


I see this time and time again: Instead of engaging with dissenters, forums, groups of all kinds just evict people who are perfectly willing to talk. In principle, that's also acting to "simply eliminate people they find disagreeable."

Er...I was asking what you do about people who are willing or even enthusiastic about killing others, and I think this is qualitatively different from exclusionary behavior. 'Eliminationist' may not be the most semantically optimal term but it's the prevailing one to describe ideologies that accommodate or promote things like mass murder or genocide.

Certainly someone who reaches the level of Anders Breivik's extremism is beyond talking to. However, it's the height of arrogance and immorality to treat people who are perfectly willing to talk as if they are him. What I see so much of is the treatment of sincere questions as if they are such extremism.

But lots of people with eliminationist ideologies are perfectly willing to talk, because they wish to recruit and promote their ideological viewpoint. Perhaps you could furnish examples of what sort of sincere questions you see 'being treated as if they are such extremism'.

What I see most of, is people not gathering data, not communicating, and eliminating first, asking questions never.

It's also possible that this is a function of your perspective and you're simply not looking in the right places. I can't help feeling that you're avoiding answering the question by simply restating your opinion over and over - 'outrage mongering' 'information buble' 'groupthink' etc.

I get that you think this is a big problem, but while you acknowledge the existence of extremists who put their ideology into violent action, it sounds like you just don't know what to do about those people so you just omit them from your model of productive discourse and are then surprised when people critique your model.


I was asking what you do about people who are willing or even enthusiastic about killing others, and I think this is qualitatively different from exclusionary behavior.

In our distant past, exclusion from the group may well have meant death. This is why our emotions are tuned as they are. We feel exclusion harshly. Conversely, when we exclude, we are acting from quite a harsh place. It's not as far from violence and killing as we'd like to think.

But lots of people with eliminationist ideologies are perfectly willing to talk, because they wish to recruit and promote their ideological viewpoint.

I'm a bit more concerned about people with eliminationist ideologies who pretend their ideologies aren't eliminationist. Yet they support mobs who would threaten and beat up "wrongthinkers" who come into their neighborhood. Especially if they're supposed to be about equality and peace and love. The historical record isn't very kind to people who espouse peace, love, solidarity, then turn out to just want to kick out and eliminate those they find disagreeable. (And I'm talking about Berkeley, FFS!)

Perhaps you could furnish examples of what sort of sincere questions you see 'being treated as if they are such extremism'.

Questions about the wisdom of "listen and believe" have been treated as "hate speech" instead of as a question relevant to due process and the presumption of innocence it actually is. Questions about the a failure to use non-traditional non-binary pronouns should be treated have in turn been been treated as "hate speech" instead of as a question relevant to how appellations work on campus and in society at large.

It's also possible that this is a function of your perspective and you're simply not looking in the right places. I can't help feeling that you're avoiding answering the question by simply restating your opinion over and over - 'outrage mongering' 'information buble' 'groupthink' etc.

Well, for one thing, outrage mongering needs to be called out. Also, the narrative being artificially propped up by the legacy media is really quite out of touch and needs to be challenged. There is a large fraction of people in legacy media who actively distort the truth and push narratives, while willfully burying certain facts that don't fit their narrative.

I get that you think this is a big problem, but while you acknowledge the existence of extremists who put their ideology into violent action, it sounds like you just don't know what to do about those people

I know what should be done with those people. They should be prosecuted, where there is evidence. Also, the press should be calling out their violence and authoritarian tactics. The latter isn't happening nearly as much as it should. There's a large number of incidences of quite serious violence, which is quite apparently engineered for the purposes of political pressure and silencing. Yet nearly none of the incidences from the Far Left are widely reported on, which means that most of the incidences overall are basically buried or minimized. Something is quite out of whack about that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzF3ND9IUDk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yr_4iR5NOxQ


I've got to say that you sound an awful lot more concerned about anarchists running around Berkeley and giving centrists a hard time in social spaces than you do about the rather large number of murders committed by proponents of some other ideologies.


I've got to say that you sound an awful lot more concerned about anarchists running around Berkeley and giving centrists a hard time in social spaces than you do about the rather large number of murders committed by proponents of some other ideologies.

It's easier for many to be concerned about a radiation leakage in a dramatic incident like Fukushima than about the cumulative radiation released in coal plants, even though the total effect of the latter is orders of magnitude greater. There are well over 600 incidents of violence committed by the Far Left just in the past few years. The widespread phenomenon of tenured college professors being afraid to speak their mind is a part of the same environmental phenomenon. It's not just "anarchists running around Berkeley and giving centrists a hard time in social spaces." The phenomenon is much more widespread and insidious than that.

It's true that historically in the past 30 years or so, the Far Right extremists have the higher death toll. As noted in a Forbes article, violent Far Right extremists have killed far more people than violent Far Left extremists since 1992, the trend has dramatically reversed: "Left Wing terrorists killed only 23 people in terrorist attacks during this time, about 0.7% of the total number of murders, but 13 since the beginning of 2016. Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists have only killed five since then, including Charlottesville."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/08/21/which-ideol...

Imagine what it would be like, if you spoke out against Antifa violence, then got a non-sequitur accusation of racism. Later, you get another such tarring accusation in response to a wedding invite. Later, you talk about this, and a musician you know comes up with the logical gem: Well, you got accused, you must be one! Then he starts in repeating the accusation -- specifically in the context of your wedding. This is the sort of immoral and downright sadistic tactic people like that employ. I know this firsthand.

Are you familiar with what the Antifa goons who attacked the innocent marines who were going to a dance were saying? They were talking like they were stereotypical sadistic KKK bigots as they were beating those men down. Really vile racist stuff. And that's just one incident. That sort of thuggish behavior and language is all over the record of recent history. Let me reiterate, the Far Left side has well over 600 documented incidents to their score, 13 or which were fatal. It's no better if you start talking to them online about their ideology. Really, the best many of them can do is literally, the other side is worse, so we can do nearly equally bad things as them. Start looking deeply into what those "anarchists running around Berkeley giving centrists a hard time" are really like, and what they're really up to.

All toxic extremists are toxic, obviously. Only one side is getting a free pass from the press at this time, however.


Alex Nowrasteh is not any kind of extremism expert and his claims are so unspecific as not to merit discussion. His criteria for inclusion are wildly dishonest, citing BLM as providing motivation for murder even though no BLM discourse or published material advocates attacks on the police. I give up, I feel like I'm reading a comment on Breitbart.


His criteria for inclusion are wildly dishonest, citing BLM as providing motivation for murder even though no BLM discourse or published material advocates attacks on the police.

People marching and carrying BLM banners have been caught on video chanting about killing the police.


It is pretty simple, actually.

All you have to do is judge people on their actions, and let them say (but not act on) whatever they want.

So as long as someone is merely saying words on the internet, or whatever, then that's fine. And if instead, this person is stockpiling illegal weapons, well that's what the police are for.


It's even easier then that. Dont judge anyone, for I am you and you are me. I am my beloved and my beloved is I. We are are neither aleft or alright, we are all one and the same. What is inside yourself is what you will see in the world. Love yourself, for within yourself is Elohim.

All things serve the beam, for all things are Elohim.


I don’t think I’ve grokked that yet.


You are describing the concept of "social norms" and "taboos" and "shunning" in a particularly convoluted and confused way.

You are talking about people being shunned and gossiped about like it is on par with being kidnapped by armed government agents and confined in a cell. Like going to jail or being killed and getting cancelled on twitter are close enough to the same thing that the same philosophical framework applies.

I'd suggest you back up and re-evaluate how you got here.


You are talking about people being shunned and gossiped about like it is on par with being kidnapped by armed government agents and confined in a cell.

So one is bad stuff on the level of violent terrorists and intelligence agencies, and another is bad stuff on the level of mean girls in high school? No disagreement there. Both of those stink. Then, there's bad on the level of groups of people going around in masks, using anonymity to get away with beating people up (1), committing vandalism, and terrorism on a level where universities have to hire $600,000 in security. That's also happening. (Shouldn't this be the sad, tragic legacy of the past?)

Namecalling, exclusion, silencing -- none of these is intellectually worthy. None of these gets us closer to the truth. All they do is fuel and add legitimacy to the unreasonable extremists and prevent the reasonable discussions from being had.

Like going to jail or being killed and getting cancelled on twitter are close enough to the same thing that the same philosophical framework applies.

The common mechanism is the coercion in contrast to convincing. The key concept is that authoritarianism.

I'd suggest you back up and re-evaluate how you got here.

I'm not backing up. It's high time that lots of people stopped backing up and started calling out all the authoritarianism which is supposedly happening in the name of human freedom. It's coercion going against human freedom. If you are really on the side of justice, then when given the opportunity to hear people out and talk, you hear people out and talk. The side of justice, in the end, finally convinces through appeal to universal principle, not through force alone. In the long arc of history, it's clear who uses force alone. (Even in WWII, the victory of military arms would have meant just another war, if it weren't for the demonstration of principles and generosity by the US as victors. The subsequent cold war was won by the truth of our having a better system, not authoritarianism.)

(1 -- Even beating innocent people up, because they are too taken by anger to tell the difference.)


Your plan for rational public debate being used to determine social norms instead of standard social animal behaviour is very flawed.

A lot of people are scared or confused by the fact that the internet and globalization has fractured the mainstream media narrative into multiple narratives and exposed the underlying politics (not "politics" as in "the discourse", I mean "politics" as in "the application of power to allocate resources"). But not much has changed materially, you are just exposed to more personal conversations in public spaces than we used to be. It is weird.

What you are actually seeing happen: politically engaged people are ignoring you or just brushing you aside or even telling you to shut or get lost because you don't matter to them politically. This might be an adjustment for you but no one has to answer your questions or convince you to accept the new consensus. If you mattered to them they would, but you got left behind because you don't.


But not much has changed materially, you are just exposed to more personal conversations in public spaces than we used to be. It is weird.

It is less public conversation, and more "shut up and submit!"

What you are actually seeing happen: politically engaged people are ignoring you or just brushing you aside or even telling you to shut or get lost because you don't matter to them politically.

This is the authoritarian telling the supposed "inferiors" to submit.

This might be an adjustment for you but no one has to answer your questions or convince you to accept the new consensus. If you mattered to them they would, but you got left behind because you don't.

Spoken like any oppressor would have put it. "Just submit and accept. You don't matter, and there's nothing you can do about it." No answering questions on matters of principle. No curiosity about the other side. Just lay back and take it. It's exactly the behavior of the people who are on the "power" side of "speaking truth to power." The long arc of history bends towards justice. In the end, principles will win out over the temporary contextual power of "social consensus." It's what got us here to the most free and prosperous multicultural civilization in all of history in the first place.


You are confusing "there is no debate taking place" with "I am not involved in the debate".

It is happening, it is just happening among people with a different worldview, using different language than you prefer.


You are confusing "there is no debate taking place" with "I am not involved in the debate".

Sounds like you are trying to disenfranchise, or declare people disenfranchised. Sounds like you're just wishing entire swathes of the mainstream/center to disappear, or keep quiet and put up.


Authoritarianism by definition requires a strong central power. Whatever you're talking about isn't authoritarianism.


Authoritarianism by definition requires a strong central power.

This is one of the dishonest absolute tropes which need to be squashed, because it obscures the truth. It's an obfuscation that's as good as a lie. (1) Here's the universal, timeless truth: All power is temporary and contextual. All of history teaches us this. A masked mob dominating the street for a couple of hours clearly has contextual power. The mob that took over Evergreen State College and made the president ask to go to the bathroom had temporary, contextual power.

Authoritarianism just requires power, and all power is temporary and contextual. Silencing speakers just requires this temporary, contextual power. Ruining a life just requires temporary, contextual power. Instilling fear so that people remain silent just requires temporary, contextual power. All of that is authoritarianism. All of that is coercion instead of convincing, and none of that requires the power of a government.

That said, there is plenty of centralized power now being used by corporations and by colluding groups spanning multiple powerful corporations. There is plenty of the corporate power of the purse acting to actively silence people operating in 2019 and recent years.

Whatever you're talking about isn't authoritarianism

Merely wielding power to make people do what you want is authoritarianism. That is what comes of pseudo-activism that never gets beyond grievance and outrage. That is what comes of pseudo-activism that stays in that potentially toxic zone and never gets to the level of universal and unifying principles. That's the dishonest ideology of people who want to wield power to coerce others, yet deny it at the same time. It's based on the obvious lie of static, timeless power, easily refuted by history.

(1 - "Power + Prejudice" being used to justify the distortion of a racial arrow onto what should be universal justice that applies to all human beings -- is part of the lie. We've seen ideologies that assign different justice to different races, creeds, orientations. They all claim to be part of a movement of justice, and in the end, they all turn out to be evil. If power is temporary and contextual, there can be no idiosyncratic directional vectors to justice, especially none related to melanin.)


Speech too is power contextually. So is monied interest. So is racial caregorization. So is voting. So is media control. So is historical distribution of resources. So is protest. So is enforcement of property law. Everything is politics, everything is power.

Personally, I think what you see in the world around you is a reaction by people who realized that they don't have power by money (and thus hardly any power by speech) and don't have power by demoray in a broken system stacked against them, and have resorted to whatever other forms of power are possible. And yet still the positions they fight for are ignored because the way they petition for them isn't the right way, ie, they way in which they can be disenfranchised and ignored.


> don't have power by money (and thus hardly any power by speech)

That would sound much more convincing if it wasn’t for the fact that most media and academia is dominated by the Left (which is far more authoritative these days).


Far less authoritative, because people are starting to see through the flim-flam. More authoritarian. Definitely. Did anyone notice that even tenured professors can't say what they want anymore?


Yes, the other is "mob rule" and there are crucial differences. Historically a strongman is summoned as an excuse to end mob rule (real or imagined) resulting in an authoritarian government. Napoleon, Franco Mussolini are some examples.

In the cases cited, a group is over reacting to signals interpreted as historical oppression. It's awful when it happens and unfortunately it always will. Emotions at injustice are going to break windows (and worse) without thinking and sometimes at the wrong target.

Of course the issues are real and need to be discussed and criticized. But fortunately stories like Evergreen State College are rare, certainly not anywhere near the level of 1960s university sit-ins and even those were certainly not a national catastrophe of censorship. And Twitter storms are not oppression, they are just people being wrong on the internet. They are the inevitable result of ridiculously bad platform design.

So while events like Evergreen certainly need to be criticized, the more serious threat is that this is being systematically used by cynical parties in a dangerous way to portray a nation plagued by oppressive mobs who need to be put in line. Excuses that will spread to harsh treatment of protesters and a pattern that has occurred many times in the past.


Historically a strongman is summoned as an excuse to end mob rule (real or imagined) resulting in an authoritarian government. Napoleon, Franco Mussolini are some examples.

One also sees people jumping up with a banner in the front of the mob. Lenin and Kim-il Sung, for example.

Of course the issues are real and need to be discussed and criticized. But fortunately stories like Evergreen State College are rare

But the incidences of tenured professors who are no longer free to say what they actually think anymore are legion.

And Twitter storms are not oppression, they are just people being wrong on the internet.

Tell that to people whose lives have been ruined. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIP6fI0NAI

So while events like Evergreen certainly need to be criticized, the more serious threat is that this is being systematically used by cynical parties in a dangerous way to portray a nation plagued by oppressive mobs who need to be put in line.

Downtown Portland was tied up by such mobs as well. There have been hundreds of incidences of violence (a number closer to 1000 than zero) including assaults with serious injury. Why did tens of thousands of people surround a bunch of mostly normal, ordinary people, including a number of brown people, claiming they were "white supremacists" in Boston?

The Left in general is plagued by the zeitgeist of an authoritarian, angry mob, and wordplay/splitting hairs about what exactly should be classified as "authoritarian" is simply silly when you've been actually mobbed. Thugs going about intimidating and committing acts of violence for political purposes is authoritarianism. The wordplay is just one side wanting to act like thugs, trying to pretend it's something else.


Was the Boston tea party autocratic and the George III saving freedom? Are the protesters in Venezuela autocratic? How about Gandhi's people vs the Raj? There is a fundamental difference between admittedly sloppy mass action and the autocrats with their armed forces that crush them.

But the leader of the most powerful nation on earth just declared a national emergency for no reason. The same guy calls the press "the enemy of the people". Are we really supposed to believe that a handful of university disruptions and twitter storms and against his supporters are the real threats to freedom?


And the cards are on the table! Pro-Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys eh?

Boy, I can't imagine why people are just ignoring you and insulting you instead of engaging with your obviously bad faith prompts to discuss Nazi rights. Bit insulting to the intelligence of HN in general to think this reddit-level BS would fly isn't it?


And the cards are on the table! Pro-Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys eh?

Typical projection. I'm anti-violence, and to the extent people in those groups committed violence, they should be prosecuted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6RDQ02AzLw

Boy, I can't imagine why people are just ignoring you and insulting you

Apparently, a lot of people like what I write here.

instead of engaging with your obviously bad faith prompts to discuss Nazi rights.

Hmm, I think you're the one laying cards on the table this moment. I've had my cards on the table the whole time. Pray tell, what Nazi rights have I been advocating for? Can you provide quotes?

Bit insulting to the intelligence of HN in general to think this reddit-level BS would fly isn't it?

Thanks for showing your true colors and resorting to name calling. I guess I touched a nerve. Thanks as well for letting your authoritarianism leak out. It seems like you can't help it, and it helps my case perhaps more than anything I can write.


>People who actually believe in those principles actually try to convince people

Then convince the offenders. Preaching to those who are already outraged or the uninvolved just fans their emotions too and moves further and further away from reasoned discourse.

>because trial by public opinion and media isn't a judicial process

This has indeed been a problem in the US for decades where anyone accused of any crime has their face plastered on the evening news for ratings. Never is there a retraction when released or upon acquittal. Not that it would do any good as the damage is irreparable.

Now that it's starting to happen to powerful people, the issue is finally being raised. I'm going to guess the eventual resolution will be some lawsuit system that makes publishing accusations of the powerful financially impossible while keeping open season on ordinary people.


As it's currently formulated, it's easier to publish stuff about public figures than private individuals. The bar for showing defamation of private figures is lower.


> People who actually believe in those principles actually try to convince people, and when they can't convince, they listen.

While I agree with the rest, this is just naive. You cant convince those who are don't debate in good faith. You can defeat them or you can convince third parties, but trying to convince these is lost cause.

You cant change them, you can only change environment so that they cant cause much harm.


Hey, thanks for your comments in this thread. We need more people to speak up against coercion and authoritarianism, especially when committed in the name of the good (looking at you, Left)! I wish I could do more than just upvote and favourite your comments...


I wish I could do more than just upvote and favourite your comments...

Yes you can do more. Speak the truth. Pick your battles wisely, but be forthright and speak up!


Ah I definitely do. Although not as eloquently as you :)


Just be honest and forthright. Then edit for the active voice and brevity. And again, pick your battles.


>this world is fallen

Makes the entire article essentially meaningless. How can I trust somebody with such a bizarre and unconnected worldview?


I’m not religious myself, but I think you’re letting some weird biases get in the way here. The point is that the world and the work of human beings is flawed, fallible, and imperfect. Whether or not heaven exists in heaven, it certainly doesn’t exist on earth and essentially never can.


That’s a very religious view. At most you can say humans are not what you wish them to be.

Where a crystal may have ‘defects’ that’s meaningless for a pile of sand. Further, defects can be more useful than a perfect crystalline structure.

So, to say perfection is unobtainable requires a strict definition of perfection and absolute proof it’s impossible. Both, are very high hurdles.


And Utopianism is the notion that perfection is attainable and perhaps even inevitable if you put enough enemies of the people against the wall.


The opposite of the authors viewpoint isn’t Utopianism (which is as extreme in the opposite direction) but pragmatism and realism.

The fact that, flawed as we might seem, we are living in a reality that may not be possible to be more perfect.


Which isn’t far from an even more secular version of my point. Utopian ideologies often rely upon a superior “master race” or “new Soviet man” who has overcome the perceived imperfections and limitations of nature and who can assume a role in the world to come. In that sense, utopia itself is highly reminiscent of religious ideas, except with the addition of crucial missteps.

The substantive value of the idea that humans are imperfect or “fallen” is to caution against these kinds of expectations in the first place.

And there are real examples of this. It is humanly impossible—not necessarily mathematically or logically impossible, but humanly impossible—to achieve 100% success at any metric in the long run. I can’t design a 100% available distributed system at meaningful scale. An airline can’t have 100% of their planes arrive on time. A basketball player can’t make 100% of his free throws over a meaningful career. People miss, people fall short, people make mistakes, and it doesn’t require religion or Utopianism to imagine even attainable improvements.

So my problem with doing away with the notion of perfection at all is that it goes too far. Will there ever be a world where no part of AWS ever has an outage? Probably not. When the next AWS outage happens, will we be able to imagine, in great detail, a world where that particular outage wouldn’t have happened? That’s the job. And so rather than resigning ourselves to the notion that perfection is meaningless, let’s instead accept that perfection is an unattainable goal. That way we can dismiss the fanatics who demand actually attaining perfection while still admitting to the possibility of improvement.


Utopia is not about arbitrary metrics. Maximizing choice is more critical than having trains show up on time, to the nanosecond.

"A Utopia (/juːˈtoʊpiə/ yoo-TOH-pee-ə) is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia

Suggesting all metrics must be at 100% is thus clearly a straw man. The end to starvation is very much a realistic and Utopian goal out of reach for our ancestors.


> The end to starvation is very much a realistic and Utopian goal out of reach for our ancestors.

That is also an "arbitrary metric": you've set the rate of "people not starving" to 100%. That's what it means when you say "the end of starvation", rather than "reducing starvation" or "minimizing starvation". If you want to end starvation, that means 0 starvation and 100% non-starvation. Not a single person anywhere on earth is starving.

Let's think realistically about what this means. You can probably get a few nines pretty easily, but to get all the way to 100%, you also have to make sure nobody is willing or able to go on a hunger strike, or suffering from anorexia, or in need of a competent caregiver (in cases of severe disability). You have to make sure that there isn't a parent anywhere on earth who neglects their child to the point of starvation. You have to make sure that someone is checking in on every elderly shut-in in the world, in case they've fallen and broken their leg and can't reach the kitchen. Sometimes people starve to death when they're lost at sea or in the wilderness, so now you have to achieve 100% success at search and rescue across the entire world.

And this is exactly my point. I'm sure you didn't mean all of these implications by "the end of starvation". I'm sure you meant something more realistic and attainable. But that's not really what anybody means by utopia, because by that standard, much of the world is arguably already living in it compared to the ancients. But that's not because anyone had an a priori utopian vision that they put into practice; it was through a process of gradual and incremental change that will continue as long as humanity exists. And part of that process is that there will always be perceptible imperfections.


You can solve world hunger while ignoring hunger strikes. You’re pricing an arbitrary metric of what people eat vs their ability to eat food. As many religious traditions involve fasting, your metric would also require them to be erased. That’s very much out of scope when people talk about Utopia and why no she uses the term 100% in the definition.

PS: Bringing up straw man arguments is not part of meaningful dialogue.


Please read my comment again, make a good faith attempt to comprehend all of it, and try to respond to the whole thing rather than the first couple of sentences. Being an impatient skim-reader isn’t part of meaningful dialogue, either.

And once you’ve done that—would you agree that, by the “reasonable” standard that you are touting, that most developed countries including the United States are “utopian” in the sense of solving the problem of hunger? If not, why?


I did, in a famine people are unable to get enough food. Saying that some people are being unwilling to eat is the same as them being unable to eat is disingenuous.

I'm sure you meant something more realistic and attainable. But that's not really what anybody means by utopia, because by that standard, much of the world is arguably already living in it compared to the ancients.

We don’t have a vast surplus of food by accident. A vast number of people devoted their lives to improving the global food supply. You can read many peoples accounts of trying to build a better world and pretend they where not aiming for utopia, but only if you also ignore what people mean by the term.

Clearly, we think of utopia as more than just sufficient food, the rule of law etc etc, but just because you are used to a better world does not mean those people achieved nothing.

PS: Consider what the world would be if everyone in history said utopia is unobtainable, so let’s burn the world.


The best of all possible worlds, in other words.


That sounds a bit strong - I was going for "you can't verify that better worlds exist, therefore you can't say with any conviction this world is fallen unless you choose to avoid logic"


>That’s a very religious view. Humans are not necessarily flawed

Historically they have been. At least they're not up to our own standards.

We can kill, lie, cheat, brutalize, exploit, each other, and we do so daily in the billions.

We might not be total bastards, but we're no perfectly fine people either.


> We can kill, lie, cheat, brutalize, exploit, each other, and we do so daily in the billions.

All of those can be very useful traits. Evolution, promotes using miliple strategies.

Now, you can talk about spherical humans in a vacuum, but reality is more complex than that.


If you just squint hard enough, nothing is a flaw. "oh, this can be very useful for self-destruction and suffering, or collapsing under its own weight"


Useful for either the survival of the species or the individual. Still, hell for those suffering them. That's the broken part.


Which logically would mean it’s the universe that’s flawed not humans.

Though, that gets into some very odd arguments. History would be rather boring in a static or cycling universe.


>Which logically would mean it’s the universe that’s flawed not humans.

Logically you can argue either way. Logically one can say the universe doesn't give a fuck, so can't be flawed any more than a rock is.

Humans however both crave unity and love and compassion and so on (and know those things for good), and also do the cheating, lying, killing, bullying, racism, and so on. So, one can justifyably call them broken.

Heck, tons of our books, movies, and songs call us just that.


> and know those things for good

Path finding algorithms optimize for the least cost path. That does not mean such a path is good, nor a zero weight path from start to finish is perfection.

In that context just because humans seek something does not inherently make it good. Religions for example often prohibit some gratifying behavior.

Is an eternal state of pure bliss perfection, or little more than a drugged out meaningless existence? Individuals may prefer one state to another, but it's not clear that the state of maximized preference is thus perfection.


Flawed compared to what? Perfect meaning what? Humans are also infamous for never being content due to constantly shifting goalposts. The reason the religious can claim imperfection is they have an "existence proof" of perfection, but I am sceptical if such a proof exists.

Perhaps we can always improve and be better then we were. Which is a bit more of an optimistic statement.


Maybe "heaven" is more like a point of view than a place. It's when ability to appreciate meets with a good situation.


The point is that the world and the work of human beings is flawed, fallible, and imperfect. Whether or not heaven exists in heaven, it certainly doesn’t exist on earth and essentially never can.

Into any system of sufficient complexity, a little suckage must come!


Even the existence of a god wouldn’t necessarily imply that a heaven could exist the way it exists in Christian theology. Frankly if you’re going to pick a religion for intellectually compelling narratives Christianity isn’t it. Gnosticism is pretty interesting, and arguably the notion of a flawed and infantile creator tracks better with both historical and various scriptural narratives. The choice of “heaven” alongside hell always struck me as an utterly naked temporal carrot and stick arrangement.

“Heaven: the Coney Island of the Christian imagination.” Elbert Hubbard.


I mean, I would just translate to the secular equivalent, "perfection is not a real thing". More concerning is the "image of the Creator" language, which is a short step from exactly the kind of hyper-idealism that he's critiquing in the first place. He does at least acknowledge that trying to achieve perfection in the real (or "the present") world is folly, but still, it's from a very different perspective than the secular one.


Sure, but it's a hyper-idealism which rejects the absolutely the idea of allowing a non-inclusive worldview of an individual to rule. Judeo-Christian is the author's specific worldview, but that's incidental to the stance.


In theory. I know plenty of Christians who would agree with his statements about this world being fallen, but who still try to move their country towards a Christian pseudo-utopia where their own values are mandated on others. Of course we can't know whether the author falls into that camp or not.

EDIT: To be clear, I also know plenty of Christians who do not try and impose their values on society.


It's only theoretically possible that the author's specific worldview is incidental to their stance because there are people who have the same wordview but the opposite stance? That makes no sense.

> I also know plenty of Christians who do not try and impose their values on society.

Yeah, like the article for example, which raises the question why all this is floating at the top.


Not really bizarre or really unconnected.

In fact, for most of history, and with very great many minds throughout history agreeing to that, it would be your objection that would be considered bizarre.

You don't have to believe in a specific creator or any specific religious mythology to agree with such a statement as "this world is fallen". Even as atheist like e.g. Emil Cioran could agree with such a statement. But even if someone actually believes e.g. in the Christian god, it's almost irrelevant as to the validity of their belief that "this world is fallen".

It's just a way of seeing the world -- as permanently imperfect and with fatal flaws in its construction. In fact most of our history and even personal lives agrees with this observation as well: we are ignorant of most things, we age, we get ill, we suffer, we kill each other, we are petty, and so on. And in the end, we just die, along with everybody we knew and loved. All that in an indifferent universe, that could e.g. wipe thousands of us out tomorrow with an earthquake, a tsunami, and so on. Or something of our own making, like a nuclear war.

These things can be summed up in "this world is fallen", and there's nothing bizarre or unconnected about it.

One might disagree and see progress etc, and even be optimistic that everything will prevail, or even see no issue with death and illness and the ills of old age, and so on. But in the main there's nothing much bizarre in saying that "this world is fallen" -- e.g. that things are incomplete, broken, and more often than not disappointing.


Saying "the world is fallen" implies that the world fell from something. It didn't. The same rules of physics, as far as we can tell, have been plugging away since the very beginning.

If you mean "The world sucks" then say that instead of saying "the world is fallen". Fallen has a very specific meaning, and using it as a poetic slush word is enough to make me not take the OP seriously.


>Saying "the world is fallen" implies that the world fell from something. It didn't

Welcome to the magic world of metaphors and symbolism...


Dude, way to xkcd 169.


> If you mean "The world sucks" then say that instead of saying "the world is fallen".

If you mean that you don't like the author's choice of words, then that that instead of saying "the entire article [is] essentially meaningless".

> Fallen has a very specific meaning

Which of the four definitions in WordNet, or dozens of other possible dictionary meanings, is that very specific meaning?

> and using it as a poetic slush word is enough to make me not take the OP seriously.

"Slush" has a very specific meaning, involving partially frozen materials. I feel that your use of it here has rendered your entire comment essentially meaningless.


It's not so much that it is fallen - you can have a meaningful discussion about whether there was ever a point in history where life was better, or a theological discussion about the nature of any fall from grace.

It's the religious implication in the article that invalidates it. Christian belief is that humanity's fall from grace can only be redeemed through the intercession of christ, and the author links the impossibility of any utopian state with that fall from grace, so obviously the only way to resolve it is theological.

The author's implied statement that any attempt to create a utopia must either come from god, or be religious in nature, is the problem. If, like me, you don't believe in god, and believe organised religions are inherently bad, then at that point the author's credibility is destroyed and the article is just another religious rant.


Fallen from what? It’s pretty obvious, in common parlance, what the word at the end of that sentence is.

I’d like to know what secular state of grace supposedly existed that we fell from?


Arguably it is itself a dystopian worldview, based on the loss of some historic or imagined utopia.


It's a mistake to process these ideas on the basis of trust. True, the religious angle is shoehorned at the end. But the author cites secular books and ideas throughout; these ideas and the relationships between them are worth considering.


Imagine that a person was trying to explain to you how we knew that galaxies and so on were a certain distance away. They show that we know how to figure out Standard Candles and luminosity etc etc etc. They also claim, at the very end, to say that the earth is flat. They don't mean the universe is flat. They mean the earth is flat.

Now, imagine you haven't read the article, somebody comments, "This guy said the earth is flat!" and you ctrl+f into the article and they did, in fact, write that. Should you be encouraged to read the article? They have some secular studies and ideas.


But they're not talking about something you cannot "verify" with your own mind right now, at worst with some additional reading. You're not asked to "trust" anyone.

"That person freaked out just because someone said the Earth is flat, so that their brain completely glazed over and they couldn't understand or care about anything else they said", why is that not a thing, too?

To me this kind of discussion is not intellectually honest, it's not an earnest attempt -- there's plenty brilliant people of faith so I see no reason to dismiss anything out of hand like that. Don't judge a book by its cover, yet this discussion about the cover is the one that the most energy is spent on.


It's possible to be right about the universe and the galaxy but wrong about the earth. The 90% that is accurate is still accurate even if another 10% is wrong.

More pointedly - we are all in the same position as the flat-earther you posit. None of us have 100% accurate knowledge - meaning some percentage of what we believe is either false or one day will be proven false. We all have blind spots. Flat earthers have a particularly egregious blind spot. So we can be skeptical of other claims they make. But we should still engage with the stuff that makes sense and coheres. The answer to bad science is more science; the answer to bad speech is more speech.


Paradoxically, by employing that subject, you are in a way falling for it. It's not designed to convince you the earth is flat.


You can use your own mind. Assess the actual point of view, rather than engaging your bias the minute you detect a whiff of religion.


It's just a succinct way of saying the same thing a certain secular philosopher once said: "out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight has ever been made."


I'm not sure how serious you were, but if you're actually curious, I recommend Alan Jacob's book "Original Sin: A Cultural History": https://www.amazon.com/Original-Sin-Cultural-Alan-Jacobs/dp/.... Not particularly academic but very accessible.

Or for a slightly different approach, GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy: http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/130/pg130.html, even if you disagree with his arguments, I suspect if you give a read you'll enjoy his delightful prose.

> But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post. But this which is true even of inanimate things is in a quite special and terrible sense true of all human things. An almost unnatural vigilance is really required of the citizen because of the horrible rapidity with which human institutions grow old. It is the custom in passing romance and journalism to talk of men suffering under old tyrannies. But, as a fact, men have almost always suffered under new tyrannies; under tyrannies that had been public liberties hardly twenty years before. [...]

> This startling swiftness with which popular systems turn oppressive is the third fact for which we shall ask our perfect theory of progress to allow. It must always be on the look out for every privilege being abused, for every working right becoming a wrong. In this matter I am entirely on the side of the revolutionists. They are really right to be always suspecting human institutions; they are right not to put their trust in princes nor in any child of man. The chieftain chosen to be the friend of the people becomes the enemy of the people; the newspaper started to tell the truth now exists to prevent the truth being told. Here, I say, I felt that I was really at last on the side of the revolutionary. And then I caught my breath again: for I remembered that I was once again on the side of the orthodox.

> Christianity spoke again and said: "I have always maintained that men were naturally backsliders; that human virtue tended of its own nature to rust or to rot; I have always said that human beings as such go wrong, especially happy human beings, especially proud and prosperous human beings. This eternal revolution, this suspicion sustained through centuries, you (being a vague modern) call the doctrine of progress. If you were a philosopher you would call it, as I do, the doctrine of original sin. You may call it the cosmic advance as much as you like; I call it what it is—the Fall."


None of the following statements are rational or evidence-based, but I consider them to be true:

* Life is not perfect as long as there's death.

* Humans cannot live in perfect harmony with one another because of our pesky evil streak.

* Man-made laws cannot eliminate human evil.

When philosophising at such depths, it's instinctive to get religious. It's also a handy abstraction.

Also, transcending reality through worship helps with the inevitable depression that goes along with deep thoughts about this broken existence.

All that said, it's no surprise to me that such irrational thinking bugs a lot of people. I'm only mildly bugged by it anymore since I found Jesus.


Despite some others' replies, I never meant to dismiss Christianity, much less religion in general. "It's a handy abstraction" is something I wholly agree with, which I think gets lost on a lot of self-identified "rationalists".

I actually think there's a lot of value to be found in religion; the problem comes when it gets infused with a political or national identity and becomes a rallying call instead of a subject of contemplation. The red flags I saw in the article were 1) the hosting organization has a political agenda, and 2) it felt like the author tried to hide the roots of his ideas. It's possible he was just trying to avoid being judged based on his faith, which, yeah. But I've also seen people with an agenda try to propagate their religious or political ideas in a spoonful-of-sugar fashion; obscuring them within content that doesn't advertise itself as such, in hopes that it travels further. I've developed a heightened sense for that sort of thing over the years.


Yeah, it's super uncomfortable for me when I see religion mixed with/imposed on politics. I cringe when I hear someone quoting chapter and verse in a political context, having that be the whole basis of their opinion, because a lot of that knowledge they rely on is ancient/dead.

Your spoonful of sugar observation is just human nature; people love to spout memes like they're so clever. :)

Where we might disagree though is that I believe society, laws, and justice need to be predicated on moral codes. And so it follows that we all need to be able to speak the same moral language fluently.

We should be informed by relevant moral teachings in the bible, primarily, and then great philosophers and legal scholars secondarily. What's "relevant" needs to be hashed out through extended civil discourse; it can't be imposed and have any hope for acceptance.

I mentioned the bible specifically because it is a high quality doc and liberates the reader rather than shackles with its moral codes and message, which to me makes it unique and worthwhile.


Nothing straight can be built from crooked timber. -Kant


Ironic, considering Kant also wrote in his reflections

> "Es ist unmöglich, dass ein Mensch ohne Religion seines Lebens froh werde."

> "It‘s impossible for a human to enjoy his life without religion."


Even a broken clock is right twice a day?


Which is still no good, because nobody can tell which are those two times when it's right by looking at it.


That’s the point; it’s illustrating a technicality which in no way impacts the uselessness of the clock.


You can never know if a clock is showing the correct time unless you have another, known good point of reference.


Or if you trust the clock.

With the broken clock, you can't ever trust it.


No but with the 3 planes method you can progressively hone any 3 non flat planes of material to arbitrarily closer margins of perfection without need for an external reference.


It's right there in the word. Eu-topia: "Not place". A place that does not exist. Trying to create utopia is futile because by definition it will never exist.


I disagreed with the central thesis, that dystopia necessarily arises from utopian visions. There are lots of dystopian settings throughout the last century that defy this - 1984, waterworld and mad max to name a few. For the author to go on to use this invented meaning as a counterargument to Trump's America being dystopian is disingenuous at best. I wouldn't call it a dystopia myself, but I'd hope to have better grounds for that than inventing meanings.


Well, I think, that a second central topic of the article is the 'naming calling'.

That is, using labels that previously widely used defined patterns resulting in real human-killing -- to, instead, describe a pattern that a person finds unfitting to his/her policy views.

In other words, misplaced naming calling, in a way, stealing the valor from the real victims of the true dystopian past events.

"... It is important to keep dystopia in its place, and in perspective.

There are and have been real dystopias in the world, and imaginary ones help illustrate how utopian visions can endanger decent regimes and communities.

Not every call for a border wall or “Medicare for all” is dystopian; one (or the other) may be a stupid idea, but it is not summoning 1984. ..."


I don't think it was disingenuous because of the fact that he's clearly not a Trump fan himself. But, I do think it's a pretty minor semantic distinction to make.

As for the distinction itself, I was prompted to look it up on Merriam-Webster:

dys· to· pia | \ (ˌ)dis-ˈtō-pē-ə \

Definition of dystopia

1 : an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives

2 : ANTI-UTOPIA sense 2

So... the primary definition actually undercuts his thesis, while the second definition lines up. I mean it's an interesting subject of contemplation - dystopia's relationship with utopia - but he took an argumentative approach rather than a contemplative one, which I think squandered the topic a little.


More generally speaking, when you optimize on a particular set of metrics to the extreme (when it comes to social issues this is what utopias try to do), you will inevitably cause another set of metrics to be correspondingly de-optimized to the extreme (which can be qualified as dystopian).

There is no way to optimize everything simultaneously because many things are fundamentally inversely correlated with each other (e.g. security vs freedom). So you either have a state that is relatively balanced (everything is mediocre), or a state with more spread (some aspects are really good and some are really bad).


I'm struggling to agree with this.

Take a... Syria during civil war society and compare it to... Norwegian society.

I'd argue Norway has vastly more security and freedom. Increasing one didn't increase the other. And both metrics are pretty close to maximum.

Using your example of security vs freedom, yes there are measures you can take to increase security at the cost of freedom.

But there's also many measures you can take which do not compromise freedom. As a very basic example, having laws against murder. These laws (I can't imagine) effect "freedom" in any meaningful way, so I can't agree that they're fundamentally opposed in some kind of inherent way.

What we call security and freedom (and utopian for that matter) are just words, definable in any number of subjective ways.

But a theoretical Utopia is something theoretically perfect, which while technically possible, we probably agree is not practical.

I suppose my point is that subjective, indefinable properties like "infinite security" and "infinite freedom" are not fundamental, literal forces that increase when the other decreases and vice versa.

They're just words, and anything is possible, including a society where everyone enjoys maximum freedom and maximum security (by some definition)


Though I obviously don't know exactly what OP meant, but maybe there is a difference between simply looking at Norway as a pretty close to utopia versus doing that from scratch in one step, skipping the organic "annealing" of culture and politics.

Simply having a few determined goals means the design necessarily have to be biased against the unmentioned goals. And those might be important for the general state, but it can be a hidden preference.


Bias against the unmentioned goals? Sure, plausible. But theoretically is argue not necessary.

There's no reason why all goals could be covered, in some not to hard to imagine system (perhaps a post-secondary society simply allows anyone with a grievance to get in touch with whoever can fix it, if it should be fixed,as opposed to having a bunch of top down goals)

Also, I don't see why being optimum in one goal, let's say transparency, wouldn't help many other goals, like freedom and security.

I just don't think these concepts are as simple as levers, and I think anything is possible.

That said, humans are far from perfect, so their societies are difficult to perfect.

But with enough education, knowledge, and a sprinkle of genetic engineering, maybe?


It's harder to optimize a system if there are a lot of dimensions.

For example, tax report transparency is bad if you have inequality and also lack an efficient anti-hate-crime enforcement system, because then people will lynch/rob rich folks.

So even just getting closer to the optimum takes time and a lot of resources.

> I just don't think these concepts are as simple as levers, and I think anything is possible.

Exactly. It's a complex dynamic system with path dependence. Trajectory is everything.

> But with enough education, knowledge, and a sprinkle of genetic engineering, maybe?

Maybe :) Though the problem is that without a great society powerful tools will be used to entrench the interests of those that lead the existing not-so-great society.

And it's very hard to align the interests of the leaders with the commoners.


That does indeed appear to be the core problem in societies in this and the last century (and before, presumably.)

I'd argue that social democracy seems to be doing pretty well at distributing income and wealth and power. It's a shame "social" is a dirty word in the states.

If the EU can develop successfully over the next few decades into something superpower-like, maybe the benefits of such a system will become attractive to other powers and the ideas will spread.

Or maybe the China system of repression and threatening the neighbourhood will turn out to be more competitive globally and we'll see more of that.

And pardon the absurd typos in my last comment, my phone's keyboard is pretty terrible. I'd fix them but HN doesn't allow edits after a certain amount of time so the gibberish must remain.


I put it more bluntly, the Smart People who have all the solutions greatly overestimate their own intelligence, to the detriment of the victims of their hubris. This is by and large independent of political leanings.


I agree. It's also worth noting the lifecycle of most optimizations, including the non-partisan variety:

1. Early on many benefit and costs are minimized per capita.

2. As the benefits diffuse across the population, smart/wily/greedy individuals push the optimization to squeeze more value for themselves.

3. Benefits begin to centralize among the smart/wily/greedy. Awareness of costs starts to grow. The general population becomes ambivalent. Regulation can keep the system in this state for a while, but it too will eventually be optimized.

4. The arms race of optimization ultimately excludes all but the smartest/wiliest/greediest from any benefit while the rest of the population eats the cost. The optimization is now Bad For Society™.

My gut says this pattern is true for any social construction, from marriage and markets to card games and communism. The only meaningful insight I take away from it is that ideological conflict (competition between optimizations) is literally the foundation of a functioning society.

The relative balance that tension provides doesn't strike me as mediocre. Without it, everything devolves into an oscillating heaven and hell, mirroring your ideology.


> ideological conflict (competition between optimizations)

This is an important idea. Optimality shifts when the environment shifts, and some ideas which work well in one environment may end up working badly when the world changes.

Because the world is inevitably complex and stochastic, we need enough dynamism in society in order to continually adapt, and for that we need a system that permits competing ideas, as well mechanisms to limit the amplification of the effects of bad ideas (good democratic institutions do a decent job at the latter).


Using 'optimization' here makes it an odd construction where I don't think I've quite understood what you are trying to say.

Is it synonymous with social change? Most social changes aren't optimisations, they are complicated changes to how resources are distributed; leading to unpredictable outcomes.

Take social welfare. This can probably be considered a social optimisation and most reasonable people would agree that some level of welfare is appropriate. But there doesn't seem to be any particular agreement on the economic or social front about whether the optimum amount is more or less. Or what we are optimising for.


Optimization in the sense of optimizing for a specific (often ideological) outcome, rather than optimizing away an objective inefficiency.

Social welfare is a perfect example of "competing optimizations" precisely because there are so many different (and often mutually exclusive) organizational models and success metrics.


Is there a name for the evolution of parameters being optimized ? one period will improve A, then the next will improve B etc etc

A bit like a 3D spiral slowly going "up" locally (even one might argue it's folding over itself in the long term)


TL;DR Everything has tradeoffs. You can't have it all.


Utopias are not entities that do anything. It's a word, created to describe an imaginary island, by a fiction writer. [0]

Who is optimizing metrics to an extreme, where did you get that definition?

[0] https://www.etymonline.com/word/utopia


From your linked definition, it is a word "coined by Thomas More (and used as title of his book, 1516, about an imaginary island enjoying the utmost perfection in legal, social, and political systems"

Taken metaphorically, a utopia is a idealized state of affairs where perfection (optimality) is reached. This state of affairs is imaginary however, because the world in which such a perfection is attained is also imaginary. Attempts to achieve it in our reality (communism, etc.) ends up running up against a complex system of nonlinear tradeoffs, which is what I imagine the OP is alluding to.


There was a discussion of the SR-71 a few months ago that I found excellent. One of the comments took the opposition approach - The SR-71 was an engineering failure, because it leaked fuel, it required tight tolerances and most of the parts were thrown out because of it, etc [1].

I think it's a correct view. I think they're absolutely right about the SR-71. I posted a comment arguing they're wrong, because I think my comment is also a correct view. The SR-71 is the wrong plane for many, many applications. For the few that needed it, it was an absolutely vital tradeoff. Engineering isn't just about optimizing a metric. It's about optimizing many metrics, and finding a set of tradeoffs that fits. It's about finding the point on the line where people are satisfied.

Perhaps - Engineering is about finding the proper fitness functions, and then finding the optimal solution from there. Both are hard problems. Having the right fitness function/requirements gathering is the most screwed up stage of any development, and software developers are no exception, but I feel our industry has gotten away with a lot. Optimizing globally is often an unbounded problem, so finding efficient approximations (like evolutionary algorithms or hill climbing functions) is often the right approach - But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try for the correct one.

[1]https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17675996


What does correct mean? Engineering is about solving problems.

Ultimately it was the right solution for a very specific scope and time. The knowledge gained helped avoid nuclear conflict — an extreme benefit worth a lot of cost.

Once satellites matured, it’s utility was reduced. Once drones were a thing, it’s utility went to zero. Top-secret state of the art stuff in 1990 is on the deck of a mueseum today.


Are drones being used to spy on military facilities?


u·to·pi·a: noun an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.


Procedural arguments like this are silly. You have to judge things by what they are substantively. Feudalism and slavery were not utopian projects but they were clearly brutal. Nordic social democracy consciously set out to create a decent society for all and largely succeeded. I don't know what game the author is playing.


This. They are talking about "dystopia" and "utopia" which more or less mean "good"/"bad" society, it would be astonishing if any amoral (eg substantive) arguments could come out. Their conclusion (ie please don't be idealistic, it'll always lead to something bad) can be summarized as defending order, eg an institution that is legitimate per se. This kind of moral authoritarian argument is akin to the "do exclude violence", "don't promote radical ideas" (in the sense of largely differing from the status quo) and we long know that this rhetoric is used to elude the question of the frame of political confrontations, which is mostly what political negotiation should be about. Once the frame is set, the orientation is already fixed. I'm not about defending what we commonly refer to as revolutions (or more precisely insurrections), i'm just saying i don't believe institutions have any legitimacy per se and as such it is authoritarian conservatism to exclude critical thinking using moral arguments. The first and foremost rule of a democratic organization should be the "political (moral) license": being able to break the laws maintaining current order if you are about questioning it.


Nordic social democracy isn’t a utopian idea, though. It’s a progressive idea and an ambitious idea but it only really peeks out slightly from the normal range of market economies with welfare states, especially within Europe.

Feudalism and slavery were awful, but don’t come close to the concentrated human misery inflicted by the utopian projects of the 20th century.


> Feudalism and slavery were awful, but don’t come close to the concentrated human misery inflicted by the utopian projects of the 20th century.

By that I assume you're largely referring to the Soviet Union and China during the cultural revolution? Yeah sure, those were bad, but it's hard for me to say whether they were particularly better or worse than slavery (at least from the perspective of a slave).

Moreover, I think that the assumption that those 20th century projects failed because they were utopian is unsourced. I think I could equally validly claim that they failed because of a fundamental failure to understand basic economics and/or a deep lack of empathy or realism on the part of national leadership.


>I think that the assumption that those 20th century projects failed because they were utopian is unsourced

Yes, but this is not about their eventual failure, but about their Dystopianism, which was part of their programme. Lenin explicitly stated that his "Jacobian party would never reject terror, nor could it do so". Lenin espoused state terror and mass murder, justified by "the greater good". If that is not idealism causing Dystopia right here, I don't know what is.

Cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Terror


I think you could argue that the horrors of this last century have been crueler than all the others simply because there were so many more humans to thrust them upon. I'm not convinced that it had a higher horror per capita, though.


Per unit time, certainly. Though this may also be because slavery persisted for centuries and the e.g. Khmer Rouge would have never been capable of that.


It took centuries for the slave trade to approximate the death toll of communist regimes. Fascism and national socialism were also utopian projects. Under all of these projects, millions of people were enslaved, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered in vast numbers. I’m not saying the aggregate amount of human misery is the same, but the amount of misery inflicted in a given year was dramatically higher.

“Utopian” is used in this context to refer to efforts to rebuild society from the ground up on logical principles chosen in isolation.


That's mostly because we were billions of people when the 20th century utopian projects started, something we've only been for the past 200 years or so.

The population of Ancient Egypt was about 1 million at the start of recorded history and about 5 million during the Roman conquest. Yet, even though the number of Egyptians in slavery were only in the millions at its highest it was crime that was very widespread in relation to the population.


How many Russians were effectively living in slavery under Stalin? Or Cambodians under Pol Pot? All of them? Certainly a very high proportion.

1/3 of the world’s Jewish population was wiped out in a decade. At least 1/10th of the population of Ukraine starved in the two year Holodomor. Double-digit percentages of the entire populations of the Soviet Union, Poland, Greece, and Yugoslavia perished in the Second World War as did about 8% of all Germans. 1/4 of Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. All within brief periods of time.


It's estimated around 80% of the population of Egypt at any time was in some sort of slavery, whether chattel slavery, bond slavery or through forced labor the latter of which is what I would stretch including the citizens of the USSR into.


Was placing tens of millions in inheritable bondage really not close? Especially considering that the total world population was much lower.


Communism for all its faults was infinitely better than slavery and even a huge improvement over feudalism.


That was Pol Pot’s theory. He was warned away from his utopian, revolutionary “Year Zero” program by Chinese communists who understood that a level of pragmatism and gradualism was necessary. He scoffed at this advice and a quarter of his countrymen died.

It’s fair to say that when communism was merely awful rather than utterly catastrophic, it was merely because at those specific times and places, it was still pursued with at least a nod to pragmatic concerns. It’s no coincidence that the best form of communism—Deng’s “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”—was the most explicitly pragmatic variation of communism.


Back in my childhood, if you told me that one day, there would be more games of any imaginable genre, more than what you would know what to do with, of a higher visual and production quality than I'd ever imagined, I would have thought that to be a kind of utopia. Now in 2019, I find it to be somewhat dystopic. (See also, the "Paradox of Choice.")

A century before cars, if you told people that a commonplace device could quickly and inexpensively take you to the very store or house you wanted to go to at speeds up to a mile a minute, that would sound utopian. Now we know such systems have serious downsides.

Be careful what you ask for. You may get it. Or, as I put it, into any complex system whatsoever, some suckage must come. Solving one problem either exposes or creates another.


We don’t fully understand how society works. There is an emerging field known as Cliodynamics that has started to identity cycles and feedback loops societies go through.

For instance, people raised inside of a generation tend to have a similar cluster of personality traits to some degree. These traits propel certain innovations forward , leave other things lagging, and cause a reaction formation in the next generation who tend to value opposite traits. These new traits then alter which innovations are pushed forward, which are left behind, etc.

There are additional cycles I’m not covering here, but together they form a sort of “super cycle” with great periods of unrest as well as innovation occurring when the lines converge periodically.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliodynamics


In fairness to the humanities, there has been a good deal of research and knowledge via sociology for a long while.


"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias." ― Oscar Wilde

"It is our utopias that make the world tolerable to us: the cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live." - Lewis Mumford

The sentiment is true if Utopia is persued at a mass level, but what we need are more attempts and experiments at small utopias.


I try to run the makerspace I started as a mini utopia. Access to technology, tools, and a place to explore what is possible, is a big part of what a utopia is to me.


That's because everybody forgets the only way to reliably create something good artificially is to engineer it carefully taking as much relevant real world phenomena as possible in account and keep applying well-engineered fixes as feedback arrives. Just building a set of facilities, proclaiming a set of rules and expecting everybody to play nicely treating those who don't as enemies rather than a rightful element of the puzzle is stupid. Politicians of whatever a kind tend to hate critique while failing to recognize it as a vital resource is a fatal mistake. Even biased critique and false accusations are important to analyze as these still highlight important issues indirectly (at least the fact there is a serious portion of people who are going to believe these for some reason that should be taken in account too).


“The Will to Order can make tyrants out of those who merely aspire to clear up a mess.”

— Brave New World Revisited, Huxley, 1958


This amounts to arguing about definitions and it doesn't seem like the article proposes anything of real substance.

In the introduction to The Utopia Reader, a compendium of utopian and dystopian literature, the following definitions are given:

* Utopianism—social dreaming

* Utopia—a nonexistent society described in detail and normally located in time and space

* Eutopia or positive utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably better than the society in which the reader lived

* Dystopia or negative utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably worse than the society in which the reader lived

* Utopian satire—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as a criticism of the existing society

* Anti-utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as a criticism of utopianism or of some particular eutopia

* Critical utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as better than contemporary society but with difficult problems that the described society may or may not be able to solve, and which takes a critical view of the utopian genre

Given that utopias are speculative explorations of possible futures and societies, it seems hard to reconcile that with questioning whether reality is a utopia or a dystopia, as the author does here. That just doesn't type check, and then the article is more about the author telling us about various things he considers dystopian.

For a more interesting take on the concept of utopia, I highly recommend the Fun Theory sequence on LessWrong: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/K4aGvLnHvYgX9pZHS/the-fun-th...


You're the one arguing definitions. This author is trying to make an actual argument, and you've introduced a non-standard vocabulary, and are judging the argument _with your vocabulary instead of the definitions the author made quite clear_.

How do you pronounce "Utopia"? How does it differ from "Eutopia"? Your definitions are fine, internally consistent, and quite clear for serious in-depth discussion... But they align badly with the common set of definitions (In which Utopia is your Eutopia), and so reading vernacular writing is probably unclear or poorly argued when using such - But that doesn't mean that their argument is bad, only that you're misreading it.


This isn't really a non-standard vocabulary, it's a more-or-less standard vocabulary in the domain of discussing utopias. I think it's reasonable to expect someone writing about a topic to have an understanding of society's ongoing discussion about it. If I read an essay on consciousness, I expect the writer to be familiar with how the term has been defined by philosophers past; if a friend tells me they've regained consciousness, I have no such expectation. That being said, I don't think the author of this piece is using a complete layman's definition of the word either:

>Likewise, dystopias are inevitably totalitarian: to achieve a perfect society, nothing can be beyond the reach of the state.

This discounts anarchist utopias entirely, and any argument against the attainability of an anarchist utopia makes it all the moore utopian. The author seems to be using a shoddy, half-baked definition created for the purpose of this article.


> This author is trying to make an actual argument

Is there such an attempt? I see a lot of discussion of Dystopia, a few restatements of the thesis, but I don't actually see anything attempting to prove the thesis. The logic is "Not everything bad is a dystopia. Dystopias really suck. Trust me, Dystopias come about from trying to achieve utopia.

The author DOES distinguish speculation from perfection, so your criticism of the above post is correct, but even with the author's provided definition, I don't actually see any ARGUMENT being made, just a claim with some disconnected but true statements around it.


What the article seems to miss out is any mention of Plato's invention of the term, and its original meaning of "no place". From the very beginning unachievability was associated with the concept.


Plato's republic has been called a utopia only in retrospect, the term was coined by Thomas Moore.


Dystopia or utopia, both seem rooted in the idea we could ultimately shape and rule the world as we wish. I constantly see the reliance on some kind of system to somehow apply constraints to preserve order against chaos. And every time the perfect and all-powerful *topia fails in some unexpected way.

One's long life indeed benefits from a controlled environment able to consistently provide food, water, air or protection from potential dangers.

But why would society's survival works like my own? The dinosaurs didn't last but life itself did. Abilities to evolve and adapt to change or the multiplicity of methods to keep going proved themselves as some of the reliable skills to survive.

Anyway, I'm eagerly awaiting any future story of a society able to provide each one with a promising and somewhat reliable environment while managing as a whole to evolve and overcome any new challenges the universe constantly throws at us :)


Dystopia is when you get frustrated with your societal model not producing appropriate outcome metrics and up the learning rate of the algorithm so it happens faster and remove a lot of democratic metrics like elections that are hard to tweak effectively and get a horrible overfit to your small training set.


A Dystopia is only recognizable when juxtaposed against a state that is much different from it. That is, a Dystopia would develop over time, with many not even recognizing the gradual changes; it's not something that develops suddenly. For example, it's not hard to imagine that our world could be considered a Dystopia to some who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. Or, it could even be considered a Utopia to others. Utopias and Dystopias are only interesting as thought experiments to imagine what Humans could be possible about. There's never actually been one or nor will there ever be one.


>Utopias and Dystopias are only interesting as thought experiments to imagine what Humans could be possible about

They both have the property that progress has ended; that we have ceased learning about reality. An undesirable state to be in!

Yet ideas of utopias and dystopias have been used to advance the careers/interests/ambitions of the power-hungry, e.g. when they reluctantly accept power. they don't want power (allegedly) and will cede it when the utopia is achieved (it will never be achieved).


I don't think there's anything inherent to a utopia that means you stop learning about reality. If anything, you should expect anything you learn about reality to have maximally broad impact according to its relevance to people's lives. There's nothing about a perfect organization of society that implies a steady, non-adaptive state.


How can anything have an impact if there are no problems? How can there be problems if the arrangements are perfect? How can anything which is perfect be improved? etc.


Why would there be no problems? What is perfect is the ability of society to solve problems, not the whole of existence. A utopia is a state of social order, not a state of reality.


The problem here is that problems are connected to problems in other fields, and that solving problems always creates new problems. So a notionally perfect social and political order could only be achieved by halting progress in all other fields.


Many people would consider North Korea a dystopia now.


Thomas Sowell's book The Search for Cosmic Justice talks about this sort of thing in the context of social justice. However well intended, trying to do the impossible can produce atrocities.


The article is right, but fails to explain why. Here is an abbreviated version of the argument within Enlightenment Now for the same basic point.

We are prone to believe that the ends justify the means. When the ends are infinite good, we therefore become willing to inflict unlimited harm to achieve them. In practice the infinite good people aimed for has proven to be debatable, but the harms inflicted have not.

The more right you feel your cause is, the more that this should worry you.


I took a philosophy course on Utopian and Dystopian literature last year. The takeaway I had from the course is even more stark than this headline: Utopia and Dystopia are two names for the same concept.

In all of the utopias we studied -- from Plato's Republic through Thomas More's Utopia and including Marx's Communist Manifesto -- the question that kept ringing in my ears was "utopia for whom?" Every utopia makes assumptions about people that naturally divide them into identifiable groups. Some of these groups end up happy, others not so much. A utopia which purports to make everyone happy (shouldn't they all?) is one that assumes all people are the same or it endeavours to make them so. Either way, we lose our humanity in the process.


Supposedly Plato's Republic was meant ironically to satisfy the powermonger Thrasymachus.


> In all of the utopias we studied -- from Plato's Republic through Thomas More's Utopia and including Marx's Communist Manifesto

Strange this is mentioned as the communist manifesto contains a whole chapter criticizing Utopias.

Also - establishment intellectuals from Hegel to Fukuyama to Pinker talk about how we are in Utopia now, at the end of history with capitalism and liberalism triumphant.

Marx said not only was capitalism self-destructive, with crises (like the 2008 government bank/insurance/etc. bailout), but that socialism would be self-destructive too. Hard to call someone postulating the next system will self-destruct is utopian.

Also Marx replied to socialists wanting utopian plans from him by replying he was not August Comte, and he did not want to "write recipes for the cookshops of the future".

Marx was about as unutopian as you can be, other than he thought the progress of production and technology over the millennia would continue, with effects on relations of production. Something you read on HN regularly.


> A utopia which purports to make everyone happy (shouldn't they all?) is one that assumes all people are the same or it endeavours to make them so.

So the contrapositive is that because people differ all societies require some people to suffer? That's a great way to justify all sorts of exploitation.

> In all of the utopias ... including Marx's Communist Manifesto

Ah, the Chicago school framing. What's primarily a positive work describing existing material conditions and relations is utopian, because it is not a kind assessment of those conditions.


That's a great way to justify all sorts of exploitation.

Describing is not the same as justifying. Nature is what created us as individuals. Humanity could have been a vast society of clones (like an ant colony) but it isn't. We take all of the good and all of the bad together when we accept our individuality.

primarily a positive work describing existing material conditions and relations is utopian

It sounds to me like you're conflating the Communist Manifesto with Capital. The Manifesto is distinctly and unabashedly utopian. It is not a critique of any extant society, it is a call to arms. It sets forth a sharply bifurcated worldview, proletariat versus bourgeoisie, and attempts to rally the former in revolution against the latter.

This fact is so obvious, to so many people, that terms like "Communist utopia" and "worker's paradise" have become clichés.


> Describing is not the same as justifying. Nature is what created us as individuals.

We have little means of empirically separating what is natural versus social construct (or even qualifying what such a distinction means) when it comes to human behavior and society. Claiming that our nature makes inevitable that societies require some significant portion of their constituents to suffer is not simple description, it's a conceit that, like most naturalistic fallacies, is consistently used to excuse and justify existing social order. Viz evopsych, etc.

The premise I'm contesting is that minimizing suffering due to social constructs necessitates homogeny, which is a condition that narratively pits potential social orders against the individual.

> It sounds to me like you're conflating the Communist Manifesto with Capital...It is not a critique of any extant society

The Manifesto contains the class struggle interpretation of history, the labor theory of value, excess value, the means of production, etc. Those are all models and critiques of extant society. It is not as descriptive or theoretical a work as Capital, but it primarily argues for a model of things as they are and have been. To my decades-old recollection only the third section is focused on ideal societies, and a large portion of that on contemporary political movements.

You can disagree with those models of extant society, or like me view them as historically significant but superseded theories, but you must admit the fundamental contrast to something like Moore's Utopia. They both have explicit normative perspective, but the Manifesto's are constructed out of an analysis of existing conditions, whereas Utopia is primarily concerned with describing the order of its hypothetical social ideal. Books like The Road to Serfdom are rarely framed as being utopian despite primarily being normative.

Politics is the art of the possible. Labeling perspectives on social order as "utopian" is a move designed to exclude them from the realm of possibility. I also first read the Manifesto in a political philosophy course as part of a unit on utopianism. It was only years later I realized the framing by the right-libertarian professor to demarcate it from serious political philosophy, despite post-Marxism having at least as comparable a profile as an academic philosophical tradition to the just-market apologetics that made up the remainder of the course.


Claiming that our nature makes inevitable that societies require some significant portion of their constituents to suffer is not simple description, it's a conceit that, like most naturalistic fallacies, is consistently used to excuse and justify existing social order.

If you eradicate violence then those who love violence will suffer. You can't please everyone. This is not a normative claim, it's a fact of individuality. If your Utopian society is free of violence, then you must exclude people who love violence. How you accomplish this without committing violence is another matter.

you must admit the fundamental contrast to something like Moore's Utopia

I don't, actually. More was every bit a critic of his contemporary society as Marx was of his. The difference between More and Marx is that More was one of the most brilliant rhetoricians of all time. Taking the form of a Socratic dialogue, Utopia employs a pair of interlocutors, one of whom is the author himself, in order to present a critique of enclosure and the excesses of nobility that flew right over most nobles' heads. To call it "primarily concerned with describing the order of its hypothetical ideal" is to completely miss the author's point. I suggest you read it again.


Because people differ, attempts to make a society where one kind of people will be perfectly happy make other kinds of people very unhappy. The contrapositive is that making a society where nobody is very unhappy means making a society where nobody is perfectly happy.


> Is Trump’s America a dystopia?

I would look at America over the last 40-50 years, instead of asking about Trump specifically.

This is one question asked in the article, and I think that the author does a massive disservice here, while simultaneously writing an article that suggests that any Utopia is also a Dystopia, but never asks the question: is there a subset of Americans that would consider America today to be Utopic. I would argue that yes, that is the case: Those who hold massive quantities of capital. They collect massive amounts from the economy, and pay relatively little in taxes, all by design, since Reagan. More speak against them today, but it is relatively new to see the arguments against their economic value, or whether such concentrated power is dangerous, at least for me.

I could go one step further and look at oil production and usage in this country, and probably be able to formulate utopia/dystopia from it.

However, neither of these are specific to "Trump's" America, and instead discuss an America that has existed and been going in this direction for some time. I consider inability to see dystopia and utopia in this system to be lack of creativity.


When I read this article, I thought of growing up in the suburbs. The suburbs I grew up in are ideal for the adult who wants to have a large house and minimal contact with strangers, but they are something very different for the adolescent child who is craving experience and contact with the outside world.

It would be hyperbole to call the suburbs an example of a dystopia for teenagers created in an attempt to create a kind of utopia intended for parents. But I have to admit that was the first thing that popped in my head as I read the article.


I think a lot of dystopias arise from Rousseau-style or blank-slate naturalism - the idea that humans are naturally good (or that they can be easily socialised to be naturally good).

A dystopian ruler does not believe they are destroying humanity, they believe they are rescuing humanity from some exogenous menace, whereas a more Hobbes-inspired ruler believes themselves to be rescuing humanity from itself.

If humans are only evil because they are brainwashed by capitalism, or patriarchy, religion, or royalty, or lizardmen, or the government, or some other menace then any brutality used to purge this evil is both justified and a temporary state of affairs. On the other hand, if you assume that some people are just a little bit naturally anti-social then trying to fight this (through either soft measures like education, or hard measures like punishment) is only justified if the the tangible benefits (not the promise of some eventual Utopia) exceed the costs.


Despite all the complaining, we're living in a utopia in the US right now. By any historical standard, life in the US is good beyond imagination.

For example, we're the fattest people on the planet, at all income levels, due to ridiculous overabundance of food. People throw away 40% of their food!

The only crisis in America is a crisis of whiners, which has reached epic proportions.


So the majority of the examples proving the claim rely on fiction books and Netflix shows. Well I'm convinced now for sure


An interesting read, but I also returned here to remark that the argument "Moreover, this world is fallen, so it is by nature flawed. ... and that is not the image of the Creator." is invalid and does make me wonder if there are other, more subtle misconceptions sprinkled throughout.


There is no utopia. There are always winners and losers. Also, every system has cracks and loopholes which work against meritocracy.


Trying to immanentize the eschaton is risky business. On the other hand, that there's pie in the sky is a vicious lie.


Everything will be perfect when I am king. Trust me.


Using that logic, does utopia result from attempting to create a dystopia?


An article brought to you by an institute that believes in:

"There are certain permanent things in society: the health of the family, inherited political institutions that insure a measure of order and justice and freedom, a life of diversity and independence, a life marked by widespread possession of private property. These permanent things guarantee against arbitrary interference by the state. These are all aspects of conservative thought, which have developed gradually as the debate since the French Revolution has gone on."


Interestingly, utopian projects tend to try and eliminate those things. Perhaps because they guarantee against arbitrary interference by the state.


But you see, only arbitrary interference by the state can bring about Utopia, because in order to get there, we need something powerful enough to run over everything in the status quo.

(Or so proponents seem to believe.)


Fortunately with super social technology we can succeed where all past attempts have failed.


Yes, it's hard not to think that the subtext here is a kind of quietism in service to the status quo.


the only purpose of this article is to shut off the possibility of an alternative to the status quo.


Hehe who knows. I was just sitting at 5 point comment and in like 30 seconds im at -1.


though, what are the proof that "progressivism" is actually "progress" ?


What's wrong with any of that?


I just think its too on the nose. A classical liberal think tank writes scare piece about the downsides to Utopian progressivism. Yawn. Perhaps im getting old.


I've heard the assertion that utopianism is bad, but what about it is bad? Certainly, we should be able to strive for improvement, in ourselves and society?

The problem with utopianism is the desire to create a new society out of whole cloth, with no regard for the lessons of the past, or the structure of existing society. Drastic changes, like those of the communist revolutions, rarely bring about positive change (not never), and frequently bring about huge disaster. Instead, changes on the margins tend to more reliably improve things. There are exceptions of course.


Utopianism is Perfectionism, as opposed to Progressivism. It's unsound to believe that's possible to elminiate all problems, and someone having a belief that utopis is possible is s strong signal of either deceit or stupidity.


Surely you meant to say that it's a strong signal of not being completely candid, or of being disingenuous :)

I like the perfectionism vs progressivism thing. My analogy would have been that it's like "the truth": if you think you're in full possession of the full truth, or ever could be, that's silly. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to learn more, be more honest, and so on. "truth" with a small t is still a useful concept. But it's always subjective, and requires people figuring that out both alone, with nothing between themselves and their conscience, and together (which will never change it to being objective, or completely agreed upon by all, or mean 100% the same thing even for two identical twins who "totally agree" on it).

Just like one could say we are the "result" of what our cells are doing all the time (I know you really couldn't simplify it like that at all, but for the sake of argument), society is the result of the daily decisions of the actual people in it - what they think others expect of them, and whether they listen to that or their inner voice, and so on.

It seems to me many want to change society "on" others rather than with them, you might say they would rather attempt to change society on a drawing board to change their neighbours, than get to know their neighbours and themselves in the first place. But societies aren't really that different from personal relations and families. People grow over time, societies grow, decay or heal over time, too -- not as the result of turning a switch or throwing out everything that was before on a dime, just because we really want to.

> Until now the totalitarian belief that everything is possible seems to have proved only that everything can be destroyed.

-- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"


That's the distinction between utopianism and, I guess, gradualism or conservatism. It's not about whether or not we should improve society, it's about whether we should completely overturn everything in society based on abstract theory.

A non-utopian way of improving society is to have robust, good-faith discussion between progressive and conservative factions, where the progressives keep trying to find safe, marginal reforms to make while the conservatives act as a skeptical check on those marginal reforms turning into a utopian project.

At least in the United States, where I live, this doesn't happen because the "progressives" are radicalizing towards utopianism while the "conservative" faction is themselves split between utopianism and reaction.


"At least in the United States, where I live, this doesn't happen because the "progressives" are radicalizing towards utopianism while the "conservative" faction is themselves split between utopianism and reaction."

Sometimes It feels like the "conservatives" are more utopian than the progressives. They just live in the utopia of a past that never existed.


this was a completely useless run of the mill red scare piece whose only real argument is "things can only get better slowly you squirmy discontents, I have tenure so don't rock the boat"


The only argument seems to be some religious BS. What we live today(in the developed world) could be perceived as Utopia for the poor caveman for sure.



Sounds like the author finally got around to reading Utopia and went, "hey, wait a minute, this society is actually... bad. A dystopia, if you will."


Politics is a see-saw of right and left policey, swings one way, then over time the objection to that swing grows and you end up swinging the other way. But then, you can see this historically with the two party system, even though you have more than a choice of two. Those two are the majority and the way politics works, it's the majority (however small).

So yes, a push to one direction or another will increase and raise risistance, but then that's due to lack of engaging with the resistance and as we see play out time and time again in politics. Instead of engaging, it becomes one of posturing and what I call playground politics, with name calling and labeling to dismiss the opersition. Both sides are guilty of this, they both equaly hate it when they are the minority at the time and on the recieving end. Yet nothing changes. So you end up with a sing to one side for a few years or decade and then a swing the other way.

How do you solve it, well as with any negotiation, compromise, as they do in buisness. But I'm sure many who have been at board meeting trying to get thru a project would love to resort to the political approach of labeling and dismissing all objections and vilionising such objections in an internal marketing campaign. But we don't as we are adults. I just lament how politics today on both sides, often forget they are adults and left the playground behind years ago.

Sure there are politicians who are above such approaches, but alas they are drowned up by the masses and I often wonder - has politics today improved or gone downhill? Equally has it always been the case and is it more due to more faster communications of the news and media access that has allowed us to see it more clearly?

But then, physics has taught us that for every action there is a reaction. Which parallels in many walks of life outside physics.


Politics in America are a see-saw of right/left swings... and the see-saw swings back and forth every eight years almost like clockwork, this is because of the American political system though, it's not due to the nature of humanity. America needs to take a serious swing at removing money from politics and giving more voice to third party dissenting opinions, it'll help stabilize the country over the long run and allow for a less partisan/black and white approach.

In America there are socially conservative people that believe the in the right for women's choice in abortion, and there are otherwise socially liberal people who believe in removing that right, these people are left voiceless to the benefit of the two entrenched parties and end up see-sawing back and forth between who has been the least terrible recently.


You see exactly the same over here in the UK, and in many other countries. But then that's the case with many voting systems alas. Which needs to evolve beyond a token X in a limited choice every N years. It's like a carpenter going to do a job, and only allowing him to pick from either a hammer or a saw and he has to stick with using only that same tool for years and future jobs in that time. That's politics today alas.

Though when we keep failing to produce a simple electronic voting system, a problem shared around the World. You wonder if perhaps the World could come together and group design an open source solution that the people of the World could audit and help improve, until we all become happy. That would be a start.


Totally agree about third party representation. It's still hard to believe that Ross Perot (like him or not) got around 20% of the vote in the 90s and 0% representation came out of this. Congress would do well if there were some swing voters who aren't beholden to the two big parties. This way the big parties would have to collaborate more because they couldn't just go straight party line.




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