What Is Utopia?

Has the thought of a better world ever entered your mind? Lately, that’s all I’ve been thinking about. Believe me when I say thinking about a world gone crazy over the course of four years has yielded more than its fair share of interesting thoughts. A case in point? Zombies. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve learned quite a bit about the undead, how they are born, live and die. It’s no secret that I’ve talked about the zombie culture, and to a point, lived it in my writings.

Is this Utopia?
Is this Utopia?

That’s why for today’s Monday Mayhem article I would like to focus attention on the other side of the pendulum—Utopia. What is it? Is it possible? How soon can it happen?

On many occasions, I’ve touched on the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. If there ever were a true representation of Utopia, I would say the era of the crew of the Starship Enterprise is it. How could I think any less of the perfect amalgamation of technology, society and morals than that of the United Federation of Planets?

The original show introduced audiences to the transporter, a machine that dematerializes the molecular structure of objects and reassembles them in another location. Imagine beaming to Florence in the morning for an espresso, then beaming back home to get ready for work in the span of a few minutes. Are you worried about costs of the trip? No need. Apparently, the need for material wealth no longer exists, replaced by the desire to better oneself with the arts and sciences instead.

What Is Utopia?The show also gave viewers the replicator, a device possessing the ability to create foods and recipes from a technical schematic fed to it in binary instructions. In other words, no dish is too difficult to cook in a matter of seconds as long as the computer has it programmed in its database. The replicator is a dream for those wanting food fast without it being fast food. I smell a turkey dinner, mashed potatoes, vegetables and a bucket of gravy slated for tonight’s dinner. It is that quick. You think it, the computer makes it.

And the biggest of all creations Star Trek brought to the table is the enigma called the holodeck, a device that can recreate a time and place in history. The device can also create an environment specially designed to conform to one of the biggest game centers ever. The practical application for such a device is with the recreation, say, of a crime scene. The holodeck can also add all the suspects involved, and a court can determine the guilty party based on the evidence and the holodeck’s presentation. Yet, the holodeck gives me the biggest thrill when members of the crew use it to recreate historical events as an educational device. Imagine living through the era of the first settlers in North America. Or, what would it have been like had we lived during mediaeval times when damsels in distress were a norm. Wouldn’t that be something?

Through it all, Star Trek’s gadgets and devices can’t replace one of the greatest messages the show depicts. In the Star Trek universe, all people, regardless of race, religion or nationality live in harmony, respecting one another and each one’s ideals. As much as I would enjoy saying this is true today, the whole world has yet to follow this futuristic Utopian model.

Wouldn’t it be something if it did?

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What do you think of the Star Trek Utopia? Do you think it possible?

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21 thoughts on “What Is Utopia?

  1. Star Trek is whatever the writers want it to be and whatever appeals to the viewers. ST:TNG presents a strongly militaristic society. Everyone follows orders and dissenters are punished. That’s not surprising because the starship missions are basically military. War, Rescue, Science Research, Diplomacy are done with a military model in mind. Notice there are no commercial activities performed and music and art is relegated to off duty pastimes. Nothing is done just because the community “felt like it.” The Enterprise isn’t a holiday Cruise ship. Initially there were establishing episodes that hinted at a larger community of families living in the saucer section. But that went away as battles became common. Who would accept as good taking kindergarten classes into a confrontation with the Borg.

  2. I never thought of Star Trek as a Utopia but it does seem to work. Forget the the latter two though, a transporter would solve a whole host of problems.

  3. Alas, I have to say I think Utopia (as depicted in later Star Trek, TV mostly) is about as real as Atlantis or Shangri-La or the Fountain of Youth, to name a few. It would be nice if we could come close to achieving some sort of ideal society/community where there’s no greed, want, or suffering, but then, that would be ‘heaven,’ wouldn’t it? As I think you mentioned in a comment, Jack, regarding how the society in most of the ST:TNG universe was not motivated by, nor did it use, the capitalistic wealth system, like we currently have in place (unless, of course, they were talking about a culture like the Ferengi!). Great discussion!

  4. My opinion… Utopia is one of those “eye of the beholder” concepts that varies wildly from person to person. My sense of utopia is balance. I like to be a realist so I believe things will never be exactly how we want them to be. Life just doesn’t support everything humanity demands from and inflicts upon the world. We have a lot of good ideas and intentions, but we have a lot of bad too. I don’t believe I’ll ever get to see my ideas of utopia become reality because trends and predictability seem to indicate that with the rise of more technology and ever increasing population, we’re leaving little room for Mother Nature to keep things in check. We’re seeing more and more synthetic products because sometimes nature can’t supply our rate and quality of demand. While studying at University, the idea that man causes disturbances we can’t reverse came up time and time again. We can manage and mitigate our disturbances, but we can’t undo them. I like what you said: “one man’s heaven is another man’s hell” because that ideology is something I’ve been in tune with. You can put forth as much effort and compromise as possible, but at the end of the day someone is still going to be unhappy. I don’t believe in, nor do I want, a world that exists where everyone is on auto-pilot believing a manufactured set of ideals with no conflicting opinions and dreams. I, of course, don’t want murderers to exist but I don’t want zombies for people if you know what I mean.

    If we could maintain a healthy balance in all things, I’d be happy with that.

  5. Utopia Roddenberry – style.
    Star Trek predicted civilizations without much conflict, except when it was a last resort, but as long as human nature is what it is, we’ll always have SOME conflict.
    Technology – They foresaw many things from computer storage media, cell – phones, smart – phones, & 3 – D printers ( Since the replicator is a sort of 3 – D printer ). AND sentient machines even before Cmdr. Data.

    What I REALLY don’t understand is – How do people get PAID ? From the highest – ranking Federation official to an old – fashioned artist who sculpts or paints ? Mankind ( & whatever other life forms there may be among the stars ) doesn’t usually work just for the ” satisfaction of a job well done ” or ” attaboy points “.

    • Actually, having watched the series over many years, the crew of the Starship Enterprise work for attaboy points. Remember, in one of the early episodes there were a few people who were awakened from a cryogenic slumber–people from the 20th century. The first thing Picard got out of the way was tell the visitors that they’ve eliminated the need for want. That is huge. In the future, they live for the betterment of themselves, not for money. So, if there is no want for money, then why should there be the need for money?

  6. Have the Klingons been civilised? I thought they were the bad guys.

    My only concern about Utopia is the possibility that one person’s Utopia is wall to wall Justin Bieber and then were all done for. I’ll settle for a holodeck (that never breaks down) and a very large monthly allowance of cash to pay for a lifetime’s supply of crisps.

  7. Star Trek utopia seems plausible, but I remember another one that I did a paper on long ago. ‘Demolition Man’ shows how fragile a utopia is and that’s why I think it’s a difficult, if not impossible, thing to achieve. It really depends on the type though, so this is probably closer to a utopia that has been at peace for so long that the slightest negative element would crumble it. A single violent criminal was able to bring the utopia of Demolition Man to its knees and they needed an equally violent hero to solve it. This makes me think such a world is difficult to maintain and requires people going beyond their baser instincts. For example, the world of Star Trek would require a reduction in greed and rise in compassion to end poverty and work toward a system where wealth isn’t important. Kind of hard to wrap my head around these days.

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