I think I said sometime back that I realized utopia wasn't a point. It was a vector. It couldn't be an ideal society as a stable fixed thing, it had to be a movement towards the better. I realized that I had to go back and fix this vision yet again, not as a vector but as a vector-cloud.
So what the heck am I talking about.
People often visualize an idealized society, how everything would be if it were perfect. The problem with a lot of attempts to do that is that you end up with, at best and assuming you actually finish the project, a fairly solid structure. Solid, as in doesn't move or change.
Biologically, that just doesn't happen. Systems that involve replicating imperfect copies in a changing environment at best achieve a stable equilibrium for a time. Out of the same processes which potentially bring "improvements" to species in the system, you have individuals which don't conform to the prevailing order. Here you can define "species" pretty broadly, both the same way we do in biology, or you can define it as ideas people hold, or as systems of ideas. Regardless, unless your utopia stamps out all diversity, you will have to contend with individuals who don't fit your solid pattern. No matter how cleverly you try to account for this, individuals will work their way into weaknesses and imperfections in your system that you categorically cannot cope with unless you invalidate your utopian vision.
Not to mention the fact that we're all of limited vision, can't see some of own faults and biases that will at some point in the future be viewed as the focal point of social pain. For instance, before racism and slavery became viewed as even contestable points there was widespread belief among many that this was natural and sustainable and right. There were a very few principled people who disagreed. There were even some very principled people who agreed. If you truly have a good feel for just how difficult it can be to free yourself from your own blinders, hopefully you can begin to empathize with the people who, despite their commitment to being principled and moral people who thought through the problems of the day and arrived at what they felt to be a consistent moral philosophy still came to include in their moral code a conclusion we now regard as almost universally corrupting at its core.
So, not only can we not keep a society in a kind of crystal lattice of perfect design, the very attempt to create that perfection as a fixed form is a kind of hubris. The effort may be worth it in the attempt to better understand what is moral, but actually imposing that on the future is where it becomes problematic.
Thinking this through hundreds of times it eventually dawned on me that the best idea isn't envisioning a perfect society but a social movement. Not a point in space described by any number of measurements and situated exactly. A vector, signaling a path towards the better and yet better.
Lately, I don't know when it hit me, maybe a week or two ago, I realized that even that's oversimplified. Mostly in a moment of jaded cynicism, as will hit me in an election year in the US and reading about multiple other bits of bad news around the world and some in local circles of friends.
It's those defectors, again. Those people who aren't cooperating.
If you define society as the entire world, maybe your movement is a small minority working to make things better. If you define society as your movement, you'll still have individuals within the group who have mixed needs and motivations and tug at the seams (at best).
Regardless, from a "systems" view, the people who aren't going with the main direction are going to be there.
Go look at a cloud, though, for a bit. You know that every molecule in there is flying in a different direction, oftentimes counter to the prevailing direction of the cloud itself. The boundaries of the cloud also shift, and though they seem crisp and discernible from the ground they're actually fairly difficult to discern up close. Clouds also grow and shrink over time. They're some of the most quintessential chaotic systems you can witness.
Why can't utopia be like that?
Indeed, it can't be anything but be that.
So, I'm trying to re-imagine utopia as a good, robust, dynamic and changing society that keeps getting better. I'm also trying to figure how we'd recognize it if we saw it. How we'd recognize its absence if it wasn't there and how we'd work towards creating the conditions for it. I should probably also look at how we'd recognize symptoms that'd kill it, and how we'd work towards healing their causes.