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Jonathan Ghalmi Ribeiro

Software Engineer, Thales Australia

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Developing a new type of Utopia

I'm writing a novel set in a modern utopia that would take into account all achievements from the past century. I believe societies could progress much faster and better by limiting conflicts.
Number one conflict I believe is the political division that exists in almost every occidental country. I believe it is healthy to allow different political views to express themselves. On the other hand, populations are being split and turned on each other because of that. Each believes to hold the solution to progress and growth, politics have to deal with opposition which regularly prevents sound propositions to be voted only because they are the opposition.

The main idea of Newtopia is to be a 'network of societies' that share a common ground of moral values :a Constitution. But those societies would differ in their societal/political ideology :socialism, liberals,... for as long as it respects the Constitution.

Relations between societies would be overlooked by an entity of experts :education, science, economy... and civilians : The Constitution Group. These would represent each of the societies that are part of Newtopia and decide commonly of inter-societal investments and projects.

That entity would be 'controlled' by an independent small group of founders of Newtopia :guardians of the Newtopian principle

When within a society, a group of individuals become large enough to express their own political views, means are given to them to realize their own model of society in respect of the Constitution.

Each sub-society is assessed on a regular period and equally to identify the models that work from those that don't. The aim is to give every view a shot at being a successful society. Criteria would be defined by the Constitution Group and Founders to decide if a model is performing well or not :using the Constitution as basis for criteria

I have other ideas related to Newtopia but I would first like to discuss that idea of 'network of societies'.

Thank you

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    Jan 8 2014: Is the theme here similar to other utopian novels - attempted utopia inflicting distopia?

    Personally I'm for more sovereign societies. I believe they'll lead to the effect you describe here - the freedom to experiment and learn from mistakes.

    If it holds, then any nation should be able to grant more sovereignty to its states and provinces, under a code or Constitution of course, and society overall would become far more robust.
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    Dec 16 2013: I agree with the Star Trek comment, I think captain Picard explains in the movie 'First Contact' that the Federation of the future is highly evolved and advanced form of humanity...right before he flips out on some Borg! The look on her face is revealing. In any case, a society without money pretty interesting.

    Some suggestions I have for your 'constitution' question is to take a look at Alexis de Tocqueville's writings in Democracy in America. In Volume II, Part Three, Chapter 18 he discusses Honor in the United States and in Democratic societies. My suggestion is that if you define what is most important in the ideology of you fictional citizens in terms of what do they esteem, what do they honor. Tocqueville compares the Aristocracy of the Middle Ages to democracy. His theme is mainly to support his theory on tyranny of the majority, but he articulates well the dangers and benefits of the utility of honor and how it is defined. He does this by sardonically explaining the violence of the Middle Ages. He describes that when there is great inequality the people will form associations, in those associations they will form classes or caste and generate their own way of thinking and judging. The new class formed decides 'what is just or unjust' 'what is good and what is evil' 'what to shame and what to blame' this in context is what is honorable and dishonorable. The irony is that it changes from group to group, nation to nation and in the Middle Ages, human virtue was 'military virtue' based on extreme violence. Esteem was granted to the perpetuators of violence. In any case he compares that idea of the concept of honor in democracy that is not based on 'military virtue', but based on 'Courage', not military courage mind you, much more mild. Courage is for the sake of commerce, maintenance and prosperity to preserve the balance of liberty and equality. of course the success of this requires legislation and regulation and ethical sensitivity.
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      Jan 9 2014: First Contact.... One of my favorite SciFi films. I too have wondered how Picard's society does without money...
      Wait a minute... debit cards, credit cards, electronic transfers... we are a society without money.

      .
  • M Hvid

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    Dec 15 2013: I think in the real world the electing/selection thing you have going on, would lead to corruption and nepotism. It seems like the only way to get influence, is to get chosen by other current members, or by members of other councils. Much like China or other dictatorships. I think your system would be fine if people in the councils made their decisions based on the benefit of the people, but that is not always the case. Different people might have different agendas in a persons candidacy (and policies). It also seems a lot of people would be involved with governance/state-stuff, thus not bringing revenue to the society and adding cost.

    How would the network of societies trade within each other and with other current 'traditional' nations? When existing land is to be divided (when newtoipa is founded), who decides what ideologies get what land and ressources?

    How is law enforcement handled and who controls the military (if any military at all)?

    A big thing in ideologies, is the idea about how a state should be governed and how resources should be distributed. It seems that the different societies wont have much influence on the structure of governance (ie who decides what), i dont know about tax policies?. So what values are left to tweak?

    I also think an important part of democracy is that it gives far-out groups a chance to be heard (whitout getting arrested) and for people to make up their minds about them freely. If your society is based on 'moral' values, you have a lot more room for exclusion, cencorship, moral-courts etc. A society based on 'moral' values would, in my opinion, be at risk of being narrow-minded.

    Current countries where i would say moral value is important state-wise seems not to be faring too well. They seem to be caught up in praising their own agenda and punishing people who dont like their stuff , instead of just letting people do whatever they want and get on with themselves.
  • Dec 14 2013: In this post I'll finish defining the governing bodies of Newtopia.

    Each sub-society government will manage political matters as well as investments that are mostly relevant to their own society.

    Inter-societal relations and investments/projects will be overviewed by another entity : the Constitution Group.
    Along with the Founders, they also ensure the respect of the Newtopian constitution across all sub-societies. They decide on a periodical basis on the creation or dismantlement or redefinition of a sub-society in a concerted decision and with the overview of the Founders.

    Founders basically ensure that all decisions that could lead to possible disrespect of the Constitution are made in accordance to Newtopian values.

    The Constitution Group: are members of each sub-society governing body with equal reprensentation, with both experts and civilians. Sub-society governments decide of whom is to be representing them within the Constitution Group (with Founders approval). They are selected for a defined period of time and cannot have more than 1 mandate within a period of 3 mandates. At this level all members of the experts/civilian pools deserve an equal chance at being in that group.
    They decide on major investments/projects as well as reevaluating those already actioned to decide of their value overtime and their usefulness. For example, a national broadband network project is decided by the Constitution Group with milestones/plan defined when launching it. After 1 year/6 months/... they reevaluate the plan and act accordingly (more/less funds, technological changes, project dropped...)

    Experts/Civilians : in that group, both experts and civilians are chosen independently from other sub-societies to avoid to the maximum any connivance between multiple sub-societies. If that type of interaction is identified by the Founders, the responsible will be first expelled from any possible role in any governing body and in grave cases, expelled from Newtopia.
  • Dec 14 2013: Each sub-society should follow that model that I defined for a government. Amendments can be asked and validated by the Founders. Merit-based government will always be preferred to any other option so amendments should take this into account. If those amendments are not in line with Newtopian principles then the next question is whether that sub-society fits into the Newtopian model.
    If it doesn't, the Founders can shutdown that sub-society. That seems harsh but the type of Utopia I am aiming for is one that leads by example by promoting the fittest societies (think a 'Survival of the fittest' to a society level). Not everyone will fit that model to start with and many people will be left out because their views differ from what Newtopia is trying to achieve.

    The aim is to prove overtime that the selected models of society and sub-society work in defending basic moral principles (the constitution) and also prove to be an efficient way of enabling high-quality technological/societal/moral progress.
    When other countries and people will look back at Newtopia and see that it is progressing faster and better than any other society, more and more will join that model or try to adapt it to their needs (maybe even coming up with something better).
    It will take a very long time to reach that point but the best way to convince others that you are right is by proving it through example. I believe there are enough people who aim for that goal for that idea to actually work in a work of fiction and maybe even in real life.

    I'll continue with the governing organization of Newtopia in my next post but I'd like to raise a an important point first.

    Unlike many countries, Newtopia is not based on sharing a historical legacy. Common values/morals are much more important here. I thinki many countries are not working at their best because they are based on uniting people based on their history instead of regrouping them by shared values which is a far better incentive for progress.
  • Dec 14 2013: Hi guys, first of all, thank you for giving some of your time to participate in the discussion.

    Before answering your questions, I would like to precise that one of the main goals of the novel is to actually prove to a certain point that building a Utopian society with today's progress is possible given the right mindset and means. Other than the story, which I know the main points of, prove the possibility of a utopian-like society and get people thinking/talking about the subject is my other main goal.

    Now to the questions raised. The Constitution group is made up of a mix of field experts and civilians, The size will be limited, see it as a small assembly (40-50 persons) which members come from the different sub-societies of Newtopia. Here's in detail the selection process which is based on a merit criteria (yup it's not a democracy).

    Founders of Newtopia : the group of people whose implication in building Newtopia is such that they can be considered independent from each sub-society. They would be the guardians of the principles that rule Newtopia and therefore are selected for a limitless period, They leave the group following a personal decision, conflict of interest or found guilty of any crime.

    Sub-society government : Composed of both experts and civilians.

    Sub-society government-Experts : Each sub-society has to come up with a defined pool of experts that is validated by the Founders in respect of Newtopian principles and merit in being an expert. That pool decides within itself of whom should be in the governing body, limited in size (10-12 people)

    Sub-society government-Civilians : Once the governing experts are selected, they select a small pool of civilians in concert with the Founders based on merit criteria. Basically, the people who show the most interest in participating in the life of their society get chosen.

    Also note that any civilian can become an expert and the aim here is to give everyone the same chance at improving their society.
  • Dec 13 2013: Utopian society hmmmm.... I think for that equation to work one would have to include this factor: politicians would have to remove all benefits, pay and all corporate ties and be stripped from ever holding an office again once removed so obviously short term limits, if you please. I would like to believe in a future Utopian society with true civil servants whose interest lie in the betterment of society and its future. Ahhh but for man such hopes could be dreamed. Keep looking forward towards such goals Jonathan for it is people such as yourself that can possibly stir others into action. Thank you
  • M Hvid

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    Dec 13 2013: What if a group that did not share the value of the constitution got a lot of support? + this structure would require a lot of administration, as there are more things to be decided in smaller groups. Some groups might not want to cooporate with some specific group, and instead make an alliance with other groups as to gain more power across the network. Eventually consolidating these alliances, and then you are left with a few very big groups.

    Anyway, since its a book you can do anything, and i think there are plenty of unresolved questions, wich could make for good elements in the story. You need to decide what issues are decided by what level of government. The more you leave up to the local societies, the more they can disagree with each other. Consider how small the groups can be, how many different ideologies do you allow? (and are some banned?)

    Also, it seems people would physically have to move to another location, in order to live where their politically/worldopinion like-minded are. That could maybe be a good theme, choosing between your naitive home, family etc (which has your personal relations, but is an 'evil' world) and your 'newtopia' (where you dont know anything, but it is a 'good' world).

    Edited for typos
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    Dec 13 2013: As you are writing a novel, what sort of help would be most useful? Are you looking for interesting conflicts that might arise when characters in sub-societies grow resentful of the elite of experts and evaluators? Are you looking for how people solve problems or learn- or don't- when they are insulated with others of their same ideology? Are you looking for ideas about issues that arise when people are born into a sub-society whose beliefs they increasingly do not hold?

    This might be silly, but I think Star Trek may have this sort of model of a federation of planets with each planet having different values and traditions, mostly segregated from each other. Within that model, Gene Roddenberry managed to draw lots of plotlines!

    Do you already have a sort of plot idea?