Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Imagining utopia

Particularly in young adult speculative fiction, there's a current trend to represent dystopias. And it's a valid reaction when we look at our world today. One of the primary functions of science fiction is to interrogate the present and show us the potential outcomes of what we see out of our window. That's certainly true for the worldbuilding I did in Horizon.

But as well as reflecting the fears we feel today, science fiction can also support the creation of positive visions for tomorrow. And it's worthwhile every now and then to lift our eyes from the doom and gloom and imagine what a world where things have gone right would look like. And in imagining it, work out what is needed to get there.

So I'll get the ball rolling with a few ideas in no particular order. Feel free to add to it, disagree or turn it upside down. All views are equally valid.

The environment is protected
Climate change is the biggest threat to our continued survival. It's hard to live on a world where there isn't good air to breathe, fresh water to drink and fertile soil to grow stuff and raise livestock. That's a no brainer.

Getting there: Governments, business and social groups put short-term gains and competition aside to agree on and implement effective means to halt climate degradation and work to improve our environment. We all pitch in, accepting that lifestyle changes are inevitable and worthwhile if we want Earth to be viable in the long term.

Enablers: the Climate Council, the United Nations

The vulnerable are safe
Disadvantage is as old as humanity but that's no reason to carry it with us into the future. Whether it be social, financial, geographical, physical, mental or any other kind, we all deserve the right to access assistance that allows us to play an active role in civil society.

Getting there: Social services are funded and prioritised to ensure that effective protection and support is provided to anyone who needs it, and people are encouraged despite their disadvantage not punished because of it. We support a world where those who need receive, even if that means there's less for us.

Enablers: Australian Council of Social Services.

Everyone has a home
I don't think even I can imagine a utopia where war no longer exists and people can accept their differences and live in peace with each other. But where wars, revolts and uprisings (or even natural disasters) do occur, the victims of those catastrophes deserve the right to a place where they can live in safety.

Getting there: Governments everywhere cooperate to ensure that people who are displaced by war or natural catastrophes are provided with swift access to the support and services they need to pursue fulfilling and productive lives and are not victimised, vilified or otherwise denied aid. We learn to look for the good in people rather than hate them for being different.

Enablers: the United Nations (you seeing a trend here?), the Refugee Council of Australia.

Information is free
Regardless of whether you think the current moves to change how the internet works and how surveillance agencies interface with it are 'necessary evils' because of terrorist threats or 'attacks on our civil liberties', an effective community is one where every member has free and unfettered access to information that does not infringe individual privacy or proprietary knowledge.

Getting there: The internet remains in the hands of all of us, and those who seek to fetter it for commercial gain or hobble it in the misguided belief that it will produce a nett benefit in the war against terror fail to gain a foothold.

Enablers: Electronic Frontiers Australia, Electronic Frontiers Federation the United Nations.

So that's my two cents. What else can we imagine into existence in our future utopia?

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