A Day in Utopia

by ozymandias8 min read22nd Nov 201710 comments

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[Crossposted from my blog at Habryka's suggestion; original post suggestion comes from Stuart Armstrong. This is my utopia which is designed for me; if this really bothers you, imagine that there are lots of other interesting cities doing things differently elsewhere. I am blatantly ignoring scientific plausibility here.]

I wake up on my own when the sun is beginning to turn the horizon pink. We have, of course, figured out how to skip sleep without any penalties to mental and physical health, and many people never sleep, but I enjoy the dreamy feeling of falling asleep and waking up, and so make sure to set aside two or three hours a day for sleep.

I look at myself in the mirror. My body is smooth and hairless, except for my eyebrows and the hair on my scalp; those are naturally silver. Thanks to our awesome transition tech, my chest is flat and muscular, my features androgynous. I make a note that my semipermanent backpiece– a tribute to Lucifer from Paradise Lost– is starting to fade, and I should either get it touched up or decide what I want to replace it with. I dress in blue jeans, a black T-shirt, and a leather jacket (it was, of course, grown in a vat; we don’t eat cows).

I wave at my housemate, who’s eating a muffin for breakfast. I don’t have to eat breakfast, because my NutriPump gives me a steady stream of calories through the night. I woke up comfortably full. I usually set it to turn off during the day, because I like eating lunch and dinner, but when I’m really absorbed into a project I will skip eating entirely. My housemate prefers to get all her calories from food, so she sets her NutriPump just to monitor and correct any nutritional deficiencies.

Our house is designed for group living. We each have our own apartments with a bathroom and a private study/workroom, but the kitchen and living room are shared. Architects designed the house to maximize the possibility that housemates would run into each other in the common areas, to promote incidental socialization. I don’t know exactly how they did it, because I haven’t studied architecture yet.

My other housemate comes down, yawning sleepily. He likes having more money than most people do– I think it mostly goes to hiring a human maid once a week and to his habit of leaving hundred-dollar bills on street corners to watch people be ecstatic about finding them. So he works one of the absolutely necessary jobs that most people won’t do for free. He monitors an automated shoe factory. It turns out tens of thousands of shoes a day and has three employees.

I make myself my morning cup of green tea and open my laptop, which has an automatically generated to-do list in the corner of the screen.

My first activity of the day is exercise. We haven’t quite figured out how to do without exercise yet. Honestly, I think it’s just lack of motivation: most people get plenty of exercise from everyday life, such as by walking or biking to and from public transit stops, playing with kids or dogs, and active hobbies like cooking and gardening. (Of course, we also have nifty accommodations for the physically disabled, including those who are tired by walking a long way. No one looks at you funny if you’re using an electric scooter or wheelchair.)

But I personally like the feeling of achieving something I couldn’t before, so I head to my workroom to do some tumbling, gymnastics, and yoga. The nearest gym is ten minutes away and I don’t like having to travel that far, so my workroom is mostly set up for exercise. We have really good soundproofing, so I’m not waking the downstairs neighbors. I enjoy how strong and capable my body is. I’m not as transhuman as a lot of people, but I have been modified for grace and strength.

After exercise, I check in with a friend who’s recently gone through a bad breakup. We haven’t managed to eliminate romantic travails; sometimes you love someone who just doesn’t love you back. But we’ve made it easier in a lot of ways: everyone has friends; our appearances are modifiable enough that you don’t have to be single just because you’re ugly. There’s the safety that you’re probably going to find someone, which eases heartbreak; no one is ever your only chance at love. And it makes me feel good to be able to help someone. I listen to my friend talk about their feelings for a while, then agree to get lunch next week.

I work on my homework for a bit. I’m a bit of a perpetual college student. Right now I’m taking Latin, discrete mathematics, history of medicine, and quantum physics. The class is mostly online, with in-person discussion sections at a coffeeshop twice a week; of course, that’s just what I prefer, and there are a bunch of different classes for people who learn things in different ways.

I do some writing. I’m working on an extremely obscure fanfiction with an audience of four people. But honestly becoming more famous would just be tiring. I’m happy pleasing four of my friends and maybe another person who stumbles across it and finds it wonderful.

I’ve put it off long enough: it’s time to start preparing for the festival. We might not have quite as many holidays as a medieval peasant, but it’s definitely getting close, and our holidays are far more elaborate. Some people do nothing but plan and execute holiday festivals. It seems incredibly tiring and stressful to me, but they just seem to thrive on it.

The upcoming festival is for Geek Pride Day, and I’m signed up to improv a character (they’re from a modern movie, you wouldn’t have heard of it). I run through my spaced repetition deck of obscure facts about my character’s backstory; there’s always one person who takes pride in tripping you up. I note down a few more lines I might want to try using; it’s always a good idea to have some patter scripted out for those routine conversations. My female housemate is making my costume, which is good, because I don’t have a head for crafts.

That evening, I check on my child in the artificial womb. He still kind of looks like a freaky alien, but his vital signs are fine. I pet the glass of his womb; although I know it’s just a reflex reaction, I imagine that he’s waving at me.

Once my son is born, I’m going to set aside a lot of things I currently do to focus on him. That isn’t required, of course; children grow up fine if their parents have lots of hobbies, or even a full-time job of thirty hours a week. But I think it’s really cool to watch a person grow and show him all the good things about the world, and I’d like to be able to focus on that. And it’s not like my projects can’t be put on the backburner. I work a lot because I like to, but most of my work doesn’t pay; I live on my basic income.

Outside the hospital, I meet my girlfriend. She’s a scientist. She’s free to work on whatever interests her, without having to scramble for grant money or p-hack results out of her experiments; all her papers are freely available to anyone who wants to read them. For this reason, we’ve made a lot more scientific discoveries than we did in the past. We gossip about how the crowdfunding of CERN’s latest particle accelerator is going. Particle accelerators are expensive enough that they can’t fund it from their basic incomes, the way my girlfriend buys her chemicals. But it looks like there are enough science fanboys with spare cash that it’ll get funded.

We walk two blocks and go past five or six excellent little restaurants, before eventually deciding we want to go to the salad place. We live in a dense city, so there’s a restaurant to cater to any taste within walking distance. The salad place is owned by a guy who really really likes making salads. There are also automated restaurants with fast but predictably crappy food, produced by machine. Of course you order with an app and pick up the food yourself. Waiters get paid more than my housemate the factory manager does, and thus are only employed at the sort of restaurant where the bill comes to a thousand dollars or so.

I’d love to linger over our salads, but my phone dings to remind me that a movie I wanted to see is out today. My girlfriend and I go to watch it together.

Normally my girlfriend and I would take a late-night walk, but at midnight tonight there’s a show out on the water. It’s pretty crowded, and if you want a good seat you have to cough up a few hundred bucks; people have enough disposable income that inherently scarce things get really really expensive. But there’s always a lot of standing room, and it still looks beautiful from far away.

An orchestra plays. Lights glitter. Fountains shoot water into the air. A mist descends, and rainbow lights dance across it; they resolve into clips of nature, famous movies, the stars. Fireworks explode in the background. The creators are free from worries about hunger, thirst, homelessness, disease; they are free to do whatever they want, and they choose to make beautiful things, to pursue excellence and art for art’s sake, to make things that others marvel at and to marvel at others’ creations in return.

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10 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:43 PM
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everyone has friends

How does your utopia achieve that?

I think that American society makes it very difficult to have friends (television, absence of third places, giant houses with individual yards so you have to drive to see people, stigmatization of men having intimate nonromantic friendships, etc). The vast majority of the change is not doing that. I'd also imagine programs intended to help friendless people meet other friendless people (perhaps a community center with book groups, sports teams, knitting circles, and so on): in many countries there are already such programs aimed at elderly men that are quite successful. You'd probably have friend-matching websites. In the worst case "be a friend to lonely people" is probably a common volunteer opportunity, although of course people who are volunteering to be your friend because they want to help others are not the ideal sort of friend.

"Everyone" is probably not precisely true but I think these policies could easily make the number of friendless people maybe a thousandth of what they currently are, which I would be pretty comfortable calling "everyone has friends".

It's wishful thinking though? I don't think this is meant to be plausible.

Seriously? Out of things like "artificial wombs", "ableism is no longer a thing," "people have figured out how to eliminate the need for sleep" (which let me tell you, as somebody who is marginally knowledgeable about psychology and [to a lesser extent] physiology, sounds like one of the most impossible things on this list), "transition involves changing bone structure without incredible risk and discomfort" (implied), "healthy artificial nutrition that can completely replace eating, given through a machine," "UBI has been implemented," and "hunger, thirst, homelessness, and disease are gone" (omg), that is your question?

(OTOH this might have been less criticism and more "do you have any ideas, and I doubt you know how to cure aging or implement UBI, so I'll ask about this more realistic utopian change," in which case: carry on.)

Sounds serene and peaceful, but also boring. AFAIK, there's no competition. Competition is the spice of life for me.

There are certainly various sorts of sports and games, which I didn't talk about because I don't like sports. I'd imagine both a Baseline Human and a Transhuman league, depending on your preferences. There are also the normal human status games about trying to be the best scientist or artist or writer or whatever; it's just that if you choose to opt out, you can still do what you love without starving.

How do you feel about videogames/sports?

Sounds beautiful, thank you for sharing!

We haven’t managed to eliminate romantic travails

Ah! Then, it isnt utopia in my definition :-) .

Love it. It is almost like anti-Black Mirror episode where humans are actually non-stupid.

Do you consider eliminating that one thing a sufficient condition?