Saturday, August 23, 2008

Affordable Utopias

What's always too expensive is trying to get everyone on the same page as to what a Utopia is, like my bias is to not like the word itself ("utopia" sounds too infantile, too namby-pamby, having been disparaged for so long, though in opposition to "oblivion" acquired some new kick).

Plus Nature herself fights mono-culture i.e. we taunt ourselves with images of a zombie-like Borg with good reason, as "mindless robot" is a synonym for "maladapted" (we didn't get to be here this long by being that stupid).

"Getting everyone to agree" is neither a prerequisite, nor even a desirable feature, when planning Utopian resort ranches, call centers, training centers, tribal casinos or whatever.

So what I was explaining over a Guinness on Hawthorne yesterday, to a good friend and neighbor, was how I wanted to at least make the "props" be affordable, like some universal studios for wannabe "my way or the highway" types, who'd find one another on the Internet, say, and then pool resources to do some trial and error.

My goal: low barrier to entry. I'd also want to keep a tight focus on recycling, i.e. a Fly's Eye Dome disassembles into Y-shaped parts (Ed Applewhite's favorite picture in Bucky Works he told me) some to be reused maybe.

Props engineers needn't be super judgmental as to what lifestyles get tried with their wares, just as the brand on some camera doesn't rub off on the pictures taken with it, or vice versa, except in terms of picture quality (which matters).

Of course engineers have their own lives, their own families to take care of, must exercise personal discretion in that regard. But your generic catalog inventory, from Ikea or whatever, needn't come with a long list of moralizing "thou shalt nots" except of course from a safety point of view i.e. the consequences of getting it wrong may be low performance, or even disastrous failure.

Instructions with warnings or advisories of this type are not "fascist" just realistic. "Tend to your bridges or they could fail", "if you don't anchor your tent it could blow away in the wind" -- that kind of thing. Lots of holy writ has this flavor and with reason: experienced humans wanted to assist others from repeating their mistakes. That's a respectable motive for recording one's enjoinders, even when the intended audience has long moved on to other lifestyles.

Those with a "good eye" for community will create successful, sustainable communities, complete with permaculture, fun cartoons (like Suzan Pitt's are pretty wild), and solutions to the perennial challenges, as have many successful civilizations of the past.

Some will sell chocolate, others DVDs, some will tap into a power grid, others will be off-grid autonomous. Some will mix only some genders, some will disallow dolphins & whales (yes, that sounds dystopian, but maybe it's more a logistics issue, and besides, I don't have to live there, have choices about where I go).

And let's be clear up front: when a community disbands or disperses, that may well be by design and intention, i.e. seeing those helicopters come by and lift stuff away like that doesn't mean there were personality tensions, management problems or anything like that.

Or it may. Depends on the scenario. Not always my business to know. Yours either.

Somewhere in the literature, Bucky talked about wanting his domes to set a neutral pitch, like a holodeck (a Star Trek thing) before the show starts. It's not the job of the artifacts to dictate what goes on in them, only to clear a space in which lifestyles might unfold, making raw environmental factors less of a drag (like it's hard to perform Hamlet 2 in a blizzard I'd hazard).