A Roadmap to Utopia

Is it even possible? (Akbar Sim/Creative Commons)

Does anyone believe in the idea of utopia anymore? Today, we view the concept through dharma-colored shades and label it a destructive and illusory extreme. Even our fictions err on the side of dystopia, where only mad scientists dream of a perfect tomorrow.

But what if science can actually pull it off?

Oxford's Nick Bostrom is a treasure trove of transhumanist philosophical pondering (just check out his webpage), but I thought I'd highlight just one of his fascinating works in this blog entry. In his 2010 "Letter From Utopia" is a missive from "your possible future self," who resides in an age of scientifically-won bliss that we can scarcely comprehend.

You can read the fill PDF of the letter here or even listen to the MP3 version read by the author, but Bostrom's roadmap to utopia breaks down as follows:

The First Transformation: Secure life! This step is very much in keeping with the work of Aubrey de Grey, which Julie and I discussed in the Stuff to Blow Your Mind episode 999 Birthday Candles. "You must seize control of the biochemical processes in your body in order to vanquish, by and by, illness and senescence," Bostrom says.

The Second Transformation: Upgrade cognition! We're going to need better brains, not only to achieve utopia but to appreciate it. He stresses that all humanity's greatest works, from music to math, are just the tip of the iceberg. "Be not afraid to grow," he says. "The mind's cellars have no ceilings!"

The Third Transformation: Elevate well-being! In other words, make life even more pleasurable for your neigh-immortal bodies and vastly expanded intellects. "Be not afraid to grow, he says. "The mind's cellars have no ceilings!"

Bostrom's letter also stresses the various stumbling points on the road to utopia.

"Sustainable yields are possible," he says. "Yet fools will build fools' paradises. I recommend you go easy on your paradise-engineering until you have the wisdom to do it right."

Is utopia really in the cards for the human race? Maybe it isn't, but it's still nice to hear the pep talk from time to time.

So there you have it! You can find the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast on iTunes, Zune and the RSS feed. And don't forget the free HowStuffWorks App!

Image credit: Akbar Sim/Creative Commons

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