Utopias are metaphorical formalisations of fundamental tropisms that endure in our cognitive systems like memes or Dickian plasma, determining a number of our individual and collective leanings.
The educational “story-telling” I received in childhood from my militant communist parents was of an emblematic utopia, born from Thomas More’s original utopia; one of its rare formal literary articulations may be found in Ivan Yefremov’s science-fiction novel Andromeda Nebula.
In the story I was told, the communist utopia was not what many would believe, that nightmarish society of “frenzied workers” propagated by Soviet Stakhanovism which would have disgusted any child.
The communist utopia described was a marvellous society of enlightened freedom – whose leanings were not determined by money – where it was not necessary to work in order to live – where accommodation was free – where everyone chose to practice the social or individual activity in which they would best develop: “each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
This meme’s viral penetration of our spirits was amplified by symbiosis with the meme of artificial creatures. In fact, in this little utopian tale, the thankless, demeaning tasks were carried out by robots, thereby freeing ourselves from “man’s exploitation of man.”
In 1848, Théophile Gautier was already “Noo-contaminated” by a republican variant of this robotic meme:
“Humanity is gradually becoming emancipated. The slaves were succeeded by the serfs, the serfs by the workers. The improvement is perceptible but soon the worker himself will be liberated. But then a new slave will replace him beside this harsh master. A slave that can pant, sweat and whine, hammer day and night in the flames without evoking our pity. Its iron arms will replace the frail arms of man. Machines will now perform all the tiresome, boring and loathsome work. Thanks to his steam-powered Helots, the republican will have time to cultivate both his country and his mind.”
Just as Hephaestus’s gynoid cyborgs in the Iliad “materialise” today as robots, through a phenomenon of transubstantiation of the utopian metaphor, the contemporary filiations of this robotised Utopia “immaterialise” with incredible relevance in persistent worlds, metaverses and OpenSims peopled with avatars.
Soon, the digital immersive bay windows of our ecological apartments, stacked in bioclimatic towers in large concentration-camp-style suburbs, will drive our pixelated cyborgs in mass towards ten billion human’s last hope of escape: the Non-places.