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The hope and hype of utopia

By Jay li Apr. 5, 2023

The term “utopia” was first coined in 1516 by Thomas More in his novel of the same name, meaning “good place” or “no place” in Greek—already alluding to the ambiguous nature of utopian societies and thinking. The novel is centered around a single question: Can such an ideal world ever be achieved? Centuries later, this question has maintained its grip on the human imagination.

Harry Kang Art

Often when one thinks of a utopian world, the image of a technologically advanced society where all violence, disease and hatred has been replaced with social equality and abundance comes to mind—a seemingly unattainable paradise in stark contrast to the world we live in.

While a true utopia has never existed, utopian stories are often found in literature—a trend that was started by More’s “Utopia”—and the prevalence of utopian thinking can reveal much about modern society. In contrast to More’s more hypothetical interpretation of a utopia, H.G. Wells’s “A Modern Utopia” promotes the idea that a perfect society is assuredly attainable through human effort, political reform and technology.

On the other side of the spectrum, many authors utilize utopian stories to criticize existing conditions rather than offer solutions. George Orwell’s “1984” depicts a totalitarian government that controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives—including thoughts and emotions—under the guise of creating a perfect society. Orwell argues that a utopian society is fundamentally impossible to achieve as its actualization requires suppressing individual rights and the use of violence to uphold state power.

“Governments and policymakers should shy away from utopian thought and stick to a more rational, moderate form of thinking. Instead of aiming for extreme perfection, policymakers should instead work for incremental improvement, as unrealistic goals can often be unproductive and often come with massive material costs,” Senior Amy Wang said.

The prevalence and popularity of utopian stories in literature and media suggests an intrinsic desire for a better world and dissatisfaction with current socio political conditions, which could include disillusionment with capitalism and consumerism or a general feeling of disconnect from one’s community. Utopian stories promise a vision of a more equitable and harmonious society, appealing to people’s desire for change.

Technology exists at the core of most if not all utopias, as innovations in science and technology often act as a catalyst toward bringing about utopian conditions. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence have demonstrated their ability to automate jobs and potentially eliminate the need for human labor. In medicine, biotechnology has already made significant contributions by developing vaccines, gene therapies and diagnostic tools. For example, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats—more commonly known as CRISPR gene-editing—has begun to vastly transform the field by editing human DNA to prevent genetic conditions such as sickle cell disease, HIV or cancer.

“A true utopian world can never be fully realized—even when considering rapid advances in technology. Tangible issues such as climate change or disease can be remedied through innovation and political reform, but more abstract issues like racism or violence are much more difficult to eliminate as they are deeply rooted in our population’s ideology,” Sophomore Nick Shojaei said.

However, the concept of utopia is not limited to the realm of fiction, as several political figures have pursued it. Utopian political ideologies such as communism have inspired leaders like Mao and Lenin to pursue a communist state—an idealized world free of all social inequality based on the assumption that humans are innately altruistic and willing to sacrifice personal wants to work towards a common goal. While communism led to tyranny in the Soviet Union, utopian thinking has also inspired more well-meaning political initiatives. This can include universal basic income and universal health coverage—which are often seen as policies that move society closer to a utopia and have been promoted by various utopian thinkers including H. G. Wells.

While utopian thinking and impulse has spurred innovation and inspired political initiatives, it is certainly not without its critics. Many argue that fixation on unattainable and unrealistic paradise is both irrational and enables the government to infringe on basic democratic rights under the guise of working towards “a perfect society” that was impossible to achieve in the first place. In a world where hopelessness is not uncommon, even the existence of utopian ideals can serve as a reminder that humanity can strive for a better tomorrow—or risk descending into utopia’s darker counterpart—dystopia.


About the Contributors

Jay li

staff writer

Jay li is a Sophomore at Leland High school and a writer for the charger account.

Harry Kang


Harry Kang is a sophomore at Leland High School currently working as an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, Harry likes to listen to Frank Ocean and procrastinate on school work. Occasionally he breathes oxygen and sometimes consumes H2O.

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