Kevin Kelly argues that utopias and dystopias are each popular in cultural imagination, but both are unlikely to play out. In the case of utopia, literally unattainable. Dystopia is possible, but the Mad Max or Escape from New York depictions we’re familiar with aren’t what would likely happen. Real dystopias do exist, but they look like the Soviet Union or Gaddafi’s Libya: strangling, tyrannical bureaucracies that completely capture societal rewards.
I love his idea of “Protopia” — the realistic state we should be collectively pursuing:
I think our destination is neither utopia nor dystopia nor status quo, but protopia. Protopia is a state that is better than today than yesterday, although it might be only a little better. Protopia is much much harder to visualize. Because a protopia contains as many new problems as new benefits, this complex interaction of working and broken is very hard to predict.
The emerging field of progress studies is all about this. Understand our own history of progress, how it happens, and how to make this incremental progress continue ad infinitum.