H e t e r o t o p i a

Because humans evolved in highly dynamic environments, those that survived probably had a strong impulse to explore both physical and abstract space. Discovering ways to meet basic needs - and subtle social, spiritual and psychological needs - may be a fundamental part of what defines human nature and determines human happiness.

Humans having somewhat divergent, chaotic sets of preferences may drive the discovery process. Satisfying our need to discover could include finding novel elements that are unique in personal, local, or global ways. We may even be evolved to experience periodic discontentment in order to preserve the dynamic qualities we depend on for long term survival.

Discovering and expressing new information and providing it to the group may be strongly rewarded in physiological, psychological, and sociological ways. This may hint at an evolutionary pathway along which an “exploration gene” may have developed.

Perhaps collective approaches to research, development, and promotion of a discovery creates an opportunity for many people to share in the private and social rewards of a discovery. In a way, they become a “parent” of the idea. This form of parenthood is dissimilar to biological parenthood, in that there are often large, diverse collections of “parents” gestating, birthing and nurturing an idea as opposed to: two biological parents, one gestating parent, and genetically similar relatives providing most of the nurturing. Perhaps N-way parenthood is a useful way to think about many forms of cooperation.

Designs for societies that discount, or completely ignore, the tendency humans have to explore may be too brittle to be realistic. Although generification can be well intentioned, it may work against our natures in such a fundamental way that it threatens to reduce life to a form of instrumentalist, bare survival. Such societies may fail due to constant revolt and other existential threats to their monoculture.

Foucault’s term “Heterotopia” [1] (i.e. “different place” or “place with differences”) may capture some of these ideas by defining itself in opposition to “Utopia” (i.e. “good place” or “no place”), which conjures up visions of a static, generic, highly engineered society. A Heterotopia could be well engineered to meet basic human needs while maintaining an emphasis on the need to discover, create, share, and explore. Generic solutions for things like health care, food production, and manufacturing could be valued and taken advantage of, but seen as insufficient for human flourishing.

Radical pluralism [2,3] as an expression of individual rights is a political form that may facilitate the creation of a Heterotopia.


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