Momentary Utopias

I received a phone call today from a colleague who is exploring the relationship between new technologies and ideas of Utopia. It was a wide-ranging and fun conversation.

The conversation had been prompted by my colleague’s interest in that immediate rush people felt when they tried out our Holojam system, and realized that they were able to enter a virtual world where they could draw in the air together. She said that this might be a feeling of encountering a kind of Utopia.

At some point I told her my view (which I mentioned in a blog post some years back) that you can’t live in the future for more than five minutes. In other words, we experience a feeling of awe and excitement when something is new, but that feeling goes away once we become used to the new way of things.

For example, we don’t stare in astonishment and wonder when the ceiling light goes on after we flip a light switch, even though the underlying technology of modern electrical power distribution is, in fact, pretty amazing. We don’t even stare in wonder when somebody stands on a street corner in NYC holding a conversation with a friend in California, even though mobile phone technology is even more amazing.

In short, my view is that you cannot actually live in techno-Utopia — you can only feel it during brief moments of technological transition. Utopia can never be a place you are living, but only a doorway you are walking through.

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