November 2010; p. 5



by Morten Grønborg

Utopia comes from Greek. U = 'no' + topos = 'place', so 'utopia' means a non-existing place. [1] "This is utopian," we say, meaning that something is farfetched and unrealistic. In this way, the concept of utopia has become part of our daily language and influences the way we think.

However, it is worth noting that utopias are not always unrealistic, nor does the original meaning of the word imply they should be. On occasion, they could easily be realized, if we could just agree to do so. In his article "The Difference Between Utopias and Visions - and the Fear of the Totalitarian Nature of the Utopia", on page 9, Martin Kruse writes about the realistic utopia, and in particular the origin of the utopia in the history of ideas. Read it to learn more about what a utopia really is.

Perhaps the modern interpretation of the word 'utopia' is to blame when the Renaissance man and futurist Jacque Fresco says in the article on page 15 that he doesn't want to call his life work, The Venus Project, a utopia. However, this visionary idea of a future society has many characteristics in common with the utopia. As Nikolina Olsen-Rude points out in her article, page 37, the word utopia carries a double meaning, since in Greek it can mean both the good place (eutopia) and the nonexisting place (outopia). A good place is precisely what Fresco has devoted his life to describing and fighting for. Read more about his ideas in the article and see the futuristic photos of the project that Fresco and his wife, Roxanne Meadows, have kindly allowed us to print.

The flip side of the utopia is the dystopia. One of the best-known fictional dystopias is the classic George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1948. Klaus Æ. Mogensen deals with this novel in two articles in this FO, "Orwell Was a Pessimist" and "Orwell Was an Optimist". As the sharp reader may have figured out, you can - depending on your viewpoint - argue that our present-day society is both far better and far worse than the future society Orwell describes in his book. Has the nightmare of Big Brother from the novel become a reality today? Has the surveillance society won? Read the articles and decide for yourself.

The relationship between utopias and dystopias is interesting. What is a paradise to some will be hell to others. History has taught us that people are simply different and that we can't formulate a single, universal idea of 'the good society' or 'the good life' that will satidfy everybody. It is hence interesting when the three philosophers Kyle Whyte, Evan Selinger and Søren Riis, the latter an associated researcher at CIFS, discuss the phenomenon of nudging in their article Nudging Utopia (page 29). Nudging is a matter of providing "small, gentle nudges" in the right direction without making us really notice it. This is achieved by designing and organizing our surroundings to influence our behaviour in a certain way. It is worth learning about this method regardless of which medium you want to influence behaviour through e.g. design. However, as usual, the question remains: What is the 'right' direction? What is the right behaviour? Here, too, the readers must decide for themselves. For, as with surveillance technologies, it is the intended goal when using nudging that must be debated.

There is much more about utopias in this issue of FO, which also offers a number of interesting contributions outside of the theme. Read, for instance, the first part of an article series by CIFS's Nestor, Johan Peter Paludan, about future strategy in the present (page 53). Or read the business philosopher Morten Paustian's article "Visionary Thinking", page 61, which uses Hans Christian Andersen's character Clumsy Hans to take us on a philosophical trip to recreate "the fairy tale in our lives". Happy reading!

In conclusion, I can inform you that right now you are reading the last issue of FO/Futureorientation in its old form. We are on the street again in May with a big double issue (#2-3), marking the shift to a brand new FO. Among other things, the magazine will get a new design, and we will move from publishing thematic issues to writing about different themes and subjects in each issue under the headings


I am looking forward to presenting you with the new format.

Morten Grønborg, Editor

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopi