The New Atlantis

The New Atlantis - Francis Bacon I cannot say that I liked it, for Francis Bacon's utopian vision of society is not only ridiculous but also kind of offensive. The New Atlantians, who themselves are (obviously) learned, chaste and sophisticated, consider the Chinese 'foolish', the Africans to be the 'little foul ugly Spirits of Fornication', and the American Indians plain 'savage'. Way to go, Enlightenment! (yes, I know that technically it's not Enlightenment yet). And this wondrous land called Bensalem consists exclusively of noble, goody-goody, holier-than-thou, law-abiding citizens, whose exemplarily virtuous lives taste of Christian propaganda. Even their Jews, although circumcised, are more Christian than the Pope. How come they became Christians in the first place? Well, apparently, they had been evangelised by the Almighty himself, who sent them the Bible. In an ark. Through a beam of holy light. And, interestingly, God's choice of the Scriptural texts is identical with the one officially established by the Church (sic!). Hmm, sounds suspicious...Anyway, all their rulers are just and wise, ordinary people well-organised and open-hearted, families flourish, divorce and crime statistic approximate absolute zero and scientific progress lies at the very foundation of their society. However, in his glorious vision, Bacon does not attempt to maybe consider what amazing strategy makes these people so good and noble and their little state so clockwork perfect. Although the island is relatively small and procreation strongly encouraged, such problems like overpopulation or poverty are non-existent. Why? No reason. That's just the way it is. It makes me think that it is not so difficult to build a perfect society. All you require are perfect people. But the islanders' goodness may at least be explained by the fact that they were chosen by God; they simply have no other option but to be nice and polite (predestination, anyone?). But how to justify the fact, that among the one-hundred-and-fifty crew-members of the ship that arrives at the island (with them the narrator of this story) there is not one criminal, sinner, blasphemer, cheater, nor even a simple ill-mannered fellow? A miracle! Who needs utopian civilisations on secluded islands, when our good ol' Europe breeds such unblemished specimens? The only reasons it is not a one-star review are: A) the age of the text - I do understand that's how people thought back then (but that doesn't mean I have to like it), B) quite readable narrative and C) some surprisingly spot-on predictions about the development of sciences in the future (including such inventions like Powerade, protein drinks, laser, microscope, electronic music, hearing aid, flavour-enhancer, aeroplane, submarine, and industrial espionage). Other than that, a rather boring read.

Teraz czytam

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
Eliezer Yudkowsky
Conversation in the Cathedral