Next Talk: 'Utopias and Medical Futures' A Royal Institute of Philosophy Talk by Prof Richard Ashcroft Tuesday 09 October 2018

Dr Barbara Underwood, Chair

“One of the interesting things about contemporary politics and social thought is that imagining better ways to live through the invention of utopias seems to have nearly disappeared. Social transformation guided by images of an ideal, well-ordered community or city is out of fashion. By way of contrast, we are overwhelmed by invitations to improve ourselves through diet, exercise, cognitive therapies, education and technology. Apps, fitbits, “smart” devices surround us, and we are encouraged to see this as a good thing, more “evidence-based” and more effective. Contemporary social critics try to push back and question this image of permanent, continuous self-improvement, but seemingly to little effect. I would like us to reflect on the disappearance of Utopia and the dominion of personalised technologies, and think of them as counterparts. Instead of making ideal societies for humans to live in, we are creating idealised humans to live in society. Either way we hold one variable constant and transform the other in the name of achieving the Good and the Just. In this talk I will explore these ideas, and concentrate on ideas of improving human beings through medical technologies, but we can range more widely in discussion.”