Why Utopias Go Nowhere in The Circle

Utopias, places where everything is perfect, are not real.  They are to be found nowhere, which is the etymology of the word utopia, from the Greek ou “not” + topos “place” or nowhere.  The recent movie The Circle suggests a utopian solution, where everything is designed to be nice.  Like many utopian designs, the basic premise is seductive, everything can be perfect, if everyone can just be…

In The Circle, everyone is supposed to contribute to the group.  If you can just do that, it will all work out.  Like most other social designs, this utopia focuses on one of the five primary relationships, the relationship to the group, assuming that if you do that well, then the other four primary relationships (self, other, nature, spirit) will somehow work out.  In The Circle, they imply that they are working on all five primary relationships by measuring the impact you have in each.  You have a scorecard, which everyone can see.  They measure how you express your own creativity with a self score (relationship to self), how you support others with a service score (relationship to other), how creative you are in finding solutions with an innovation score (relationship to nature), and how much you access the creative source with smiles (relationship to spirit).  It is all measured and in a scorecard.  All five primary relationships, measured continuously, giving you instant feedback on how healthy you are in the vibrancy of your five primary relationships.  That should work, right?  And, as the movie unfolds (spoiler alert), it does not work.  Why?

The utopia always focuses on one to two primary relationships, then either ignores the other three to four primary relationships or tries to fit them into the first one to two.  This is where the centripetal forces of The Circle’s utopia collapse it in on itself.  The design of The Circle is based on “the push.”  The principles of measurement focus on pushing you away from the centripetal forces of deep scarcity, away from low levels of vibrancy experienced in each of the five primary relationships.  Through measurement, they show you where you are on the continuum from weak to strong in each of the five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  Through the ecosynomic lens, it has to be based on a push, a push away from scarcity, because it is primarily based on one of the five primary relationships–the relationship to the group–masking the other four (self, other, nature, spirit) as expressions of the group.  Express yourself, for the health of the group.  Support others, for the health of the group.  Be creative, for the health of the group.  This is a scarcity-plus move. This move assumes that people are based in scarcity, and it tries to control or measure the scarcity out of them.  The lead actor receives lots of feedback, the second she engages, about how poorly she is doing at being vibrant, in multiple ways.  A key lesson here is that you cannot achieve higher levels of impact resilience and vibrancy through a push, a scarcity-plus move.  The centripetal forces of collapse, back to the center, are too strong.

Does this mean that there is nowhere to go, is everywhere a nowhere, a utopia?  Our research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity of the past two decades suggests that there is a somewhere to go, a now here, instead of a nowhere.  In beginning to map the global social topography of human agreements, my colleagues and I have found hundreds of examples all around the world of people that are beginning to find their own “now here.”  They are not in the middle of nowhere, rather right in the middle of now here.  What are they discovering that enables them to live in the outer circles of vibrancy in all five primary relationships on a sustainable basis?  The pull.  They have discovered how to connect to the pull, the force that pulls people towards a desired future to which they give their will.  We find this pull is connected with a deeper shared purpose that draws people together.  It accesses a seemingly infinite source of potential, of creative energy.  Within the pull, people work with tangibilization power, continuously learning and evolving, seeing potentials, discovering pathways of relationships and capacities to manifest that potential energy, and then experiencing the outcomes of those pathways, adjusting what is seen in potential and the pathways to be used.  Learning and evolving, which is nature’s process.

From the pull, they are uncovering more robust forms for realizing, making real, each of the five primary relationships.  In the relationship to the self, you find your own individual initiatory development of free expression, which only you can see for yourself.  Nobody else can dictate, like in The Circle, what your initiatory path of development is and how to express your own self.  In relationship to the other, justice as fairness supports each uniquely constituted and contextualized self equally.  In the relationship to the group, each individual is invited to contribute their unique expression in the self-other-whole relationship to the group.  In the relationship to nature, one learns to witness, through self awareness and with support from the other and the group, how to improve one’s capacity to tangibilize potential through pathways of relationships and capacities into outcomes.  And, in the relationship to spirit, groups are learning how to connect to their pull, their source of creativity.

Through the pull, it seems that it is indeed possible to find yourself now here.  Through the push, it seems that you end up nowhere.  The Circle shows what happens when you try the push method.  The O Process shows what groups have learned about working with the pull.

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