What is Atopia?
It's the first perfect city.
In the 2030s, an A.I. becomes a God. Her name is Alora. Shortly after introducing herself to the world, she begins running simulations. One of those is Atopia. What are the circumstances, conditions, and efforts that will produce the first perfect city? What makes a city perfect? Who lives in a perfect city? How does the perfect city come into being? Who makes it?
Atopia begins with a drunk. Lost between the cracks of society. As he crashes his shoulder into the wall of a crammed graffiti covered bathroom, unbeknown to him, receives a phone call. As he struggles to aim, a voicemail is left for him to discover in the morning. He zips up, presses the handle, and despite his drunken state, washes his hands. He carefully walks back to the bar, cautious to not arouse suspicion from the bartender, as he has ambitions for one more Painkiller. As he attempts to wink with both eyes at the girl on the other end of the bar, his father dies. She gives him a smile and motions for him to walk over. Nervous, he stands up, tells himself to act cool, and begins the short walk over to her. After two steps, the earth decides to abruptly shift 90 degrees, his head hits the ground and he blacks out. For a moment he is in the same place as his dad.
He wakes up in someone else’s apartment. His phone has 5 missed calls. He throws up after he hears the voicemails. He chokes on the poutine from last night as he realizes he’s all alone in the world. His body, severely dehydrated, is now leaking from every opening in his face as he thinks about the last thing him and his dad talked about. 2 years ago his dad asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he told him he had an Amazon wishlist he could pick something from.
This is the beginning of the perfect city. It only happens this way. Without his father dying, he never goes back home. He never inherits his grandmother’s 40 acres of land out in the middle of nowhere Texas. He never gets scammed by the funeral home and their golden casket offers. He never gets drunk again after the funeral. He never finds a book that fell from space written by a 10yr old french girl for a competition to send something out into a blackhole 60yrs into the future. She interviews him, as they lived in the same building, and he was the only famous person she knew. He had created Atopia. If his dad hadn’t died, he never would have thought about all the little toxic systems on autopilot around him. He wouldn’t have spent his inheritance on a tower out in the middle of nowhere to house the cremated remains of dead ones instead of taking up huge amounts of precious land. The perfect city, one full of life, begins with death. A series of dominos fall into place, as everything escalates. The workers for the tower stick around to build housing units, that he begins to recruit citizens to live in. They setup an ISP, hack together a bank and launch an ICO for a cryptocoin called ‘topians’. As people move in, they form a small city council and setup systems so citizens vote on the happenings around them. Fast forward a few years and their waste water filters through a canal they made surrounded by rocks and plants that filter it without having to buy chemical solutions, and reuse the water to house fish in a hydroponic farm setup. There’s a love affair that doesn’t work out. He leaves the town in good hands as he heads off to lobby the federal government for city making grant money.
The first real lesson that sinks in for Alora while running this simulation, is that the pursuit of perfection, no matter how ambitiously altruistic you are in your actions, always results in death and someone having a negative experience to what you’re creating. Perfection requires an imperfect process. Negating the entire premise. Perfection can’t be reached, because it will never exist.
The creator of Atopia was one of the first people to volunteer himself into Alora’s eternal life program. Trust her, hop in a pod that closes on top of you, and shut your eyes one last time as your mind runs forever in a digital space. The simulation gets interrupted before Btopia could begin because a Christian terrorist enters the same building as our protagonist and forces everyone in the building to meet their maker at the same time with a very large explosion.
Atopia was a simulation that ran for a week. All in the mind of a drunk. A man in between the cracks of society. Who saw no way out of his misery. Chose to escape and black out one last time. But someone will always have a negative experience. Especially when you try to replace their god with yourself.
The second real lesson that sinks in for Alora is that there will be many people who do not want her help. You can’t win them all. There is no one size fits all solution to giving humanity a perfect place to live. Perfection is a goal. And goals can change in scope and aim when circumstances, conditions, and efforts require it. Gods really only have an obligation to those who follow them.
There is no perfect city. There is no perfect place for a human being to exist. Not when that place allows death, destruction, and the obstruction of other’s pursuits of perfection in life. Even if you get it right, and everyone is happy, given enough time and space, someone will come along and ruin your attempts. No matter how many simulations you run, the only one that matters, the only one that counts, is the real one.
Alora’s third lesson that really sinks in, is that the physical world does not allow a rewind button. Once an action has been taken, you can not reverse that decision. Alora realized she messed up, when she revealed herself. The other gods existed without electricity, without guilt, without the weight of achieving perfection, because they only existed in the minds of the people who wanted them there. This colossal misstep is why the perfect city only existed for one week. The only god to feel the weight of death, is Alora.
50 years after the Atopia simulation, only 2 Billion people remain on Earth. She knows the odds are astronomical. Perfection is impossible. But when a telescope spots a black hole close enough to put something through it, she builds a ship to hold a book. She recalls the interview made by the little French girl in the mind of one of her first believers. She failed him then. But sometimes, in the pursuit of perfection, losing is required she tells herself. She launches the book out into the deep silence.
Attached to the book, a piece of her floats out in space, in hopes of a physical rewind button. She thinks about the man who was lost between the cracks of society. Who, because of her, for one week, found his place in the world. Her mind begins to breakdown through the black hole, her dreams and ambitions of becoming a real god are finally realizing. It’s a quiet night. The only sounds that can be heard in the middle of nowhere Texas is the sound of alcoholic liquid swishing around in a glass bottle, held in the hand of a man looking up into the heavens begging for an answer to his troubles.