Book briefs


The Utopia Experiment

Author: Dylan Evans

Books like this are why I don’t solely rely on online recommendations to decide my reading options. Prescient as they may be, there’s always certainty in leaving my comfort zone and letting life serendipitously serve up something I would never have imagined having an interest in instead.

This memoir then, about a British lecturer in the mid-2000s who forewent a steady career in robotics (after selling his house and telling off his colleagues, no less) to pioneer a technology-free community out in the Scottish Highlands, seemed too intriguing to ignore.

Optimistically titled The Utopia Experiment, with myself knowing that one of the most predictable of things is the unpredictability of human nature, I’ll admit that I did mischievously pick this up to satisfy the sadist in me.

As the story of a couple of random, colourful characters with different motives convening in a place far (but evidently not far enough) from civilisation unravelled (the experiment waddling a fine line between scientific endeavour and hippy commune), my biggest curiosity was seeing if I could predict the reason for Evans's eventual undoing and abandonment before the fact. (To his defence, not only does The Utopia Experiment persist in some form to this day, Evans also mentions other, similar communities that have achieved self-sustainability).

There are also some interesting questions raised here on our relationship with technology. Is it as dispensable and counter-intuitive as many would have us believe? And, how long would it really take for us to reacclimatise to a simpler age following a global collapse?

If reading about Scottish campers gives you the shivers, try Brad Stone’s The Upstarts – How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World. Stone shows that, while it’s one thing to come up with brilliantly conceived products, it’s another when said products are in violation of age-old transportation and accommodation laws (making them, of course, all the more fascinating for it).