New myths about technology | Pt. 3: The Map to Utopia

Here at TU Delft, we worship progress. With technology as our magic tool, we will make the world a better place. The TU Delft found a role model for this story in Greek hero Prometheus. The man who stole the fire from the great Gods and gave it to mankind. And to the logo of this University.

This is the myth of technology. The hands on, can-do, problem-solving story of Delft engineers and designers. No challenge is too big to be overcome by our community of saviors. But is that the only story about technology we can tell?
In the dark days before Christmas, a group of students & staff gathered in TU Delft’s library for pizza, drinks and mythology. Under guidance of mythologist Hugo Koning (Leiden University),  they explored the full story of Prometheus & Pandora (click here for the recording) and created new mythologies about technology.  Here is Part III of the results. Brace yourselves.

The Map to Utopia

At the TU Delft there was a man, and this man wanted to do good. He wanted to contribute to a better world. One day, he set off on a quest to find the land of Utopia, a land he’d heard many a good story about. In Utopia, trees are forever green, CO2 vanishes naturally and injustice doesn’t exist. That’s the place he wants to go to and towards which he wishes to lead all of humanity. But where is it exactly? The man journeys to all the corners of the world to find it, but all his efforts are in vain. None of the people he asks can tell him where to find it; and none of the maps he uses know the true location. 

Therefore, he decides to use his skills in design and technology, topped with some magic, to create his own map to Utopia and surroundings. For many days and nights he passionately works on the project. The technologies within his magic map- such as a weather-controlling system and a shovel that creates a road wherever it touches the ground- bring him to even more remote and undiscovered places. Always looking ahead, he faithfully believes he is making steady progress towards his goal. But what he doesn’t see is that, instead of finding Utopia, he has left a trail of disaster and destruction behind him. 

One day, as he enjoys a lonely breakfast, whilst studying the newest update of his Map, a strange figure appears out of thin air. A woman, or rather, a powerful spirit supernatural spirit, floats through the greenery. She carries with her an enormous paper structure. Every shape, colour and language can be found on the paper prints, which are loosely glued and taped together. On the back, it says in vague handwriting ‘Map to Utopia’. She notices the man studying his map and generously offers him her hand. “Are you looking for the way to Utopia?”, she asks in echoing voice. Instead of accepting her gesture, the man snatches the paper out of the woman’s hands and runs away. “Wait!”, she shouts, “you shouldn’t go without me!”. But the man ignores her warning and continues his sprint. Barely surprised, the woman watches the man escape with her map. This is not the first time this happened to her. She shrugs and a brief smile flashes across her lips. Then she takes a new stack of papers out of her backpack. Patiently and carefully, she starts arranging a new map. As the hours pass, help is given to her by all people and animals that watch her work.

In the meantime, the man and his ill-begotten goods struggle to make their way through dense forests. Not much is left of the paper structure of the map as he found it. He couldn’t make any sense of it, nor did it give him any clue of how and where to go next. ‘Never change a winning method’, he thought. So, as he was used to doing, he cut the map into equal, squared pieces and started to look for clear directions in each of them separately. But this strategy, which he thinks will put him on the shortest way to Utopia, in fact leads him astray. Deeper and deeper he gets entangled in the chaos of the forest. And as he only pays attention to the straight lines and numbers he’s scribbled on the papers, he missteps, trips and falls to a lonely death. 

Not long after, the woman finds him on the soft floor of the woods. Her own map, as always, flawlessly shows her where she should be. She sees all the pieces of the stolen map scattered around. And she knows enough: again, a wannabe hero has fallen into the arms of the forest. Why couldn’t he be more patient? She could’ve explained quite easily. Utopia is already here, in this very forest. But you can only find your way there together. With a Map of Pluriformity, to which everyone can contribute.