Social engineering is a school of political science whereby governments or private groups influence the acceptance or rejection of individual behaviors on a large scale, through the passage of laws or creation of incentives/disincentives. Human efforts to create a better, or perhaps perfect society are called utopianism. In some ways, social engineering which attempts to place limits on human behaviors and attitudes is a constraint on free will (see main article).
B. F. Skinner who is mentioned in the Swan Orientation film described his view of a utopian socially engineered community in his 1948 novel Walden Two. Two attempts were subsequently made in 1967 and 1973 to create communities with the principles outlined in the book. Skinner denied that free will existed and that the closest that any individual could come to true freedom is a situation where the person is not aware of the social engineering control systems around them.
For Karl Popper, the difference between 'piecemeal social engineering' and 'Utopian social engineering' is "the difference between a reasonable method of improving the lot of man and a method which, if really tried, may easily lead to an intolerable increase in human suffering. It is the difference between a method which can be applied at any moment and a method whose advocacy may easily become a means of continually postponing action until a later date when conditions are more favorable. And it is also the difference between the only method of improving matters which has so far been really successful, at any time, and in any place, and a method which, wherever it has been tried, has led only to the use of violence in place of reason, and if not to its own abandonment, at any rate to that of its original blueprint". (Popper, 1971)
- Skinner, B. F. 1948 Walden Two
- Popper, K. 1971 The Open Society and Its Enemies Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press
- Twin Oaks: A Walden Two Experiment Kinkade, Kat William Morrow & Co (February 1974) ISBN 0-688-05020-4