Omelas, the NYT, and AI

Dr. Dad Bod
2 min readMay 4, 2023

Every year, I have my students read a short story called “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin. The premise of the story is that Omelas is a utopian city predicated on the abuse and suffering of one child. For whatever reason, the child must be abused and suffer in order for the city to remain utopian.

LeGuin masterfully portrays the thought process of the citizens as they justify staying in the city despite having to know about the existence of the child. At first, they are repulsed and sickened, but as time goes on they forget or find specious ways to pursue their own happiness at the child’s expense. She then relates that every once in a while in a rarity, someone’s conscience gets the better of them and they walk away from the city into the unknown.

I always ask my students if they would stay or go. Many say they would stay and then I talk about how the story is allegorical to the real world. I tell them if they REALLY feel that way, they should sell their phones and cars and donate all the money to charity, because there are sick and abused and dying children all over the world.

Nobody has ever taken me up on the challenge.

Today I read the article below about AI, and as I did so, I thought about Omelas and the scene in Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum, after initially being just as mesmerized as everyone else by the existence of dinosaurs, quickly changes his attitude and predicts the tragic events to come by saying “Nature finds a way”.

When you look at human beings in a strictly physical sense, we are unimpressive animals. We are slow, weak, and relatively defenseless. We don’t possess natural protection from environmental factors the way some animals do. We can’t fly, we don’t have venom, and we are prone to myriad illnesses (not that that is so unique).

The only reason for our ascension to the top of the animal kingdom is because we are in general a lot smarter than other animals. We overcame our frailties through brainpower, not physical power.

While that intelligence has undoubtedly given us many incredible things, it has also caused us to poison our environment, wage wars, wipe out other animals, and unleash all manner of chaos.

Now, the very people who developed AI are quivering in the face of its potential nefarious uses.

It would be the height of irony if the very trait that propelled us to the top of the animal kingdom ultimately brought about our extinction.

As Jeff Goldblum said though “Nature finds a way”.



Dr. Dad Bod

I am a husband, father, teacher, and soccer coach, and aspiring writer residing in Northern Virginia. More than anything, I love having fun and pushing myself!