My latest is up at Every Joe:http://www.everyjoe.com/2014/09/03/lifestyle/perfect-world-utopias-golden-age-science-fiction/
The modern science fiction writers are the heirs to those ancient philosophers sadly because mainstream writers, while believing themselves technically more proficient in the story telling art, in fact are less proficient in the exercise of the imagination, which is the more fundamental of the two skills. In a word, the modern mainstream is not imaginative enough to write of a world other than his own, much less one better than his own due to some philosophical or technological improvement of the condition of mankind.
As a thought experiment, we are asking which utopia would be best to dwell in and raise a family, presumably in freedom comfort not less than what an average American currently enjoys. The Republic of Plato and the Utopia of Thomas More were briefly described, and rejected on the grounds that neither comfort nor freedom were available in these imaginary commonwealths, nor could any responsible father condemn his children to live as cattle.
The ancient philosophers were not penning science fiction, that is, not even trying to propose a speculation, realistic or not, of what life in a better world would be like. They were describing (with what degree of sarcasm scholars to this day debate in doubt) the situation best suited for the government of men. Both Socrates the pagan sage and Thomas More the Christian saint saw man as a creature wretched due to vice and sin, and saw the instrument of the State is needed to chastise, correct and inspire the beast within us to domestication and obedience: hence their utopians were both as disciplined as a military camp, or a Spartan city.
Now we turn to the three generations that followed the birth of American science fiction, which, for convenience, I shall call the Golden Age, the New Wave, and the Crazy Years. For better or worse, the view of mankind changed dramatically. The ancients saw nature, including human nature, as fixed, and saw the main effort of man to be a struggle for virtue, particularly the virtues needed to domesticate our crooked inner natures and unwholesome desires. Since the Victorian Age, an age of naivety, the modern has seen nature, particularly human nature, as subject to a gradual but benevolent evolution, and hence the main effort of man to be a struggle to study, outwit, domesticate and command nature, either by technology or improvements in the social order.
With the view of man evolved to an evolutionary view, hence the prescription of in what form of commonwealth men should best live changed as well.