The digressions, or tangents, in the novel are mostly the result of Clarke's desire to put down as many ideas as he can. He sees the creation of a desperate simplified community like New Athens as an inevitable part of a utopia. This is in line with Clarke's belief (held by many philosophers) that a utopia would inevitably begin to decline, as any well established and content civilization tends to do. This is what many historians argue happened to both the original Athens and the Roman Empire. A content society becomes complacent, which eventually breeds discontent and, ultimately, violent social upheaval. The problem, in the world of Clarke's imagination, is that there is an artificial barrier preventing the overthrow of the social order: the Overlords. Therefore, since it can neither reinvent itself nor extend itself into the stars, human society has no choice but to slowly stagnate and decline into a bunch of mindless, television-watching drones.