Star Trek

Like it or not, the StarTrek vision, going forward, will be the SystemMetaphor for our technological advances, and possibly even our political advances. When we discover a faster-than-light transportation mode, we will call it "WarpDrive". [See Notes 1,2]

Hopelessly flawed, but the most detailed and popular vision of utopia in the world today.

Funny - I always thought it was Dilbert :-) Wow, I'd hate to see where you work if Dilbert is Utopian!

Utopia? I thought it was satire.

The original Utopia was written as satire, but people no longer remember that. Perhaps one man's utopia is always another man's satire.

StarTrek is a television show based on the unusual premise that humans (and humanoids) can actually form a government that is capable of generally following the maxim "The ends don't justify the means." Put another way, the captains generally don't make their ships do dangerous tricks just to impress rich guests. -- PhlIp

How can we get the Federation to happen?

Can we wisely give up money economics in favor of a philosophy of bettering ourselves and humanity? Is that too dangerous?

StarTrek's economic system has always been extremely vague to me - they talk a good game about the elimination of material greed or what have you, but there has never been a head-on discussion on how exactly that's supposed to happen. I mean, apart from the fact that the technology present in a replicator would imply an endless supply of material wealth for everybody, but they don't really deal with that.

It is interesting to note that digital file copying is a lot like replicators. But look at how the business community tries to stop that. The reaction would probably be similar with replicators. ie. we don't necessarily have endless software wealth even though we have the technology.

(Try looking at ParEcon for a StarTrek type economic system. There is an interesting article here (dead link) <!-- --> - Seamus)

It's perfectly vague because it's the future. The purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business...It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards "having" rather than "being", and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself. It is therefore necessary to create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments. -- PopeJohnPaulII, CentesimusAnnus?

I believe the Star Trek universe achieved that on a mass scale.

The first step to a pseudo-Utopia (ie, one that passes the TuringTest) is to simply improve the average mental health of everyone, to make them less greedy & more diplomatic. Don't hold your breath. -- PhlIp

I don't see this utopian version of earth as possible. e.g. Sisko's father owned a restaurant on earth. Which would be cool, if I lived in a world where replication technology made everything free I may try my hand and running a restaurant just to check it out, but where does he find people willing to wait tables? If we're all free to do what we want, who's gonna want to wait tables?


You meet a lot of people waiting tables. Maybe that is payment enough. Just like there are cooks who simply enjoy making people happy with great food. Just to see the expression on their faces. I mean wouldn't we all like to be a bartender in our own bar?

[But YouCantTakeItWithYou]

As to economics, PeterMerelKicksAss is working on an economic system that depends on neither mutual opportunity nor greed. Try the StoneSociety, and remember that trust-based economies (unlike Marxism) always win at GameTheory because they lower the transaction cost.

The Ferengi have replicator technology, and they still hold to the preceps of capitalism, presumably because they enjoy it so much. But, it makes one wonder why Quark doesn't just replicate a bunch of latinum and become the richest Ferengi in the Universe.

Uh, because some things cost more to replicate than create. Some things can't be replicated. Some things can be sold for a profit if you can advertise they are not replicated. Replicators just changed the balance sheets.

"'If the Universe was gold, gold would be worthless,' observed Pugg." - I wonder what penalties the Ferengi have for those who act to destabilize the economy?

Do we WANT the Federation to happen?

Everyone on StarTrek is way too earnest and never seem to have any fun. Plus, where are all the computer programmers?

You have to remember that most of what we see in Star Trek is from the military perspective. Although the ships' primary missions are not always military in nature, we are essentially looking at on-duty military officers. I think StarTrekDeepSpaceNine, with its more sizable civilian population, offers an interesting alternative.

In ST, everyone is a programmer or has some programming ability, but the majority of systems programming would have to be performed by the engineering department.

In the second episode of STNG (the one where they all got high on that heavy water that made you reveal random feelings & generally establish your character), the programmers were all reported to be locked in their restroom - I suspect by Wesley Crusher And plenty of fun was had by many Letsh get pished!

I doubt they built all that without programmers. They have become mainstreamed; it's like asking "where's all the chefs?" or "where's all the auto mechanics?" Obviously they're there.

No, no, no. In ST, no one needs programmers, because all you have to do is tell the computer what you want, and it gives it to you! (TeachMeToSmoke) -- TimKing

Do we WANT the Federation to happen?

What, again?? I thought it already did, and we all just got stranded here during one of those violations of the PrimeDirective ...

Utopia has manifested itself in various places, including the Eden of Genesis in the Talmud, Utopia by Moore, and has even come to be inverted in famous Dystopias such as 1984, Ape and Essence and Brave New World. As Moore points out, "U"topia means non-place, much like the characters of his book have other non-sense names. A person's vision of Utopia reflects the very real conditions of their world.

A friend described Star Trek to me in about this way: I think Star Trek reflects the corporate nature of modern America, and the idyllic and sometimes paranoid response of your average salaryman to the intense pressures of the daily workplace. In it, we have a giant floating Company (presciently named "Enterprise") with a Magnificent CEO ("Captain") at the helm, hot secretaries bouncing around (take your pick), a perfect computer system that will even allow breaks to hallucinated fight/love fests (now if that doesn't scream work-place fantasy, I don't know what does), and a variety of rich-country ethnicities cooperating against: Jewish Bankers ("Ferengi"); teeming hordes of strong, but barbaric African-Americans ("Klingons"), (though we trust at least one of these races enough to have on our team (e.g. "Worf")). And look at the modern enemy: Microsoft ("the Borg" which threatens to consume us), and our best defense Linux ("Data"). Instead of the real work-world cry for "Profit at any cost", we prefer to think of ourselves engaged in the ethics of the Prime Directive... which, if we win against the Borg, we may :) -- Pablo

The Star Trek stories I enjoy the most include satires that inject modern values into Star Trek, making it much more realistic, dynamic and vibrant than the show can ever hope to be. By modern values, I mean things like racism, sexism, domination, idiocy, jealousy, hatred, envy, et cetera. Star trek writing is so wooden, superficial, self-righteous and stifling that this cynical and anti-utopian take on Star Trek is actually a breath of fresh air.

The two most notable examplars of this genre include Revolution by MJB and Promotions by Jessica Leenstra (in google groups).

In the first, the Maquis have been playing nice-nice with Her Majesty Janeway but only in an effort to take over the ship and kick out the Fleeters. As an example of its character, Janeway's mere presence gives Chakotay an immediate headache, but he manages to grin and hide his intentions from an oblivious Janeway. Also, Tom Paris poisons half the crew and Chakotay is amused that he'll repeat the exploit.

In the second, the 'good and wholesome' veneer of Star Trek is completely stripped away to reveal a hypocritical society steeped in corruption and racism. Notably, Bajorans are the trash of the galaxy and Betazoids are moral deviants. The glass-bottomed boat analogy is delightful.

In both cases, the writing is superb. Needless to say, nothing like this would ever be published by Pocketbooks. -- RK

ST Plot-Generating Premises:

  1. The term "warp drive" predates Star Trek by probably 20 years or more. My point: if StarTrek had picked "hyperdrive", that would be the term we will use when we figure out a way to do it.
    • This will not happen. Star-trek might be popular in AUSCANZUKUS, but it's not influential in the rest of the world.
    • When I was in Peru I saw a big billboard for the next StarWars movie. A while later I was practicing Spanish with my nephew, and mentioned StarTrek. I had to figure out he had never heard of it. Shame on Paramount for ignoring such a huge market!

See: CaptainHornHair, InterestingQuestions, TriteNewAgeMoralizing, GiantSpaceGoingAmoebae, SevenOfNine, GalaxyQuest, StarTrekTransportersInCombat, StarTrekLeakingIntoWork

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