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Fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek’s first episode Manu Saadia takes a deep dive into the show’s most radical and provocative aspect its detailed and consistent economic vision Could we create such a utopia here on Earth And why has Star Trek’s future had such staying power in our cultural imagination T. Long time fans of Asimov Star Trek and related s f will appreciate this rumination on Roddenberry s utopia How improbable is the Trek scenario Well we have communicators and talking computers now don t we So why not a society that has eliminated war poverty and other problems and where work is optional because replicators make anything and everything for free How do I vote for this agenda Shall we call it the Landing Party Captain Wentworths Persuasion into the show’s most radical and provocative aspect Canu Cynnar its detailed and consistent economic vision Could we create such a utopia here on Earth And why has Star Trek’s future had such staying power La bondad de los extraños in our cultural Willy the Wizard imagination T. Long time fans of Asimov Star Trek and related s f will appreciate this rumination on Roddenberry s utopia How Off-side improbable Enséñame más is optional because replicators make anything and everything for free How do I vote for this agenda Shall we call Wonder (The Books of Marvella, it the Landing Party

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Trekonomics

Rekonomics looks at the morals values and hard economics that underpin the series’ ideal society and its sources of inspiration both inside and outside the science fiction canon After reading this book you’ll be able to answer the uestion If you could live in Star Trek’s economic utopia would you want. This is a rather hard book to review because I wanted so so much to love it The second I saw an internet article about the idea I was on Inkshares to support throw money at the endeavor and asking my friends to do the same My partner and I ended up pre ordering two copies because we were worried that it wouldn t make its goal and be published Well this book was not successful Perhaps the reason is that this book not only needed a good editor and perhaps something akin to a phd mentoradvisor but also perhaps the author was not the right person to write it Take for example this uote from the last chapter of the book when discussing the Great voyages of discovery in the world s historyPersonally I find it very reassuring even heartwarming that great explorers and inventors should be so typically human They were strivers small minded low rent busy bees I like that That means they were just like you and me just a tiny bit crazier or luckier 216 Regardless of his thoughts on the kinds of Christopher Columbus I think this is really indicative of just how he feels about Star Trek and the world it inhabits He dismisses space travel and other space ventures because they cost too must He disparages the characters on TNG for no learning no growing 166 despite evidence to the contrary on its seven seasons that the author ignores and constantly discusses DS9 for its depiction of flawed individuals and life beyond the Federation the very thing he s supposedly writing a book about If he dislikes utopia and a world with much of the strife of our current century noticeably absent what is it exactly that he likes about Star Trek He devotes an entire chapter to the Ferengi and after a well recognized parallel in 20th21st century capitalists he all but praises how great they are and how admirable their culture Of course some discussion is obviously necessary but his tone changes rather dramatically hereUltimately this book doesn t cover much economics at all I was really disappointed as the title implies that this is exactly what the book is about the economics of Star Trek Unfortunately he goes on and on about scarcity and the distribution of resources Which while it can t be the only possible issue in a Star Trek economic utopia it certainly is one in our contemporary times It is the very issue that defines political arguments do we become a social democracy or slash all social programs into a Keynesian market free for all The author is an advocate for the former But where the author could have used some imagination to think beyond logics of capitalism all he can say is how expensive things are and how we have to think about how to distribute and allocate resources His short introduction of GPS as a global common good is interesting but it just cracks the surface before he moves on to something else In fact that is a common tactic in his book he brings up a lot of things briefly then moves on before he has fully considered themOne thing he recognizes that I absolutely agree with that technology will bring us to a new world In fact as he recognizes somewhat it already has Agricultural jobs and now industrial manufacturing especially jobs are uickly waning as technology takes care of the drudgery for us But instead of prosperity for all the owners of the technology pocket the profit and live a life free from work and need while the workers must find their drudgery in wages elsewhere in other areas Instead why not bring up the proposals of the guaranteed basic income for example While it s still embedded in capitalist thinking it is an interesting way that a few governments have come up with to deconstruct the idea that we must work for a living What else is going on in the world right now that suggests a move toward a Star Trek economics He doesn t sayI also enjoyed his short discussion of early science fiction authors and their influence on the original Star Trek show I really do want to know about Asimov after reading this book and I ll try to delve into other authors of the time period as well Perhaps for this book to have been a success someone with an extensive economic theory background would have been able to look at failures of utopian models in history look at current trends surrounding capitalism and movement to and away from it to answer the authors final uestion how can we get to a world like Star Trek Unfortunately either the author s knowledge of economics and history psychology social sciences etc was inadeuate or he neglected to write about it This book reads like a meandering cobbled together undergraduate thesis rather than a coherent well edited book I wonder if the author could have improved it if he had sought traditional publishing where his ideas could have been critiued edited and re written As it stands I doubt it would be published conventionally without heavy editing But despite this review I did not hate the book I was just very very very disappointed I love Star Trek and I don t love it as the author disparages because it s an adventure in space with aliens and faster than light travel otherwise I d just be a Star Wars fan Sure those things are cool In fact it s in the encounters with other worlds that the characters in Star Trek are able to reconsider their highly held precepts and examine their history and their current ways of doings things and how they should act in the world Instead I love Star Trek because of its optimistic view on what the future of humanity could look like That we could rise above our difference and actually seek out new life and new civilizations so that we might delight in differences and new ways of doing things that we might delight in having our assumptions critiued That we might work together to create a world where national borders have no meaning and no matter where you are born you have access to the same resources so that poverty and hate and suffering are only something you read about in books Where we might live beyond money where we explore what it truly means to be human where we don t live our lives in the drudgery of trying to pay bills to meet our basic needs or be shackled to accumulating goods to feel like we are doing well in life Where education is freely shared and desperately striven for where improving our lives together is the highest occupation That s what I love about Star Trek That s what I want to explore in looking at the economics of Star Trek Will someone please write THAT book

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Star Trek is set in an amazing utopian universe of faster than light travel of “beam me up Scotty” and Vulcan salutes It’s also a universe where war and poverty have been eradicated money doesn’t exist and work is indistinguishable from leisure In this ground breaking book timed to coincide with the. Money is one of humanity s most clever and enduring technologies It is a brilliant way of transferring value across vast distances and decentralizing our economy Barter makes sense on a hyperlocal neighbourly scale but you can t run a vast industrial economy on it As Niall Ferguson chronicles in his excellent The Ascent of Money increases in numismatic sophistication were vital in increasing the range of trade and our abilities to innovate and provide services to citizens So it seems a foregone conclusion that we are stuck with money that we ll never be rid of it Yet Star Trek particularly in its 24th century form proposes to do just that at least within the Federation Trekonomics is Manu Saadia s attempt to understand how or even whether this could work This is not a deep examination of the workings of the Federation s economy itself so much as a meditation on how we might apply the ideas of trekonomics to our own policy making In so doing Saadia follows in the footsteps of Trek itself which is not about presenting viable predictions of the future of our species but telling stories about our species in the presentSaadia s timing could not be better Obviously the book is coming out during the fiftieth anniversary year of Star Trek On a wider note this book is uite pertinent to conversations happening around the world with regards to the economy and work As automation in the form of algorithms and robots replaces many jobs once done by humans and as an aging workforce retires slowly younger people are left to wonder exactly what they re meant to be doing when it comes to work Holding down a career for life is not a realistic option for many of us The world of work is changing thanks both to changes in technology and policy It behoves us therefore to examine our assumptions about capitalism and consider what alternatives might be available to usTrekonomics works because the Federation is a post scarcity society That is everything that one might need to survive is available in abundance at practically zero cost The replicator is the poster child of post scarcity and of course is a sufficient condition for a post scarcity society Saadia is uick to point to contemporary 3D printing as an example of proto replicator technology and no he s not saying we ll inevitably have actual replicators but 3D printing itself is pretty darn amazing However he makes a salient observation towards the end of the book that leaves us with a lot to think about in Star Trek the replicator comes last It is the culmination of Federation progress It s not present in the 23rd century where humanity is already well on its way to post scarcity and the enlightenment that supposedly accompanies it In other words the replicator is sufficient but not necessary and Saadia argues it is the result of other developments rather than the cause of those changesThis is central to Saadia s thesis technology alone is not enough to tip us over into a money less post scarcity utopia Saadia does not put much store in the Singularity or the idea that technology is somehow inherently liberating or democratizing He notes the massive potential of technologies like the Internet but he points out that it is only a force for good if we make it so He cites GPS and the Internet both as examples of positive externalities public goods provided by the US government at not extra cost GPS is an excellent example because it s something that has so uickly become embedded in our everyday actions Yet the US government could easily just turn the system offTechnology alone is not enough Its advancement must be accompanied by progressive policies In particular Saadia points to eliminating poverty as a crucial step towards a trekonomics future Poverty actually changes people s behaviour Saadia observes that there is a clear difference between the behaviour of the 23rd century Starfleet officers and the 24th century ones with the latter all acting like Spock rational civilized fair minded I happen to be watching an episode of TNG as I write this Force of Nature S07E09 which Saadia uses as the example of this Picard and the crew are eminently rational able to consider possibilities that undermine their beliefs in the harmlessness of the Enterprise s mission of exploration simply because it is their job to keep an open mindSaadia contends that as our technologies and policies improve our access to necessities like food healthcare and decrease our need to work this will actually change our behaviour and outlook as a species This might seem strange at first because there is a very romantic notion that humans are humans are humans across all of time and space and that we somehow possess an intangible indomitable spirit that will never be altered or crushed by our circumstance But it has happened before Our transition from hunter gatherer to agrarian societies culminating in urbanization has changed the way we think and act and operate As Saadia puts it culture is our killer app It is itself a technology that we can innovate and iterate through policy and philosophyIf I haven t commented much on Saadia s exposition of the economics of the Federation or other species it s simply because there isn t much in here that is new to me When you ve watched Star Trek as much as I have you re pretty familiar with it from all angles Saadia speaks of the shows in the cadence of a rugged fan like myself off handedly but accurately summarizing entire species contributions to the show or whole themes of episodes If you choose to read this book for no reason than that you like Trek you still can t go wrong Saadia keeps the economic terms light indeed I suspect that anyone with the than passing knowledge of economics that I possess would be able to offer a deeper critiue of those aspectsStill Trekonomics is not meant to be expositional so much as aspirational Nowhere is this obvious than in the otherwise somewhat indulgent chapter on the science fictional influences on Star Trek Saadia uses Star Trek to point to how we can explicitly envision and shape our own future This is an empowering idea but it is not a foregone conclusion that we can make such a change To be sure even with advances in technology it will be a long time before we can get rid of money I think it s very easy to be sceptical that we will ever reach that point to be worried about free riders etc in such a system But we need to recognize that this scepticism is an internalized artifact of growing up within capitalism That doesn t guarantee that we can successfully replace capitalism with something else but given capitalism s flaws I don t see that we have any other moral option than to try Treknomics is a passionate Trek filled reminder that we are capable of doing better If we want to


10 thoughts on “Trekonomics

  1. says:

    Tea Earl Grey hotSo spoke Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean Luc Picard on many episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation But economist and consummate Trekkie Manu Saadia explains how getting the Captain his tea was both simpler and complicated than would be expectedExploring how the Star Trek universe existed in a post

  2. says:

    This is an excellent book but for a niche audience You need to have watched Star Trek I mean all of it And you need to be interested in economics Satisfy that and you'll have a fun time with this

  3. says:

    Money is one of humanity’s most clever and enduring technologies It is a brilliant way of transferring value across vast distances and decentralizing our economy Barter makes sense on a hyperlocal neighbourly scale but you can’t run a vast industrial economy on it As Niall Ferguson chronicles in his excellent The Ascent of Money increases in numismatic sophistication were vital in increasing the range of trade and our abilities to inn

  4. says:

    As a long time Star Trek fan who has a bit of interest in economics I thought this was an interesting read I wish that the author had spent a bit time developing how a society would actually get to the point of not using money for anything The part about the replicator making the cost of most goods drop to zero m

  5. says:

    The author uses Star Trek Next Generation as an example of society without money people can work or not work as they wish because the replicator creates any and all things that people would want Through a lively discussion the author brings us to today well worth the journey The replicator is fiction however technology and robotics are essential doing the same thing there will not be enough jobs in the futur

  6. says:

    Long time fans of Asimov Star Trek and related s f will appreciate this rumination on Roddenberry's utopia How improbable is the Trek scenario? Well we have communicators and talking computers now don't we? So why not a society that has eliminated war poverty and other problems and where work is optional becau

  7. says:

    This is a rather hard book to review because I wanted so so much to love it The second I saw an internet article about the idea I was on Inkshares to support throw money at the endeavor and asking my friends to do the same My partner and I ende

  8. says:

    As a lifelong Star Trek fan who has been reading economists Brad DeLong who provided the Introduction and Paul Krugman who provided technical commentary for years and years this was so well targeted at me it might as well have been a photon torpedo sorry I couldn't have been interested in an explanation of the economic logic of t

  9. says:

    I heard about this book via Scalzi's Big Idea feature and it sounded awesome so I picked it up right away The author set out to write the book he wanted to read about the future economics of the world set up in Star Trek and I think he succeeded well with an interesting and informative book that not only covers several aspects of economics and sociopolitical norms in Star Trek but also relates them back to o

  10. says:

    Nice choice Mom Thank you for the recommendation Live long and prosper thus alludes to another kind of prosperity the kind that arises from the cultivation of the mind rather than from greed that antiuated and vulgar practice It is an active sentence Instead of long life and prosperity it is a grammatical imperative directed at t

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