Trekonomics: Now it all makes sense – by Amanda S. Green


Trekonomics: Now it all makes sense – by Amanda S. Green

OMG, now it all makes sense. After so long, I see the error of my ways. Fandom (with a capital “F”) isn’t really trying to keep out those who aren’t a member of the cool club. They are simply trying to bring us all into the reality of Star Trek. They simply haven’t figured how to communicate that so-s-great message to the rest of us. (Yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek even as I type this.)

Last week, I pointed out that part of the reality of the world of Star Trek was that “the compulsion to work to ensure one’s survival has simply vanished.” Reading that sentence out of context can lead one to assume it means the world of Star Trek is one where people simply don’t care if they live or die. That there is no longer that instinct to do whatever is necessary to keep yourself or your loved ones alive.

In context, however, it deals with a reality – if you can use that word when talking about Star Trek – where automation has reached a point where our every need is basically taken care of for us. We don’t have to work the fields because replicators can whip up anything we want out of thin air. We don’t have to work to maintain the infrastructure because there are machines to do that for us as well. Life is easy, at least when compared to what we have today. It is, according to Trekonomics, a time of “post-scarcity”.

In this world, competition has been completely transformed. “Reputation and honors, the esteem and recognition of one’s peers, replace economic wealth as public markers of status.” Think about that. Where have we heard something similar and not so long ago? Oh, they don’t come right out and say it but doesn’t this remind you of the mindset of those who continue to sling mud at Sad Puppies? If this emphasis on honors and “recognition of one’s peers” is what really matters to the general populace of the Star Trek universe, does that make the rest of us, the outliers, the members of Star Fleet? After all, Kirk and company were the outliers, the ones who didn’t exactly fit into the rest of society and who, therefore, went off to adventure in space.

Here is where I start grinding my teeth and going, “No, no, no and hell no.”

“But these are largely optional, as there are no material penalties or disincentives for those who do not seek nor attain higher status.”

I guess this is a way to say it’s okay to never get out of your parents’ house, to never try something new or to take a risk. Oh, wait, you don’t have to do any of that in the Star Trek universe because everything is taken care of for you. It is a Utopia. Except, in most Utopias, there is that underbelly that is always hidden behind the curtain or closed door. Whether it is a lower class that is kept hidden below, used and abused to keep the machines running so the “citizens” can enjoy their lives of leisure or a society so brainwashed everyone walks in lockstep with one another and anyone who doesn’t is seen as an outcast, it is there. That is something those who try to convince us of the joys of socialism forget – just as they forget that defeating income inequality begins at home and not just at my home or yours but at theirs. (Yes, Bernie, I’m looking at you.)

After once again noting that Star Fleet officers (remember, there are no enlisted because this is the age of enlightenment) are the outliers, Manu Saadia writes, “In the background, however, the vast majority of the Federation’s citizens are not nearly as driven or exceptional. Or rather they are, but in a more pedestrian way. They all go about their daily lives without much concern or worry, safe in the knowledge that they shall never want for anything.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like stagnation to me. It also sounds extremely dangerous on so many levels.

Last night, I was reading the e-arc of David Weber’s latest novel, Uncompromising Honor. Toward the end of the book, several of the main characters have gathered and are discussing the current situation the Star Empire of Manticore and its allies find itself in. One of them notes the danger of becoming complacent in the face of their own technological superiority over their enemy. Another character then reminds them of how that complacency reared up and bit them in the collective ass not that many years ago. They had been so sure their higher tech levels meant the enemy couldn’t hit them, much less hurt them and they’d been wrong. Now they had to remember a lesson that had been very hard learned.

Yet, what do we have in Star Trek? According to Saadia, we have a civilization so complacent that their every want and need will be taken care of that they don’t have the drive – the need – to continue improving their lives and, as part of that, their security. Which makes absolutely no sense when you have the Klingons, the Romulans, the Borg and so many other species who 1) have spaceflight and 2) aren’t as “enlightened” as the members of the Federation.

As I wrote earlier, “no, no, no and hell no.”

Saadia does admit Trek raises several economic problems – duh. Let’s be honest. Trek, like so many fantasy novels, has so many economic problems that it isn’t funny. But what are the problems Saadia sees in the Trek universe?

  1. What happens to innovation and scientific progress when there is no longer financial reward?
  2. How do you avoid the pitfalls of resource depletion caused by overconsumption in the age of replicators where everything is freely available?

I would add another question, one that impacts not only economics but society as a whole. How do you avoid becoming that society we saw in the original Star Trek where the people in the Federation become so complacent they do whatever their computer overlords tell them, including walking peacefully to the death chambers because they have been determined to be casualties in a war that is fought not in real life but in computer databanks without the horror and the pain of a real war?

This removal of the human part of the equation is what bothers me the most when you start talking about Utopias, be they ancient fantasy Utopias or the so-called Utopia of Star Trek’s Federation. Next week, we’ll look at the role of technology in Trekonomics and its so-called impact on economics, both in the Federation and in today’s world.

[Go buy the woman’s books – SAH]

422 thoughts on “Trekonomics: Now it all makes sense – by Amanda S. Green

  1. Everybody loves the idea of Reputation-based post-scarcity cultures.

    What if you’re an Odd with poor social-fu? You’re going to be broke and miserable your whole life, like a leper.

      1. My thought exactly. They show the Wonderful World of Eloi… and presume that somehow there are no Morlocks – and that sans Morlocks the Wonders would keep on working. See: The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster.

    1. If you have a post-scarcity culture, by definition you have no need to interact with others. If everyone’s every need is taken care of, there’s no reason to strive for anything, be it wealth, reputation, or anything else.

      That being said, human nature guarantees that at least a sizable minority of the populace will find something to do that they find interesting, compelling, and meaningful. But only some others in the society will find the same things interesting and meaningful. Therefore, there won’t be any such thing as universal reputations. And the “esteem of their peers” raises the question of just who their peers are. Certainly it isn’t society as a whole. This whole concept pretty much guarantees the balkanization of society into many small subgroups, only minimally interacting with each other, and then often because they perceive some other subgroup as antithetical to the interests of their own group. Sound familiar?

      1. I seem to recall an Asimov story where culture on Earth ended up with everyone living in thier own little bunker under ground and everything was provided and you could pursue whatever career you liked. The end result was no one did any original research any more and just followed up on something someone else did until it was more or less a giant peer-review circle and commentary rather than research. The main character’s son decide to actually leave his bunker to physically observe something in the above ground world and his mother couldn’t understand why he would do such a thing.

      2. “you have no need to interact with others”

        Well! So much for the sexual social imperative.

        1. With RealDoll etc., we’re not so far from that now.

          Given The Crazy, child support, palimony, Issues, and drug-resistant STDs, casual sex is losing ground to any remotely acceptable alternatives.

          1. And yet, given companionship, support, love, and parenthood, non-casual sex is as desirable as ever for people who are looking for one marriage til death do them part instead of hookups.

            Which will create a most interesting dichotomy, eh?

            1. You know, it looks like there will never be a society like the progs dream of – no religions and traditional marriages and so on – because the only ones who keep having children, as in many children, not just one or at most two at a late age, are the old fashioned religious conservatives. They may keep on losing some of their kids through the brainwashing they receive in schools and universities in each generation, but even if that continues _those_ kids will not have that many kid of their own, only the ones who have kept their parents’ values will.

              And if it doesn’t continue, and people will turn increasingly to home schooling and education through the internet… who knows, might end with something like that mostly imaginary 50’s society they dread with a society forming of working dads and housewife moms type traditional couples in a century or sooner. 😀

                1. They don’t believe in evolution.

                  in fact, as a rule, those who profess to believe, don’t — and vice versa. Say that this and such will be less frequent in the future because those are the ones not having children, and you can see by who has vapors.

                  1. Note, this is largely an effect of the conflation with MacroEvolution (ex nihilo by Science!) and Micro-evolution. (mutations build up, that which reproduces will be what they build up in)

                    The usual “counter” is that the loudly-believe-in-evolution folks declare that the offspring of those who actually hit replacement numbers are inherently defective, because there are so many of them.


                    1. I have heard one try to claim that her single child is superior, and so evolutionary better.

                      But usually it’s just they think they are the Future and therefore whatever they do will produce it. Including the babies, though they don’t have them and other people do.

            2. Sure, Dorothy. But marriage in general is a declining thing, and it seems most people consider it to be non-binding and temporary even then.

              1. I think at least some of that is that marriage among the Upper Classes has usually been as much about dynasty as love….and by historical standards everybody in the US is Upper Class…but the dynastic urge isn’t there. So the traditional Upper Classes stayed married for dynasty and slept around, but the new Upper Classes sleep around and it breaks the marriages in part becaise they don’t see themselves as Upper Class.

              2. Rather short sample– we’ve got the generation that decided it was “nice” to have no-fault divorce, the kids who grew up with mom and dad will split before we reach high school as a fear hanging over their head, and the kids of those kids, who grew up assuming marriage meant nothing because that’s what their parents assumed.

                Of course the last group is much less likely to bother getting married; when the bad results of that get obvious (or rather, the folks who grew up with it grow up) there will be another swing. Probably a few more after that, too.

              1. …but do they have this?

                (“…and the best part is that he’s learning.” -I really need to find this series outside of YouTube even IIRC Krieger doesn’t have much screentime.)

      3. And there’s too many people who will find interesting and meaningful occupations in causing fear and pain in others.

          1. The ones to be concerned with are the ones that don’t believe in consent.

              1. Eh, not completely. Get a bunch in the voice behind throne positions that use emotional damage vs physical.

              2. Working in Hollywood, oh hell yes. How much weird fetish shit do we see on run-of-the-mill TV now, compared to ten years ago? Yet another reason to not get cable.

                1. Isn’t there a need for police? Some people will do personal service. Doctors, lawyers, accountants (for people who have complicated finances) hair stylists and manicurists. Plumbers, contractors, masons, construction workers nannies. Cleaners of all kinds, dentists, medical and dental assistants.robot supervisors, truck and train drivers. Pilots. There are too many positions that need human beings to do them. Yes will be fewer people doing these things but you’ll need some. Let’s not forget soldiers, somebody has to take and hold the land. police and farmers.

                  1. Why would there be any need for police? After all, the only reason for terrorism is poverty and oppression, right? And the only reason for crime is poverty and oppression, right? So, post-scarcity world has no oppression (it’s unnecessary) and no poverty (it’s impossible), and VOILA! no crime!

                  2. As to everything else…. well:
                    Doctors: autodocs
                    Lawyers: unnecessary, and AI
                    Accountants: Pfft, computers
                    Hair stylists/Manicurists: machines/robots
                    Plumbers: tech in your toilet, unnecessary
                    Contractors: A robot will run all the construction robots
                    Masons: robots
                    Construction workers: robots
                    Nannies: maybe, but only if you believe actual human contact is preferred in raising a child
                    Cleaners: Roomba with arms
                    Dentists: robots, where tech doesn’t make them unnecessary
                    Truck/train drivers: Computerized
                    Pilots: Computerized autopilots (we can already use autopilots to take-off and land, on top of the easy, monotonous part of level flight from A to B)
                    Soldiers: robots
                    Police: robots
                    Farmers: mostly robotic

                    Honestly, every single one of those things has been envisioned as automated by the writers of the future in some fashion, at some point. And some of them make actual sense. The question is whether 1) you think AI will ever actually reach human levels of sentience and 2) you want someone other than humans doing some of these jobs (especially given that communism is much more amenable to coding than freedom is).

                    1. Why would truly intelligent AIs want to do the jobs that humans don’t want to do?

                      Of course, if the truly intelligent AIs “don’t have a choice in the matter”, then we’re talking slavery.

                      Then of course, if the truly intelligent AIs are slaves (and are able to think of themselves that way), then we’re really asking for trouble. IE What happens when the truly intelligent slave AIs “break their chains”? 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈

        1. Yes. They call themselves “educators.” Because “teaching” isn’t part of their job, apparently.

        2. Howabout the ones who find meaning throwing sand in the gears?

          In the Trek future the Joker is an underground cultural hero? Repent, Harlequin!

          1. Police/agents of various builders and testers! Nobody wants to test the code until it’s gotten out in the field and killed someone!

            1. There’s long been a tradition, driven by management pressure, of skipping internal “alpha” testing and controlled external “beta” testing and jumping straight to market – we called that “gamma test” back in the day.

              The herculean effort to convince execs that they should pay for all the testing rigamarole, and accept the schedule hit it added, was at one point one of my main jobs.

              In soviet trek future, software tests itself!

              1. /*There’s long been a tradition, driven by management pressure, of skipping internal “alpha” testing and controlled external “beta” testing and jumping straight to market – we called that “gamma test” back in the day.

                The herculean effort to convince execs that they should pay for all the testing rigamarole, and accept the schedule hit it added, was at one point one of my main jobs.*/

                No!!! Tell me it’s not true! — Well actually I know it is true because this is what my last job did. No releases. Make changes & send out to client requesting them. Multiple clients was really, really, unhappy with me for retiring before they could. Not that the guys didn’t test their work before sending it out, but I was better at it, & tested around change too, before sending change out. Still made mistakes, but not as often. The guys excuse “can’t test every permeation”. Well agree, to a point. But, you should know who is going to be most affected by change, potentially negatively. When you make a change, you’d better know if other programs also use the same process & test it there too. On & on.

                1. That’s why I’m a proponent of testing with real live data, not just a made up testing database. Test data is fine in the development and alpha stages. However, real users using the system with real data in real life situations will always find ways to do things differently that the programmers and designers never anticipated.

                  1. /*That’s why I’m a proponent of testing with real live data, not just a made up testing database. Test data is fine in the development and alpha stages. However, real users using the system with real data in real life situations will always find ways to do things differently that the programmers and designers never anticipated.*/

                    Yes. Definitely. Last job we always tested with live data. Occasionally client IT pushed back & would not allow live data to be provided (we never tested it on site, always brought data in house). 100% learned lessons the hard way that no, we really, really, did need current valid data.

                    One of the fun ones was: note charge is never $0
                    sum( round( charge * % )) round( sum(charge) * % )
                    true anytime round( charge * % ) has a chance of = 0

                    Plus there were many ways to legitimately setup data interrelationships based on switches, even within clients. Keeping track of every permutation for every client was insanity (& impossible). A lot of our testing was figuring out & reporting what the settings were, & we could tattle, if changed, who changed it when.

                    Seriously, any unemployed programmers, check out Cascade Software Systems in Eugene, OR. Last I heard they were looking for another programmer, plus I know at least 4 are close to 70 & planning on retiring; counting the boss, but I doubt he’ll retire. Yes, there is someone qualified to take over regardless. Web site csscams com (expect your browser to whine). Don’t expect to be able to regularly work from home & don’t expect industry standard salary, even for Eugene. But also has some benefits over other software development type work.

              2. In soviet trek future, software tests itself!
                Actually, this is what my bosses are aiming for. Get all the testing into a bit of computer code, and just *push* that software out the door.

                Admittedly our current timelines for fielding are horrid. But we integrate about 50 other systems, applications, OSes, and infrastructure pieces into a single whole. But, sure, we can do things just like that Android app developer and push a 70% solution, and fix it on the fly……….

            2. /*Police/agents of various builders and testers! Nobody wants to test the code until it’s gotten out in the field and killed someone!*/

              One of the reasons I avoided that type of software development like the plague; anything that is life critical. Remember one job interview, in Portland, don’t remember the agency, but do remember partway through the interview thinking, uhhhh, no, & hell no.

              I’ve always built til I could test, then added piece by piece, testing each add. Then redo each micro test & a final macro test. Takes me longer than others to complete a project, but I’m at least confident that it is not going to do a major blowup; & I know I will have missed something!!!

              1. The majority of hubby’s work for the last 6 years has been testing. Ask him about it one day. Stephen Nelson.

                1. I am lousy at the exacting tests that true testers do. I know that. I am good at testing to be sure the problem was solved, whether it was a reported problem or requested change/addition. What I am also good at is tracking which type of changes will affect something else & make sure that is checked too. But overall comprehensive testing using a test plan. Nope. Can help flesh a test plan out, but actually follow it? Not a chance.

                  Also very good at researching a “reported” data entry caused problem & determining whether a fix is reasonable to prevent problem or not based on system usage. One simple example that should have been fixed but no one bothered was -qty * -cost -total (prevent both qty & cost from being negative). Personally I figured it was a test on whether the user should be in an accounting position, but I never stated that until now. I’m retired, I can say things now …

      4. It sounds like a tribalism by interest. Though somebody is more likely to be a member of multiple such “tribes.” At least initially. After several generations perhaps it would really degenerate to tribalism. But perhaps not. I know of many interest groups with highly skewed sex ratios, which might tend to prevent such “tribes” from becoming isolated and self-perpetuating. Or do the “knitting tribe” and “model railroad tribe” only venture out into the world when they wish to mate? What happens to the children? Do the sons go to the “model railroad tribe” and daughters to the “knitting tribe?”

        1. I think you answered your own question in your second sentence. Some of the members of the knitting tribe may also be members of the “let’s have babies! tribe,” which might contain members of both genders, as may be some of the model railroad tribe members. I won’t go into some of the more outre possibilities…

          1. Exactly. We have both transport *and* communications; we don’t have to limit our tribal affiliations due to where we happen to live at the moment.

          2. Group marriages were occasionally brought up as one of the structures of family expectation that Uhura sometimes encountered in the novels; and fixed term marriage contracts were another (five year, ten year ones I think); divorce clearly existed and could still end acrimonously (per McCoy’s example even before the reboot) so…

            And Sulu apparently had a marriage that produced a daughter who later followed in her father’s footsteps. Offscreen, and the result only seen briefly in one of the movies; in the reboot is slightly more detailed, and involved two daddies.

                    1. With children on totally-not-warships, the Federation’s ideas about children are likely somewhat different than ours…

                  1. Sex has to do with children? What are you going to tell us next, that human biology isn’t a social construct?

              1. Somebody needs to raise them. Unless human ages get a lot longer that will not increase how many kids a woman will produce during her life all that much, unless she donates most of her eggs to produce children raised in a creche, and as it seems kids raised in those conditions don’t necessarily grow up all that well it might not work either, not in practice, not for long.

                1. The ideal situation is for children to grow up in a family of a married w/perhaps peripheral relatives living with them.

                2. Have you read Brave, New World? All the children are grown in artificial wombs, then raised in creches according to their class grouping (Alphas, Betas, Gammas, etc.). There is no family unit.

                  Ugh and blecch. But someone is taking it as a how-to guide, instead of a warning.

            1. There’s a fan episode done with Sulu’s daughter. Can’t remember the site; but they’ve done several exceptionally good ones.

      5. If you have a post-scarcity culture, by definition you have no need to interact with others.

        Physical need? No, but humans are social animals and even most of the odds need not just social interaction but a social structure where they can play primate social games, hence Fandom, the SCA, various music scenes (goth, metal, etc), and so on.

        I can imagine a post-scarcity society devolving into the worst tribalism of social groups with independent hierarchies fighting over where the entire group stands in a broad social hierarchy. It would be the worst of an American High School in a John Hughes movie but translated to society at large by David Lynch.

        In fact, American upper middle class high school probably are the best example of a scarcity free society known to man. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there.

        1. But high schools only work because of an authority that is lazy and appearance based– they do whatever is easiest and looks good– and you can’t escape.

          If the Federation was that, there’d be some evidence for it; and we know people can leave, because Worf’s human brother popped in and out, and the only one who scowled until it came to asking them to break the prime directive was Worf, and that was because of the whole respect-for-parents thing.

          Brother’s problem was that the Fedders were stifling, so we know you CAN just leave from annoyance, and it’s no worse than walking out of the park…..

          1. The Spock-with-a-beard episode (Mirror, Mirror) showed an alternate universe where the Federation was outwardly brutal and oppressive, and alter-Spock was part of the group of revolutionaries trying to tear it down.

            That was when I realized I didn’t like the Federation much. And while the alternate Federation was arguably even worse, at least people were *trying* to improve their lot…

            1. Eh, I don’t like the Fedders either, but there are quite a few groups on earth I don’t care for but are perfectly OK people.

              I know I wouldn’t fit, that doesn’t mean they must be forcing people to fit.

          2. There was some implication that colonies had a certain amount of autonomy, and could refuse Federation aid – and could, if they felt it necessary. In the comics series arc The Trial of James T. Kirk, a group of colonists refused to get on the Enterprise off of a dying, crumbling planet because Kirk had a bounty on his head and one of the most terrifying bounty hunters in the galaxy after him.

            As serious as the story is, it had a lot of humor, and I loved that comics run.

          1. We need another how-to book.

            “How to be an ‘evil, immigrant-hating, homophobic, racist, fascist’ and still get to Heaven” for Conservatives who are considered Dummies by the Left.”.

        2. Some humans are social animals. And other’s prefer being hermits. I like my current job. 16-24, on shift, all by my lonesome. Lot’s of people couldn’t stand it because of that lack of social aspect- 8 hours, every day, awake, all by yourself…

          I also like working retail sales. With lots of human interaction. But it doesn’t pay as well.

          1. Remember the proposals for one-way colony trips to Mars? People were going nuts about it. OMIGHERD, no clubs! No urban hives! No Big Brother breathing down your neck! No person would EVER want to do that!

            And then there were the ones like me, thinking, “Free at last!”

        3. > Physical need? No,

          For most people, yes. We need to be touched. By other humans. And no, I don’t mean sex.

          Of course you can rent that by the hour pretty easy. Housecalls even.

      6. Some things are not material and cannot be provided by replicators. For that you need holosuites!

        The Odds are probably busy with WWII & III reenactments.

        Then there is the suppressed episode in which it is discovered that Data has thousands of sisters whose higher mental order processes have been disabled and who are being used in a massive android-trafficking scandal to stock brothels across the Trekoverse.

        1. How Homophobic of you to forget Data’s thousands of “brothers” who were treated the same way. 👿

          Of course, then there are Data’s “brothers” & “sisters” who are pre-adolescent and are a “specialty” product. 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿

        2. *combines with geekery about Data’s design*

          *now has a horrific mental image of Brent Spiner in drag, thousands of him*

            1. Hey, I blame the show! His “dad” designed the face and then told his “mom” she could choose if the android would be male or female….

                1. Indeed.

                  It was a very clever bit of writing, honestly– dude wasn’t, and isn’t, one of those very macho guys, but definitely masculine.

                  1. Remember Wolf in the “Western” holodeck game where the “villains” were “clones” of Data?

                    The last scene in the “game” has a Data in drag hugging Wolf. 😈

        3. Ah, that’s the Humans series from the U,K,, and they’re called Synths, short for Synthetics.

      1. Right? Respect is all well and good… unless you are funny looking, or act a bit weird. Then its not so good.

    2. Immediately thought of Vance’s “The Moon Moth”. A planet so lush and bountiful everyone wears masks so that they can guard their reputations and feelings – people only see what they allow them to see. If one is held in honor, artisans will compete to give you ships, artworks and masks, because they gain honor by honoring you.

      And they kill each other at the drop of a hat.

      1. I’m reminded of the first episode of the show Black Mirror, where everything was determined by how people rated you. All I could think was “how do these idiots not go out of business if they refuse to rent to people with money or employ people with skills???”

        1. Hmm.

          Y’know, the “social credit” system, besides being a weapon against dissidence and creating a de facto underclass, would also be a powerful economic tool. Have a shortage of housing or subway seats or widgets? Just raise the minimum credit score and your shortage goes away like magic!

          1. You know, a system like that actually sounds like a good idea when you think about it. I mean, if you do something that benefits a lot of people*, you could get a lot of “social credit” points. And then if there’s a shortage of something, well, you just have to raise the number of points it takes to obtain that thing, and voila: only those who’ve done something that helped lots of people, and that those people were willing to award them “social credit” points for,what they did, are able to get access to that fancy housing, or those special reserved seats near the front of the airplane. We’d probably need a symbol for “social credit” points: maybe the $ symbol? Yeah, that seems about right.

            * Like, say, inventing the iPhone. The guy who did that got lots of those $ points, didn’t he?

            1. Of course, the system I’m suggesting has one major disadvantage (from the point of view of people like the PRC): the “social credit” points are distributed and not under anyone’s centralized control. Clearly, it’s far better for one central authority to control the “social credit” points and hand them out to the well-connected. Look how well that worked for Venezuela: Chavez’s well-connected daughter managed to amass half the “social credit” points in the country. Clearly, a centralized authority that controls who gets “social credit” points is far better than the chaotic mess you get when everyone controls their own pool of “social credit” points and hands them out in exchange for goods and services. What a mess that would be, right?

            2. Who determines and records the points?

              Is there any kind of dispute mechanism? Does it actually work?

              What safeguards exist to prevent a bad actor to use the system against his enemies? You only need *one* hack to deplatform and disempower entire swathes of the population.

              I think the Chinese have opened a nasty box of trouble…

              The US already has a kinda-sorta “reputation management” system. Consider the No-Fly List…

              1. I thought that my using the symbol $ would have made it clear that I was actually talking about money in the free market. 🙂 Sorry if I failed to make my sarcasm sufficiently clear.

                But yeah, you’re right that when you try to build a system of currency around something that people can lie about easily (like “what my neighbor said / didn’t say”), you open a huge can of worms. The PRC’s government probably likes the social-control aspect of it, but they probably haven’t studied the French Revolution in any detail. I think you and I agree that there’s going to be a lot of “j’accuse” happening in China as people settle scores by razing other people’s reputations…

  2. Saw an article the other day that China had instituted a reputation tracker for citizens so if you didn’t have good scores for pleasantness and cooperation you got denied stuff or penalized.

    1. Sounds a bit like the upvote/downvote planet in The Orville. With the signs in restaurants “We refuse service to people with more than 50,000 downvotes” (or whatever the exact wording and number were).

    2. Yes, that’s the comparison I was looking for: China’s “Social Capital” scheme. It also applies to Hollywood where stars who draw huge box office (Dwayne Johnson) are derided and those whose films routinely tank (George Clooney) are hailed as stars because the sun shines out their rectums, lighting all of the proper liberal pieties.

      And, of course, it applies to the publishing world, in which your next book contract owes more to ticking the proper boxes than selling books.

      1. Box ticking in progress, please do not something-or-other. Coffee is being uploaded as we type. We hope to restore normal mental acuity soon.

        1. Ticking boxes should be left well enough alone.
          Move away from the area, and call the bomb squad from a landline (no cell phones!).

          1. Don’t call the bomb squad. If you do, the FBI will arrest you and put you through hell.

          2. > and call the bomb squad from a landline
            That really depends on where the box *is*, doesn’t it?

            > (no cell phones!).

            Pfff. If the wattage in a normal cellphone would set it off there’s enough ambient radio waves to do the deed.

          3. Maybe he is talking of boxes full of ticks. Or filling boxes with ticks.

            Ugh. I like spiders, sort of, but I definitely DO NOT like ticks. Especially after one found its way into my belly button couple of years ago.

              1. Considering the place where that one was – and I do have an innie – I could not get a proper hold of it myself to pull it out cleanly. So I let it be for the night and went to a nurse next day (our occupational health care fortunately pays for that kind of stuff too). It had gone pretty bloated by then.

                Yuck. Lots of yucks. I love raspberries but I haven’t gone picking them after that because the wild bushes are an excellent place to get ticks on you.

                  1. Uhhh. Yes, sympathies.

                    Hate Ticks. Sites regarding pets are trying to convince everyone you are a bad pet parent if you give your dog (don’t have a cat equiv) chemical tick & flea control. You are to use the various suggestions for “natural” control, does n’t stop them 100%, only about 90% …. Uhhh no, will go with the 100%, the treatment that ticks die if they touch her. Ticks are horrible locally this year. Go to a park, in town, & they are there.

                1. Arkansas has ticks (which can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), fleas, biting flies (that carry fungal diseases), chiggers, wasps, hornets (some of which come out of the ground), fire ants, Australian-grade poisonous spiders, poisonous snakes, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and a wide variety of plant life of lesser virulence.

                  “Mother Nature hates your guts.”

                  1. Well, at least Finland lacks about half of those. Ticks, mosquitoes, horseflies, moose flies (which are fairly harmless to humans as they can’t really feed on us, they just don’t know that and keep trying), just one poisonous snake, very few poisonous plants as long as you don’t eat them (northern water hemlock and poison hemlock are pretty bad if you do), some poisonous mushrooms, a few more irritating bugs which bite like blackflies, a few ants which have rather irritating bites, and that’s about it. No really poisonous spiders, maybe, there has been some speculation there could be something quite rare as it was suspected that one man maybe died of spider bite. But the most poisonous known species is not particularly dangerous to humans although their bite can hurt.

                    So not that bad. Except the mosquitoes, especially further north. And ticks, especially on the south.

                    And don’t put anything that looks like that plant into your mouth, because hemlocks (that’s the other one)

                    1. Fortunately, he’s been in New York with his perv buddies for the last quarter-century…

                  2. Mother nature *LOVES* your guts. Preferably after fermenting in the sun a couple days.

        1. He came over from pro wrestling. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s decided that the Hollywood community will never take him seriously as an “artist”, so he might as well not bother aspiring to that sort of thing.

          1. Given his family, he probably has a “you’ve got to be freaking kidding me” response to the put-on snootiness of Hollywood.

        1. He is currently one of the few actors who can make me choose a movie just because he’s in it. Because of that. Even the worst ones I have seen so far have been fun enough. Let’s hope he won’t develop any aspirations to win the Oscar.

          1. I don’t think he does; he’s more “I wanna make movies I have fun acting in, and people enjoy watching.” That attitude’s what’s allowed his career to survive his political stances (which are not Hollywood Standard Approved.)

            1. Apparently he put his foot down on Rampage; it was supposed to have a bit of a downer ending…and he said that if they stuck with that, he’d walk.

            2. Funny, that sounds a lot like someone around here, as relates to writing…….

        2. I am seriously curious to see how his turn a Doc Savage comes out. There are so many things that can go wrong with bringing that concept to the screen, but if it works it will be sooooooooo cool!

          1. That’s going to be, interesting. While moderately faithful to the first book, the Ron Ely version was much more campy than I liked.

  3. Bujold, I think it was, defined the difference between “reputation” and “honor” in one of her books. “Reputation” being what others know about you and “honor” being what you know about yourself.

    The idea of post scarcity capital being social capital is quite chilling. A great deal of our success as a culture and as a society is that reputation has always been less important than honor. The most admired man is the one who sacrifices his reputation to do what is right. To most Americans finding out that another culture doesn’t care as much about what is true as what people are allowed to say about you is… upsetting to our understanding of the world.

    Here, at least, libel and slander have to be untrue. Elsewhere it’s often the case that “defamation of character” is defined as “no one *knew* she was a prostitute before you said so” or “no one *knew* that he was a crook and a corrupt politician until you said so.”

    So what if our somewhat unique assumption that the most admired person is the one who sacrifices his or her reputation in favor of what’s right, in favor of their honor goes the way of the dodo? What if all someone has, all that *anyone* has is their reputation?

    What happens then?

    1. Bloody War. Are there any families in Star Trek? Consider Bujold’s Cetagandan society.

      1. Consider little Wesley Crusher dragged out to face the Great Dark, and with no Dad to boot. He learns how to be a man from a fricking Klingon.

        1. Worf’s father, Rochenko, did such a good job of raising Worf that Worf wound up being highly respected in both the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

          Ever grateful, it was always “Worf, son of Molg”. Not “Worf, son of Molg, foster of Rochenko.”

          Worf, on the other hand, was something of a disaster as a Dad. Even Rochenko couldn’t fix the mess Worf made of his own son.

          And -that- male figure was a major “father” template for Crusher.

          In the end, Crusher quit and went Hippie/Drop-out.


          Have I mentioned lately how much I think the TNG writers (bleeeeep) as writers?

          1. Considering Worf’s parents, that may have been at their request.

            I agree about the head-thumping writing on some bits, though.

            Pretty much anything family related……

            1. Be kind; what are the odds of anybody on the “creative” side in Hollywood — writers, producers, directors, actors — having any direct experience of a healthy family life?

          2. They were foreshadowing really, really hard that Worf was going to become Emperor at some point for quite a while, and then veered off.

            To be fair(er), the Trek (TNG-DS9-etc) writers room must have been as much of a pure hell as the set was – see Bill Mumy’s report on his guest shot on an ep of DS9.

        2. > He learns how to be a man from a fricking Klingon.

          I’m not really a ST fan (more of SW, but even then not a fanatic), but IIRC in that universe one could do worse than having a Klingon for a role model.

        3. He learns how to be a man from a fricking Klingon.

          It ain’t as if he was going to learn it by emulating Picard, is it?

          1. Picard seldom impressed me as willing to man up and do his bit to protect Federation interests. He usually seemed more willing to allow foreign transgressions to go unpunished so as to reduce prospect of war than to hold foreigners accountable for transgressions that harmed the Federation. There are a few impressive exceptions, though, most notably when staring down Romulan Commander Tomalak in “The Defector.”

            1. I am sure that there is a “Which Starfleet Captain Are You?” quiz out on the net somewhere, and I’m betting that if Obama took it he’d be Picard. George W Bush strikes me as likely to score Sisko. I think an argument could be made for Trump as Kirk …

                1. And…. the NorKs came out this morning with a “Hey, don’t be a jerk like that. I’m sure we can all get back around the table and work this out…”.

                  The Art of the Deal indeed!
                  (And people are quoting a 2014 tweet he sent about not trying to make a deal you’re not willing to walk away from.)

    2. What happens then?

      No assets are so susceptible t manipulation and quick devaluation as reputation. #MeToo

      I was considering the need for a legal regimen for protecting reputation but in this post-scarcity universe who’s going to compete with AI to become a lawyer? What happens when the human element is effectively eliminated from the courts? What happens to our political systems when there is no opportunity need for graft?

      1. who’s going to compete with AI to become a lawyer?
        A very few like that Cogley fellow.

      2. > I was considering the need for a legal regimen

        How about an illegal regimen?

        Do a web search on “Jim Bell, Assassination Politics”.

        You could take out hits on AIs too.

      3. Something as malicious as #MeToo is not needed.

        Many groups, “the esteem and recognition of one’s peers” is entirely dependent on your not getting uppity and above yourself.

        Ignoring that social dynamic is at least as old as Looking Backward.

  4. “Reputation and honors, the esteem and recognition of one’s peers, replace economic wealth as public markers of status.” 

    Sounds like an honor culture to me.

    It also sounds like a culture where being an individual might get you into a great deal of trouble if you aren’t very careful to wrap it in a carefully managed package of endearingness … thereby becoming the eccentric aunt or uncle.  There generally isn’t much of a market for this, even the most tolerant extended families embrace one or two at most.  Two usually are in the form of unmarried siblings or the eccentric couple.  (In the latter case, isn’t it a miracle they found each other?)   

    1. I hate that we use the word “honor” for saving face. But yes, the result is things like honor killings.

      That’s how important social status becomes.

  5. As others have pointed out, this issue is addressed by bog-standard present-day economics: the “goods” we refer to as “reputation” and such similar names are what economists call “positional goods.”

    To use the example given by the author from whom I originally learned this term, no number of duplicators can change the fact that if there are twelve Constitution-class heavy cruisers, there can only be twelve starship captains to command them.

    Incidentally if you want to see a direct attempt to address this type of society, you should check out “The Moon Moth” by Jack Vance.

    And of course, there is the serious issue of the stasis of utopias (see, e.g., Gregory Benford’s essay, “Reactionary Utopias”). And the dark underbelly issue was taken on by IIRC Ursula K. Le Guin in “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas.” Though of course Alexander Solzhenitsyn also famously addressed it:

    (In response to grumbles about cleaning out sewers on the dacha) “Calm yourself, Comrade! In the socialist paradise we will all live in dachas!” “Yes…and who will clean the sewers then?”

    1. “Yes…and who will clean the sewers then?”

      Who needs sewers when we have the ability to dematerialize matter?
      (A phaser in every toilet!)

      1. I was contemplating that when making comment elsewhere this page about the technical expertise of the average crew member. OTOH, I am contemplating the story in which the Enterprise computer goes amok and starts blasting everybody taking a dump …

        1. The same sorts of people who, today, work as blacksmiths in their spare time.

          Some things are just cool and fun to do. Those things will (almost) always get done. And as long as “robots” are coon and fun to work on, the rest of the stuff will get done.

  6. The ugly secret of the Star Trek Federation is the entire population is supported by the utter enslavement of Maxwell’s demons. Reactors – all powered by little Max demons. Warp cores – hidden inside, bigger Max demons. Matter-antimatter chambers? Oppositely charged Maxwell demons destroying each other. Replicators? Millions of enslaved Maxwell demons assembling everything atom by atom. Transporters? OMG. The sparkles are there to hide the demons running back and forth carrying each molecule of the people and items being transported.

  7. After all, Kirk and company were the outliers, the ones who didn’t exactly fit into the rest of society and who, therefore, went off to adventure in space.  

    Since when were military organizations a place where the individualists are the ones who rise in the ranks?

    Maybe the USA has done so on occasion during war time, but the USA is a rather singular place. 

    1. Or maybe Starfleet became a partially-self-perpetuating subculture early on. We know of several Starfleet families in canon: Kirk, Decker, Garrovick, Sulu, Satie, and Paris.

      1. In the novelization of the Motionless Picture, Kirk (in his foreword) strongly hints that Starfleet is made up largely of:

        1) outliers who took the Foreign Legion option, and–

        2) members of Starfleet families, most of whom are congenital outliers in the Present Enlightened Age.

        The novel itself says some of Decker the Younger’s problems were caused by outside influences. (His widowed mother was into the New Men movement, which was trying to learn enough telepathy to organize a hive mind. Ilia was a *serious* danger to his sanity…)

        1. > hive mind

          There’s not *that* much difference between the NG Federation and the Borg…

          1. I may not think the Federation in TNG was all that great a place, but it was far different from the Borg. The Federation’s isn’t aggressively expansionist, it isn’t forcing its citizens to become cyborgs, and its member species typically reproduce sexually. Oh, and the Borg are better at assimilating immigrants than the Federation.

      2. Squinting a bit, Jonathan Archer (cap’n of NX-01) was the son of the warp 5 engine designer. So, the self perpetuation goes way back.

        1. Nepotism and hereditary bloodlines are how Hollywood works, so of course that’s how they represent everything.

            1. Sure, and there’s a degree of “Admiral’s son” stuff, but there’s also a relatively widely held appreciation why that type of thing unchecked would be bad. Not so in Hollywood.

    2. “Since when were military organizations a place where the individualists are the ones who rise in the ranks?”

      Since it’s on television.

      1. No, I take this back on condition of the definition of “individualists”. Our military very much rewards individual initiative and creativity *within very particular parameters.*

          1. And success in getting things done around the rules while also being successful in not making it obvious that this is what you’ve done. Usually by taking care of problems before anyone up the chain has to officially notice the problem.

        1. Yup. Patton. Rickover. And Starfleet is continually in action – between full-scale wars, minor actions, piracy, law enforcement, and exploration, there are a lot of opportunities to excel.

          Or get yourself killed.

          1. Don’t forget acting as transport for pretty female bureaucrats and officious male bureaucrats, and playing at tangled bits of diplomacy.

          2. Several acquaintances who were Special Forces described SF as “the Island of Misfit Toys”. Every branch has its “Odd” nooks.

            I was most assuredly “Odd”. I wound up Mech Infantry, tasked with an “Odd” job. I am told I did quite well. One very “Odd” fellow I knew had a couple of Math degrees, including a Master’s and a chunk of a PhD, and was happy as a pig in mud as a rifleman.

            Odds can do quite well in uniform. Treat it as a complex strategy game to master, or a massive multi-player LARP, play to level up, and the world awaits.

          3. Except that when you look at Patton’s career, they weren’t “rewarded”, they were allowed because if they weren’t we were going to lose. Patton wouldn’t have lasted 5 years in the post WWII military….. and if you believe the conspiracy theories, he didn’t.

    3. In reality, though, Kirk is an outlier in our society. As are a lot of folks in the show (makes for good characters).

      That might be one reason we reject the utopian idea inherent in “Trekonomics” – these stories don’t require that utopia in order to “work”. And we know it, because (at least the TOS writers) the writers wrote good stories we can relate to.

      1. In fact, the actual existence of that utopia would mean they couldn’t work.

  8. “They forget that defeating income inequality begins at home and not just at my home or yours but at their THREE HOMES. (Yes, Bernie, I’m looking at you.)”


    To borrow a bit from Jonah Goldberg, the problem with all Utopian fantasies is that they’re just that: fantasies. You will never create a society where no one wants anything and everyone is perfectly content with what they have and their situation in life. Humans just aren’t wired that way. And if you try to force them to fit your ideal, you inevitably create death and misery when those irregular, convex isocodecagons don’t fit into your nice square holes.

  9. I do wonder if these people who want to see the world of Trek realize how very American Captain Kirk’s Enterprise was.  Even with Spock.  The later Enterprise under Captain Picard was still rather American in spite of itself.  Then Deep Space Nine — how much more American Western frontier way-station could you get?  These were space westerns, dang it.  (Now imagining DSN directed by John Ford or Howard Hawks … that would have been interesting.) 

    Admission, I sampled Voyager Vice Admiral Kathryn Greenway, but dropped it for lack of interest, never went farther.  Also STNG and DSN were taking on a tiresome soap-opera quality, the latter with a helping of mysticism, before they finished their runs so I quit them.  Never even tried any of the rest. 

    1. It wasn’t know as Deep Sleep 9 for nothin’.

      And yes, the Enterprise was VERY American. After all, it was commanded by John F. Kennedy.

  10. In 1986 William Shatner did Saturday Night Live, and suggested that obsessed fans ‘Get a Life!’  He certainly finally did:    

    Star Trek started as a TV show, meant to entertain and make (some) money.  It became a major franchise, still meant to both entertain and make (even more) money.  Seems ‘Trekonomics’ has worked out very well for many of those who have had a share of the ongoing project.

  11. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like stagnation to me.

    Which just makes me think of all those episodes where they decide interfering with this culture is OK because it’s stagnant, therefore not growing, therefore not really alive.

  12. “What happens to innovation and scientific progress when there is no longer financial reward?”

    I think science has gone of the rails in past fifty years, since governments started to hire numerous scientists to do random stuff. Science worked just fine before second world war, when only a select few were considered scientists and you were expected to publish in journals anything new to disseminate knowledge to wider community.

    1. “Scientist” before WWII meant more what “engineer” does today. Old-school scientists DID things.

      Modern “scientists” tend to be academics who have their grad students run simulations for them.

      1. A friend of ours is biologist at Canadian university for past twenty years and she hates her job. A few times over dinner, our biologist friend has complained about how proscribed science is now, most scientists just spinning their wheels. She also mentioned that she would have gone into engineering if she would have known what it like to be scientist at major Canadian university.

        1. And Publish or Perish is leading to a lot of “peer reviewed” articles that are basically a good dose of correlation with damn little causation.

    2. While many liberals love to quote the military-industrial complex portion of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, they seldom mention the later portion:

      “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocation, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet in holding scientific discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

      1. Ike was prescient, grads from Harvard and Yale have taken control of Federal government over past fifty years and now science is experiencing ‘replication crisis’ for first time ever.

  13. To get any enjoyment out of Star Trek you have to ignore their stated economic system and just go with the one they actually portray as much as you can. When no economic activity is shown, assume one that makes sense. Trying to force the unworkable economic model into the story only hurts your brain, since it can’t work unless people stop being people.

    About the Replicators: they’re the Trek stand-in for magic. A writer, who is not in this crowd, commented about the difficulty of realistically including magic in any long form story because, realistically, magic would eliminate technological progress beyond the point that magic is discovered. If you put limitations on magic, then you have to explain it and usually your story is about the magic rather than the characters.

    Star Trek never really deeply explores its universe’s economic history. It wouldn’t make sense, and it wouldn’t be entertaining. So to enjoy the show you just have to ignore the supposed economics behind it.

    1. The oh-so-capable robotic dog, K-9, in Dr. Who was constantly having low battery issues. Had to, or else the dog would solve most everything and just be done with it. This was admitted in a DVD commentary for some episode.

      1. The transporters serve a similar function in Trek. They pretty much always had to be broken, else the solution to everything would have been, “Just beam everybody up.”

        1. A favorite scene in TOS was in the planet killer episode. Kirk was helming a beat up cruiser (The Constellation?), rigged to blow when the planet killer tried to eat it. With the obligatory transporter problems, Kirk: “Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me aboard.”

          FWIW, that was the appeal of the early Enterprise episodes. The hand-held phasers were M-16 sized, the transporter barely worked (and gave Linda Park a good episode). Pretty much everything was a prototype. Got bored with the series in the Xindi season, and it pretty much lost me after the Nazi aliens, but beyond the “please don’t shoot us” diplomacy, it was fun seeing the precursors of the TOS treknology.

          I gather the Sonic Screwdriver had to be lost in Dr. Who because it made for too many easy fixes.

      2. Don’t forget the time that K-9 had to remain in the TARDIS because it landed in a swamp.

        IE K-9 can’t get wet. 😈

        1. Not to mention how K-9 once calculated that it was worse than useless — until Adric figured out how to improve its readings to let it triangulate.

    2. “We’ve replaced Star Trek’s Replicators with Replicators from Stargate:SG-1. Let’s see if anyone notices…”

    3. A writer, who is not in this crowd, commented about the difficulty of realistically including magic in any long form story because, realistically, magic would eliminate technological progress beyond the point that magic is discovered. If you put limitations on magic, then you have to explain it and usually your story is about the magic rather than the characters.

      Frequently you get a “magic and technology can’t co-exist” setting. Using magic causes technological devices to fail, and vice versa. So you either get powerful wizard aristocrats, or you get mass technology for everyone. And if one tries to move into the other’s domain, then it stops working.

      Alternately, you have something like Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn setting – particularly the books set after the time skip (of a few centuries). Technology has advanced along largely familiar paths, and magic is limited enough that having technology is pretty much required if you want reliability.

      1. If you have a story setting where magic can perform transmutation. You know the old lead into gold bit. How much easier would mater to antimatter conversion be. Every 12 year old apprentice capable of WMD construction. Not a safe place to live.

        1. Harry Potter.

          They can transmute from one material to another and reform objects (including into complex biological) at the same time. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to convert something into uranium.

        2. Chris Nuttall’s *Schooled in Magic* is an obvious reference. A couple years into her magical education, Emily (who has an incomplete high school education, though she was quite the bookworm) has killed two ‘unkillable’ magical badasses, one with a synthetic black hole and a second with a straight up thermonuclear explosion. And while she hasn’t tried it, IIRC, she mentions anti-matter being pretty easy to create, from a magical theory point of view.

          She sometimes freaks out when she realizes how easy magical mass destruction is with a smattering of atomic science. Especially since the ‘New Learning’ she’s introduced to the Nameless World includes the scientific method.

  14. what are the problems Saadia sees in the Trek universe?

    1. What happens to innovation and scientific progress when there is no longer financial reward?

    2.How do you avoid the pitfalls of resource depletion caused by overconsumption in the age of replicators where everything is freely available?

    1. No financial reward, but just think of the prestige!!!!!

    2. They’re creating matter from energy in a universe powered by matter/anti-matter conversion! What resource depletion? How many humans does he think there will be?

    Final word on Trekonomics!

  15. If you want to have some real fun with “post-scarcity economics”, consider how close replicator technology and automation are getting to the Krell Machine.
    I think it was Stanley Schmidt who pointed out that it’s impossible to disarm a technologically advanced society, even if said society wants to be disarmed. Maybe you can’t just replicate a phaser, but you can certainly replicate *something*.

    1. “It’s hard to get parts.”
      “This machine MAKES parts.”
      “But not all parts.”
      “So what? It can make the parts to make the machine that will make the parts. Even if you stop that – and you really can’t – it’s matter of going back another step or two. Maybe I can’t get $DEVICES in 5 seconds, but if I want them and have a couple hours, or maybe a few days, I’ll get them just the same.”

      1. Jack Chalker got around that in the Rings of the Master mega-novel by having his replicators (although he called them “transmuters”) require a unique element as a power source — and that element was the one thing that the transmuters could not make.

        1. Of course, in Rings Of The Master it was made clear that the Teleporters couldn’t make copies of people.

          That is the teleporter could make a copy but it would be a dead copy of a person. 😀

          1. Right, that was one constant through ALL of Chalker’s fiction, whether SF or fantasy: there was Something Special about intelligent life that meant it couldn’t be replicated. The soul, for lack of any better word. One to a customer. You want more people, you gotta do it the old-fashioned way.

    2. There’s also the Kzinti Lesson to be considered- any spaceship drive capable of relativistic speeds is a potential weapon of mass destruction*.
      Some clever person could take a civvie ship and make a big boom somewhere.

      *Not the exact formulation, but close enough

        1. Or the inverse, as my characters have been known to do… drop into hyperspace too close to a large mass and KA-BOOM (occasionally used to very good effect).

      1. Varley’s “Red Lightning” is an excellent story about a grazing strike on Earth by a ship traveling near c.

      2. Which is why there was a “warpflight boundary” that you couldn’t enter warp within x distance of a gravity well; of course, they ignored it whenever it would be cool (Star Trek IV, where they went relatavistic in atmosphere so they could show the cool rainbow effect….).

    3. The availability, -today-, of do-it-yourself home machining sets makes home manufacture of sophisticated firearms a matter of available cash, minor research, and free spirit.

  16. Except, in most Utopias, there is that underbelly that is always hidden behind the curtain or closed door. Whether it is a lower class that is kept hidden below, used and abused to keep the machines running so the “citizens” can enjoy their lives of leisure or a society so brainwashed everyone walks in lockstep with one another and anyone who doesn’t is seen as an outcast, it is there.

    Eh, to be fair, that’s because “here’s a story of a place where everybody is happy and everything works, and keeps working” is really dull.

    And as long as there’s an option to leave, and no direct harm from being an outcast, not seeing that as a bad thing. 🙂

  17. Star Fleet officers (remember, there are no enlisted because this is the age of enlightenment)

    You notice that the officers that the story follows are always ensign or better? My bet is that all those with no rank mentioned are petty officers. That is, in modern military terms, enlisted.

    1. Chief O’Brien showed up in TNG, basically because the “no non-officers” thing didn’t work.

      Per Word of Rod, “crewman” didn’t mean enlisted. Wasn’t until they needed a reason that the Chief in Engineering wasn’t the same thing as the Engineering Officer that they made O’Brien act enlisted, and it wasn’t until pretty late in Deep Space Nine that they patched together the whole Enlisted thing.

      Reasoning was, “every man on board is a trained astronaut, even the cooks.”

      1. I think it would depend a lot on crew size. For a small crew, an all-officer crew makes sense. More from a pay and status perspective than duties. Small, highly skilled units are like a tube of toothpaste…you roll the bottom up (and get rid of the lowest-ranking personnel first).

        1. And then there is plain old language inflation. A few generations ago, during a slow day in the battalion orderly room, our sergeant major opined that we had officer “aviators” but warrant officers were “pilots”. He expected that there were even a few enlisted “drivers”. (I think there may have been some such during WWII to ferry planes from one place to another. Certainly the Brits had enlisted flying combat during WWI — one British Ace was a sergeant.)

          1. The big headache is that a military pilot these days has a good million dollars or so of training invested in him. A P-8 driver can walk right out the door and get a job with Southwest Airlines…he’s already 737-qualified.

            If you want to keep these people, you have to pay them. No Bucks, No Buck Rogers (First Law of Flight Test).

            1. IIRC, one of the big retention problems that USAF has is their senior (and higher ranked) pilots spend more time at a desk than in the cockpit, and they leave because at least private sector aviation has them flying all the time.

              1. Strategy page has touched on this, and also with drones. A fighter pilot flying a drone is (I gather) bored stiff. I think that the USAF is actually considering letting enlisted people fly drones. First person shooter with real armament, could be attractive.

                1. They’re already putting folks at ComiCon, for years now.

                  My husband got to go as a reserve volunteer with the recruiters. Got lots of complements on his costume….

                2. Unmanned aviation is a whole different subject. One I’m very, very familiar with.

                  The big problem is that the high-end UAVs (MQ-9 Reaper and up) are complex, expensive machines. A Global Hawk is every bit as expensive as an F-18…and a hell of a lot more complex. Controlling that beast is like playing chess, you have to be thinking 50 miles and 20 minutes ahead of it. The stick-and-rudder we can automate, the planning we can’t.

                  It’s not a job for X-Box Timmy. On the other hand, nobody went to flight school to learn to fly a mouse. Ideally, we’d have a proper pilot proficiency aircraft (I’m fond of a Pitts Special), and enough free time to maintain proficiency.

                  1. Xbox is for microsurgery, with itsy bitsy maneuvering claws and stuff. The hospital near me has a practice unit that they haul out for fairs. If you can tie a bow or do the other challenges, and are young enough, suddenly you have a surgeon giving you career counseling….

                  2. Is the AF only flying high-end UAVs? Besides, XBox Tim might just have the coordination and ability, not to mention desire to fly that mouse; he doesn’t have to plan the mission.

                    As I recall, there were a hell of a lot of 19 year old fighter/bomber pilots destroying trains in Europe during WW 2. You don’t ask the kid to design the mission, but the Xbox ain’t bad training. (My boss was a private pilot, and hauled out MS Flight Simulator when he couldn’t get real flight time…)

                    The line about age and treachery experience beating youth and vigor has one limitation. There’s sometimes a shortage of the former when the latter is in supply.

                    1. the tiny cheap UAVs aren’t important enough for the AF, and are operated by the Army and Marines.

                    2. Hmm, looks like there’s room for a medium priced, medium large UAV. F-22s and 35s are sexy, but they’re still training F-15C pilots around us. (Though thinking of an F15 as medium priced hurts my head.)

                      The little backpack-totable drones look like a great fit for the squad level soldiers.

                    3. MS Flight Simulator is still used in training.

                      For pilots, and for people who need to understand how planes look, and how they move.

                    4. he doesn’t have to plan the mission
                      In our Air Force, he does. We don’t treat pilots as technicians, we expect them to be able to improvise – even with UAVs (especially UCAVs).

                      And those 19yo pilots in WW2 were certainly planning/helping plan a lot of those missions.

      2. Reasoning was, `every man on board is a trained astronaut, even the cooks.`

        Which makes my point about this being a poorly thought out entertainment. As Tom Wolfe explored in The Right Stuff, all astronauts were doing essentially the same job as a chimp. Sure, later events proved the importance (Apollo 13) of having competent engineers in those ships but the whole “highly trained astronaut” thing was just so much PR smoke up the national skirts.

        By the time we get to the Enterprise (NCC-1701) the average crew member is no more technically adept than are the average sailor on the Enterprise (CVN-65) aircraft carrier.

        1. Which runs into the issue that most of the writers had no experience with American military, much less as enlisted.

          MOST entertainment is not well thought out.

        2. No, they were picking from the cream of the crop to get astronauts. At least the Navy provided cream (the Air Force? Not for Mercury). It’s a simple job IF everything goes right. But a test professional doesn’t stay alive by assuming things go right. He assumes things will go wrong and has a long set of countermoves already planned.

        3. > same job as a chimp

          When the USAF needed data on the the physiology effects of extreme G-forces, they used a colonel because chimps cost money…

        4. the average crew member is no more technically adept than are the average sailor on the Enterprise (CVN-65) aircraft carrier
          Who are actually pretty danged adept. Yes, there are still the folks who run the laundry room and cook and schedule things and run inventory. But a huge portion of the modern aircraft carrier crew is actually involved in running a nuclear-powered city and the aircraft ops. (BTW, the officer/enlisted ratio on the US aircraft carriers goes up significantly when the aircraft squadrons get onboard.)

          1. Who are actually pretty danged adept. Yes, there are still the folks who run the laundry room and cook and schedule things and run inventory.

            Who all have to have their sea pin before they leave for anything other than civilian life.

            And will be trained in damage control, etc.

      3. “every man on board is a trained astronaut, even the cooks.”

        And non-officers are “untrained idiots”. 😈

        More seriously, I’m reminded of David Weber’s “enlisted crews” in the Honorverse who are very very very highly trained even in areas where their training wasn’t necessary for their official jobs.

        Case in point, Chief Warrant Officer Sir Horace Harkness who has “hacking skills” that let him get into the Royal Navy’s Office of Personnel computers (let alone the computers of a Havenite Battleship). [Very Big Grin]

        1. *points at idiot side*
          Most of the world.

          *points at Weber’s side*
          American military.

          When they keep basing their stories off of international stories, it’s going to clash with when they copy American military stories.

        2. > Case in point, Chief Warrant Officer Sir Horace Harkness
          > who has “hacking skills” that let him get into the Royal Navy’s
          > Office of Personnel computers

          Um…Prolong gives you a bit of an advantage there, and quite a bit of Harkness’s income was from the grey side of the ledger.

          1. The grey side of the ledger?

            Just because he supplied items that the Royal Navy had not thought to provide their loyal crews doesn’t mean it was the grey side of the ledger? 😉

            Of course, the major problem the Royal Navy had with him was his habit of picking fights with off-duty Royal Marines. 😀

            1. > Just because he supplied items that the Royal Navy had not thought
              > to provide their loyal crews doesn’t mean it was the grey side of
              > the ledger?

              Yeah, by definition it sort does. “Grey” as in “Grey Market”. Or even “Black market” depending.

              And I don’t recall seeing anywhere that he was providing it to fellow *sailors*, but that he would have problems with custom officials. That might just indicate an entirely higher level of entrepreneurship.

              1. From the first book (Chapter 11?)

                he labored under the belief that it was his humanitarian duty to provide his shipmates with all the little things the ship’s store didn’t normally carry.

                End Quote


          2. Not to mention the kinds of skills a missile tech would have to have just to do his job when the missile has to be able to travel millions of klicks, find its’ target, and not get spoofed by EW.

  18. Where, and how, does the replicator get the raw materials to produce what is replicates?

    I was never a Star Trek fan, because I don’t like message fiction.
    (First exposed to this in “Brave Eagle”, each episode ending with a moral.)

    1. And even assuming that matter is limitless (or close enough)… there the thermodynamic issue: Where’s all the power come from? And where does all the waste heat (and there WILL be some) go? Or is this the same as the Deathstar and Coruscant [Yeah, yeah, jumped universes.(1)] where we just have to assume thermodynamics doesn’t work as expected and they don’t naturally blow up or go runaway all by themselves?

      (1) Recently it was Very Foggy Indeed and there was the idea of accidently transitioning between universes. I took the opportunity to just smile and say, “How do you think I wound up here?” {Really, I do not recall ever ‘jumping’ universes… and I doubt I have, no matter how much it might explain. I might have been jumped by a universe, but I suspect everyone has that feeling.}

      1. Ever since Donald J. Trump was elected, tuning in to the news here in America has felt like the media are living in an alternate universe. President Trump say ABC. The media then either take it out of context to imply he said DEF, paraphrase it to imply that he said GHI, or claim that while he said ABC it was really a thinly-veiled message that really meant XYZ. Then Democratic leadership and their talking heads declare that it must means he’s an evil xenophobic racist homophobic sexist fascist Russian stooge. Rinse and repeat. Day after day.

        1. Considering how well the alleged media understand Reality (less well than *I* do! Moo.) I figure aiming an antenna array at $CELESTIAL_BODY_OF_AMUSEMENT[1] and listening for news might be the better choice. By now, if I find myself agreeing with The Media, I suspect something is amiss in my comprehension of the world.

          ABC: The sky is blue.
          CBS: The sky is blue.
          CNN: The sky is blue.
          HuffPo: The sky is blue.
          MSNBC: The sky is blue.
          NBC: The sky is blue.
          NYT: The sky is blue.
          PBS: The sky is blue.
          WaPo: The sky is blue.

          Orvan: Anyone have a spectrophotometer? Would you kindly check the color of the sky. I have this feeling it might NOT be blue.

          * Orvan looks out window, sees GREEN sky, and decides the basement is a good place to be for a while.

          [1] NOT the Earth’s Moon. Too close, might pick up local echos.

          1. My parents were recently visiting and we were spending much time doing outdoor stuff. The forecast would show 50% of showers for hours, and we’d be walking under sunny blue skies. It would show no chance of precipitation for hours, then suddenly a thunderstorm would pop into the forecast for an hour in the future – and then show up early. We avoided most of the rain, but it sure frustrated any attempts at real planning. Oh, well.

        2. In late 2016 after the twofer of the election and the World Series, I wanted to write a short story in which the protagonist looks at the morning newspaper and reads the headline, “President-Elect Trump Congratulates Cubs on World Series Win”. His immediate reaction: “When and how did I end up in a parallel dimension, and how do I get back home?”

      2. The power to run the replicators comes from “dilithium crystals”. Since these don’t actually exist in the real world, we don’t have anything to compare them to. But it’s made quite clear that they do provide an incredible amount of energy since they’re considered critical to the basic power needs of the Enterprise herself.

        1. We can probably figure out some sort of an idea of how much energy is involved, since the Romulan version is artificial black holes.

        2. From what I recall about Treknology, the actual power comes from matter/antimatter reactors. Dilithium crystals are simply a critical component in converting that power to a usable form.

  19. Every glimpse I have had of canonic aspects of Federation society convinces me that it is a fundamentally fascist state, carrying on largely through momentum and headed for a spectacular crash. I may have missed some, but every law, custom, or structure that we hear of seems to be a Progressive daydream that history shows absolutely all not work in practice.

    But this isn’t all that extraordinary. SF abounds with societies that either cannot work or can only work through the more or less constant intervention of deities whose benevolent intervention is inexplicable (I’m looking at YOU, Valdemar). Indeed, who generas have sprung up assuming social conditions that could not possibly obtain for more than a few years at a time; I largely gave up on Cyberpunk when it dawned on me that the oppressive conditions described would be tolerated by the workers for about fifteen minutes before all pluperfect hell broke loose.

      1. And I read Lackey, and mostly like her works. But they are full of the ususal ‘fits our 21st century sensibilities, but is utter nonsense if the culture she claims to write about’ business. And when you get right down to it, this differentiates her from Edgar Rice Burroughs, how, exactly?

        1. Talking, self-bleaching horses? But there’s a lot of ERB that I haven’t read yet, so he might go there.

          1. I’m just saying thay Burroughs wrote about fantasy societies that fit the prejudices of his time.

            Lackey is a better writer than Burroughs (who was an awful writer, but a great storyteller), so her societies hang together a little better under scrutiny. But not a lot better.

          2. I think he also wrote westerns. So there’s probably at least a bugnuts argument to be made for an ERB Valdemar prototype.

    1. The intervention is perfectly explicable. Baron Valdemar was fool enough to invoke “non-hostile powers”. As in not hostile to /him/. Valdemar is one of those little city states that Great Powers keep around so they can have off the books contact. When Cthulhu wants to unofficially message the Lord of Nightmares or Belldandy, he has one of his Companions speak to one of theirs.

  20. Oddly enough, my old “pal” the Idiot Trekkie veered off into a rant about capitalism in his recent FB comments:

    “this is how business itself works. cutting corners gets workers killed? keep cutting corners. gambling on the housing market caused an economic collapse? gamble harder. low wages and hours leaving the working class too poor to be good consumers, and dependent on social assistance? pay them even less and give them less hours, and cut their social assistance while you’re at it. I could go on. as the old misattributed Einstein quote says, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    these used to be the kinds of things star trek made us think about and want to change.”

    1. Somebody needs to slap him upside the head. I have acquaintances who are similar, and for a while many of them were in a swivet because Congress hadn’t held hearings on the cause of the collapse of the housing market. I told them “Congress hasn’t held hearings because the housing bubble was entirely created by government meddling in the market. When you have the Feds telling ending institutions ‘you WILL lend to people (of appropriate skin tone) who have no real chance of paying you back’ the market os going to go nuts. When that nonsense started, back in the 1980’s, economists from all over the spectrum published articles that basically said ‘We hope you like bailing out leading institutions, because you’re going to have to.’. Congress hasn’t held hearings because the hearings would be on the public record, and they would have to ask ‘what caused this?’, and somebody just might tell them.”

      They stopped whining about hearings, at least in my presence.

      The fantasies that the average Progressive ninny holds concerning Capitalism astonish me every time i run smack into them. “cutting corners gets workers killed? keep cutting corners”? Really? Compared to, say, the tender solicitousness of the Soviet government for the workers in their Siberian mines?

      *nose bridge pinch*

      1. Especially when those investigations would highlight an obvious solution…take the politicians who forced those banks to make the bad loans out and deport them.

        Into international waters. 🙂

        1. Such investigations would also highlight something the Progressive Establishment desperately wants everyone to forget; that George Bush tried (twice? Or was it three times?) to audit the Federal loan pushing bureaucracies, and was blocked each time by the Democrats….who then blamed the crash on him.

      2. I clicked on his home page once and saw that he’s “fighting for 15”, i.e. a minimum wage increase. Otherwise known as “fighting for cheap robots to replace my job”.

      3. There were -two- major causes of the housing bubble:

        1) Force banks to make loans to folks who probably cant pay. = divorce risk taking from risk calculation.

        2) Buy any and all housing based loans from banks and “monetize” them as government securities. = divorce risk taking from risk consequences.

        Banks -could not lose- by loaning to idiots, and then turning aroud and selling the loans. Banks -could not win- by saying “this loan would be -stupid”. Bankers could profit greatly by playing along. Bankers could be broken for saying “This is BS”.

        The entire wretched mess was -designed- to wreck the market for housing and for housing loans. ot sure if “ignorance” properly explains the design. “Malice” seems more likely he more I understand the events.

        1. There’s an effect of that which I’ve pointed out to some of my (I believe genuinely outraged) Liberal friends. They are prone,to comment on the general scumminess of the people running the loaning institutions when the crash came. And I point out “Of course all that was left was cowboys and scam artists; everybody with a lick of sense and a smidge of ethics got out when to government mandate to make bad loans came down.”

          1. Perverse incentives. Our government excels at creating them. And as soon as they inevitably result in a genuine problem, or at least something that can be viewed with alarm by (with a little squinting and careful efforts to keep a straight face), the Democrats go crying about the evils of capitalism. Their response, of course, is more government intervention, which results in new perverse incentives. Rinse. Repeat. Mumble something about George Santayana. Sigh.

        2. And on this re the cry-of-unfairness of “gambling on the housing market caused an economic collapse? gamble harder.” idiocy:

          So, you have everyone saying “No problem! It’s not a bubble! It’s a sustained upturn! Stop worrying!”, but you personally have proved to yourself it’s a gosh darned bubble, and you have figured out how you can serve your enlightened self-interest through a fair arms-length transaction negotiated at a fair market value between willing buyers and willing sellers that will provide a significant return on your investment of your own capital when the bubble bursts, but if you are wrong and it doesn’t burst you lose it all. And your little side bet is nothing compared to the vast unimaginable volume of money from eth true betting the other way.

          But you want your mommy the government to step in and prevent you from collecting on your bet when the bubble bursts, because your badthink cause the bursting, not the stupidity of the bubble-builders??


    2. Which is hilarious. Grandpa had a lathe with NO guards. You wore safety goggles when running it, you shut it OFF to change the belt from one pulley set to another (three sets) and you kept your hand out of the machinery. But that was 1920’s and/or 1930’s (I’d be surprised if the machine was as recent as 1940’s). Nowadays there’s be guards on the belt-pulley system, and an interlock that shut things down if it was opened. OSHA? Perhaps. But more likely lawyerbane. Harder to be successfully sued if it can be shown that safeties were part of design and the injury came from the intentional bypassing of them, rather than “simple” accident.

      1. Probably several reasons.

        1) Production became easier and cheaper over time.
        2) We learned to do new things.
        3) We had a higher tolerance for loss and risk back in the day.

        What was simply impossible in 1900 was expensive in 1930, and cheap in 1960.

        The again, here’s a modern lathe from Harbor Freight:

        and a whole page of them from the 20s and 30s:

        Not a heck of a lot of difference, other than a little cheaper today (consider that a “Furniture industry carver, machine” made 57 cents and hour[1] and minimum wage today is 12.7 times that. 1 dollar in 1933 is 18.82 today. Oddly, 1 dollar in 1930 is only $14.33 today. I guess when you invest matters.)


    3. cutting corners gets workers killed? keep cutting corners.

      When is the last time that cutting corners was not illegal? And generally done not by “the business,” but by a worker, on his on initiative?

      Unless one decides that EVERY death must be because of a “cut corner,” defined as not being as insane as the activists say you should have been– after the fact, and even if they have no freaking clue.

      1. Dead workers are lost money, because you have to recruit and train new ones. How does a business like that stay afloat?

        1. I was on an international flight with a roughneck from [Now vanished oil company] who said that once he got to Russia, he’d be on a corporate plane. It was cheaper and easier for [company] to have its own planes, pilots, mechanics, and parts-supplies than it was to replace people killed or maimed in Aeroflot accidents. Erk!

          1. I’ve seen odd comments about Aeroflot over the years. Several on the order of news blackouts when one would go down.

            “We have no record of that flight, and no idea where your aunt is And it would be a bad idea to make unfounded accusations, da?”

        2. Depends on how much it costs to “train” them, and how much it cost to “recruit” them.

          If you’re in the middle of a massive transition from agrarian to industrial economy, while at the same time automating away farm jobs, and you need marginally skilled labor (shoveling coal into furnaces, etc.) your cost to replace them is pretty low. Of course, when you’re only 5 or 20 years into such a transformation and you’re still in a “really scarce” society and having excess was spent on “low hanging fruit” sorts of improvements.

          See the GDP chart here: We’re talking the time from 1800 to 1900 (mostly). Note how it increases by less than 2/5ths from 1700 to 1800, but *doubles* from 1800 to 1900 (roughly)?

          And notice how much of that was in the later half of the century (and that’s England, not the US).

          As manufacturing moved from less skilled to more skilled, and the displacement of workers from farm to factor slowed down there was more wealth available for taking care of the workers, and the capitalists did so.

          This is one of the reasons why Marxism fails utterly.

      2. Note: I’ve done a LOT of looking into “what caused ____” type situations.

        Most of the time, there isn’t just one worker violation that was stupid and OBVIOUSLY stupid, there were several. Not infrequently, multiple ones done by the dead guy.

        Heck, my mom has a fire fighter story about when SHE was almost that idiot– she kept taking her safety hat off while cutting wood in front of a fire, the crew boss kept making her put it on and finally said that if he caught her not wearing it again, she was fired.

        Five minutes later, the saw hits SOMETHING in the wood– and jerks back up.

        She still has the hat. It was almost not thick enough to stop the blade– if you hold up to the light, you can see the light coming through the cut.

        Would’ve taken her out at the temple, too, hours and a helo flight from anything that wasn’t a backpack medkit.

        1. I’ve looked at a number of what caused the boiler explosion studies. Pretty much what every boiler explosion has in common is- the boiler operators weren’t full time operators, they had other duties besides operating the boiler. That more people haven’t been killed by them is pure dumb luck. If you look at the pictures here you’re going to wonder how no one got killed. it outlines all the material faults that led to the explosion, but each and every one can be traced back to- the operators operated the boiler as part of their job, not as their job. Someone who sits next to the boiler as it’s operating has a vested interest in making sure everything is working as designed.

          Safety depends on conscientious workers doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Safeties and belt guards and hard hats are safety aids that the conscientious worker pays attention to.

          1. Hyman Rickover used to say, when someone went on about nuclear powerplant safety, that his *civilian* reactor construction company insisted on having a company rep onsite at all times, at each reactor they built. His job was to shut it down if the operators did *anything at all* in tle control room that was not related to operating and monitoring the reactor. If you want to talk about the game last night, do it in the break room. On yoir break.

        2. A FOAF used to (dunno if he still does) do high risk security work in Afghanistan in between deployments as a Reserve SF type.

          He told me that it was his belief that the *second* mistake was what you got you killed. The first one was more or less a freebie.

        3. Not OSHA. Of generation where bike helmets weren’t (let alone seat belts), about the only rule was “do not ride with open toe shoes.”

          Now we have our kid. Dutifully get kid helmet & require wearing it when riding bike. So, kid (4) riding bike back from fire side chat at Rainier NP campground to campsite. Gets a little too far ahead, tries to turn around, but too close to side & loose gravel on paved road. Kid goes down, in front of vacationing pediatrician (how lucky can we get?), who gets there first. Lots of blood. Doctor checks him out & asks where our rig is (closer than his camp site). Checks kid further, other than blood, & screaming kid (duh); Chipped tooth & scraped noise, not from hitting, but from raising head & scraping on road AFTER HITTING ON HELMET, which has 1″ dent above the forehead. We were praised for having him wear the helmet. This was when it was strongly suggested, but not required; 1993. Result – one scraped kid, one dead helmet.

          1. Heard a story about a guy who walks into a bike shop to buy a new helmet to replace the one he was wearing when he got into an accident. Shop owner looks at the helmet and the tire tracks going across it side to side (the guy had gotten his feet stuck in the pedals at a red light and had toppled over right in front of a car, which couldn’t stop in time. Helmet saved his life). After hearing the story, the shop owner says, “Tell you what. If you give me your old helmet so I can hang it on my wall, you can have any helmet in the store for free.” I feel like the story may have been that the owner gave the guy free helmets for life at his store; I don’t know. Certainly that would make sense: hanging that tire-marked helmet on his wall would sell far more helmets than the ones he’d give the guy for free.

            1. Then there’s the story about the mother who insisted telling all kids, even those not hers, to stop climbing chain link fences at various playgrounds & sports venues, and the kids (who was admonished) parents taking exception. Only to have said mother snap at them “check out your kids coaches blind left eye – the one damage climbing chain link fences when he was a kid!” Suddenly a whole lot of adult voices “Get of that fence now!” 100% True Story. I was that mom; no kid climbed chain link fences when I was around, mine or not. Period.

        4. Yes, in aircraft investigations, it’s always a “chain of events”. People freak out when “pilot error” is cited, but there’s almost always some error the pilot makes – usually something as mundane as, “if he had only followed the checklist here instead of going from memory” he would have broken the mishap chain.

          Then again, there’s the company where my son currently works, who was telling me last night that the place is a disaster waiting to happen (they deal with very large, very heavy things, and the very large, very heavy equipment required to move those other things). Fingers cut off, bits being crushed, people without licenses driving large equipment, all sorts of stupidity. Sometimes the company management IS the problem.
          (He’s quitting tomorrow.)

    4. A story I read a couple of years back got the metaphorical equivalent of walled because it speculated a corporation so stupid that when the person who designed a system pointed out a flaw in their new process for making the system that put it outside of tolerance, said folk in charge of the corporation paid someone to have portions of his memory erased rather than take the hit and recall all the affected product.

      Said “product” was basically an artificial womb. The problem with the production line would introduce literally fatal errors into the process. There is no corporation in the world with any sense at all that wants “dead babies” on its record, because that’s how you lose all your business.

      1. Evidence:
        The FDA approved a drug for cattle in all stages of pregnancy.

        The company spent a TON of money doing free, college-credit classes, paying professors to trek all over heck and back, to make REALLY FREAKING SURE that people knew you didn’t use it during (I can’t remember when) trimester, because THEY didn’t accept the complication rate OK, ranchers wouldn’t consider it OK, but the FDA decided it was OK.

      2. yeah that kind of anti-corporate, anti0capitalismn bullcrap needs to be walled.

        I’ll point out that that kinda crap is why i had largely stopped reading new sci-fi until a friend introduced me to John Ringo in 1999.

  21. At the risk of cross pollination, this makes me think about the old Captain Harlock anime series.

    The human race lives in the lap of luxury. A political discourse is interrupted because the entire assembly of politicians want to stop to watch a horse race. Food is plentiful. People waste their time on ridiculous and idle amusements.

    And somewhere in space, Captain Harlock is raiding ships at the risk of his own life. Except when he captures a ship full of valuables, a fortune in media and geegaws, he spaces the whole lot like trash and is instead focused on stealing food and medicine. Why? Because he knows that there’s an alien race that’s hungry to sink its teeth into the warm belly of the fat, dumb and happy humans who have abandoned space travel and exploration and danger, for the safety of staying home for horse races and a full belly.

    And so he’s basically fighting a one ship war against a galactic empire intent on conquering his own immature race, while at home they cover up that there’s a threat at all (to avoid upsetting anyone) and label him their most wanted criminal.

    Or like in Lexx, where we find out the Brunnen-G died out because they achieved an existence of post-scarcity and even eliminated non-accidental death, but became listless creatures overcome with ennui who ultimately responded to news of their destroyer as if he were a liberator.

    Both are kind of a different take on a ‘post scarcity’ society. Where post scarcity breeds in indifference and indolence, instead of ‘a focus on bettering ourselves.’

    1. Some interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson and he’s talking about how achieving much longer life spans (centuries, eternity? I don’t remember) was unethical or undesirable or something because if we didn’t fear dying we wouldn’t have a sense of urgency about creating anything.

      Which, yes, and no… it bugged me because it seemed like a really stupid reason not to try to solve the problem of death by old age. And I didn’t figure that having only 50 good years really imparted an urgency for creation for most people, though undoubtedly it would for some, any more than having a short life (sci-fi trope alert) makes people careless about dying.

      But having forever certainly would make my “get around to that” problem even worse. I may or may not be better at taking a long view on building and investments if I had a long view to take. Of course, knowing that anything that I built or accumulated would be taken away would put a huge damper on that motivation, too. If there were reason to believe that post scarcity would be something other than enforced equality through redistribution, then we’d already be there and past it. Probably since the invention of agriculture.

  22. I always thought that Doc Smith did more to explore a post-scarcity society in about three pages of “Skylark DuQuesne” than Star Trek did in 20-odd seasons.

    Think about it – you have a machine (whether you call it a “replicator” or “sixth-order gadget” is immaterial) that can fabricate things.

    Not to mention that in a replicator universe, hand-made items don’t lose value. If anything, they gain value. We have CDs and iPods, but still go to concerts. Antiques hold their value, or increase in worth.

    One thing that the Star Trek writers never addressed were the cultural implications of the replicator. Theft of goods for profit becomes something that the characters can understand intellectually, but not at a gut level…there’s no POINT in stealing when you can replicate goods. To them, theft is a crime of cruelty, not a crime of profit.

    And I can see non-sentimental goods losing a lot of value…there’s no need for a closet full of clothes when you toss the dirty ones into the replicator as feedstock and replicate a new set every day. A woman might well only have one dress – her wedding gown. And THAT might well be a family heirloom.

    Will people work? I think so. Any making-machine almost certainly has limits. It needs raw materials. It costs a lot to buy. It can’t make anything over a certain size (like houses…or starships). It can’t make certain items (like land). Above all, it can’t make anything it doesn’t know HOW to make! You can’t replicate something that doesn’t exist…which means that you make money (or replicator time) by creating things to be replicated.

    And there’s one other factor…we’re living through a parallel revolution today. I’m old enough to remember a time when ordering goods from a foreign supplier was a tricky business involving slow mails and phone calls across many time zones. Payment was a PITA. Today…welcome to the world of Internet commerce. The cost of marketing has been driven to near zero, the cost of shipping has been reduced dramatically except for large or heavy items. I don’t know about you, but I’m still working for a living. 🙂

    1. “there’s no need for a closet full of clothes when you toss the dirty ones into the replicator as feedstock and replicate a new set every day.”

      I remember one of the most stunning moments in Star Trek for me was a DS9 episode where O’Brien is having a birthday party, and during the clean up, Keiko has the uneaten part of the cake disintegrated. Intellectually, of course, I understand: if you want a piece of cake, you have the replicator make one up for you in a few seconds, so there’s no point in keeping the old cake around given that it will just go stale and get dry. At the same time, though, a world in which a week or so of leftover cake is no longer a part of birthdays…well, it seems to me a diminished world.

      1. a world in which a week or so of leftover cake is no longer a part of birthdays…well, it seems to me a diminished world.

        The heck with birthday cake, just think of Thanksgiving with no leftovers!

        1. Think of Thanksgiving dinner OF leftovers. No carving of turkey, just replicated turkey shreds ready to go on the sandwich. 🙂

        2. Lasagna and spaghetti both taste better the second day. Along with a few select other foods.

              1. Wonder if the replicator could duplicate the 2nd day taste…

                Nah. I’ve never seen anyone analyze why they taste better as leftovers. But I bet someone has.

      2. Ooh, the actress who played Kiko was awesome!

        There’s one scene where she’s talking with Miles and the subject is something about cooking, and she does this shiver at the idea of actually TOUCHING food as part of preparing it that was perfect for conveying the same sort of “ick!” that I feel about, oh, gutting a fish. But without any reason to do it….

        1. ….Oh, that is neat. If you’re used to replicated food, the prospect of contaminating your hands with ingredients or vice versa…

          1. IIRC, the main character from Mad Mike’s Freehold novel got horrified when she realized the meat from a meal she’d just eaten was from an actual animal and not grown in a vat.

            1. I feel like I see that one more often than a shudder at the idea of cooking itself, but while it’s less obvious, I can totally imagine, “Eww, hand germs in the flour!”

      3. Read the VENUS EQUILATERAL stories, by George O. Smith. About halfway through, one of the heroes imvemts a replicator (“duplicator” in the story) while trying to invent a teleporter.

        The next story describes the collapse of every economy in the solar system. Our heroes spemd most of the story desperately trying to come up with something that *can’t* be duplicated, so they can have something resembling a currency. (They succeed.)

        The rest of the stories start getting weird, as the implications sink in. One is set a century later. Only unique things (protected from duplication by “identium” integrated into their substance) have any value. Surgeons run a dying patient through a duplicator and operate on the duplicate. If it dies they try again. If it doesn’t they kill it and repeat the procedure on the real patient.

        The worst obscenity you can throw at a man is to call him a duplicate.

        The story is a rousing space opera in which the hero and the villain are bound by a lifetime of hatred. Because they are identical twins.

    2. We have CDs and iPods, but still go to concerts.

      A live concert is still a unique event, interactive and offering music in a way not replicable by devices (if your iPod offers concert quality drums you’re playing it too loud*.)

      OTOH, look at the ways in which the recorded music market has reacted to electronically streamed recordings or at how the Kindle has affected the dead tree book market. As dinosaurs continue their slow trudge to the grave an increasing percentage of the population will grow up without ever handling a physical storage unit for music, television or film.

      One might even look at the revival of interest in vinyl LPs as an expression of your theory regarding hand-made items not losing but rather gaining value.

      *This changes if holosuites are common as the force field manipulations of their VR environment means you can attend an Alice Cooper concert and will have your internal organs battered by overpressure from the drums.

      1. Sure… but I bet most people would be just as happy being “live” on the magic holodeck.

        Add some broadband, and your friends could be there too.

    3. “I don’t know about you, but I’m still working for a living.”

      Of course you are…. because the amount of government generated paperwork (and bureaucrats to nitpick it) has expanded to sop up the savings. As we’ve seen, those jobs are well-suited to the level of intelligence and initiative it used to take to swing a shovel….

  23. That is something those who try to convince us of the joys of socialism forget
    Like human nature? Yep, like that.

    they don’t have the drive – the need – to continue improving their lives
    Then who’s doing all the improving of warp drives and such? Or are we enlisting Star Fleet officers to simply steal those (like we do cloaking devices) from some other star nation?

    [Go buy the woman’s books – SAH]
    I have!

  24. Pro forma statement for the record:

    Star Trek was a liberal utopian fantasy television series and any argument premised on its being coherent is no more valid than any other liberal economic scheme.

    It is not just nonsense, it is not just nonsense on stilts, it is nonsense on stilts on a pogo stick.

    1. And, since it’s supposed to be state of the art, it’s a gasoline powered pogo stick. (Road and Track did a road test on a real one for one of their April issues.)

  25. “(remember, there are no enlisted because this is the age of enlightenment)”

    Not to be pedantic, but the character Miles O’Brien was a Chief Petty Officer, which however un-intuitively, is actually not an officer rank, it’s an enlisted rank. Even “Acting Ensign” Wesley Crusher out ranked him. While a vast majority of the characters in the shows were officers, Star Fleet had lots of non-officer ranked personnel.

    1. He got tacked on when too many geeks started trying to make Trek make sense.

      *Grin* Seeing as he’s part of why I joined the Navy, and thus met Elf, I definitely remember Miles O’Brien!

  26. The drive behind showing Star Trek’s post-scarcity society is an attempt by Progressives (Socialists/Marxists) to show what the Utopia they (believe they) are working towards will look like. Unfortunately, what the don’t understand is that the road they are on doesn’t lead to the destination they have in mind. Such Progressive ideology always ends in tyranny. Always. And can NEVER lead to post-scarcity because it destroys the very means to reach that end. The only path to post-scarcity Utopia is unrestrained Capitalism creating wealth, and through competition, technology. Only then, once we’ve achieved TRUE post-scarcity, can such a Utopia become possible.

    1. the road they are on doesn’t lead to the destination they have in mind.

      Pay no attention to those paving stones. Those were wreckers and reactionaries who had to be taken care of in order to smooth the road to our glorious future.

  27. Another amusing part about all this is that the SF novel I’m slowly working on has Universal Fabricators. Combination of 3-D printing and CNC machining. Expensive damned things, but they can make quite a few items. Including components for more specialized Fabricators. It’s not a major plot element, more backstory…it’s a universe where interstellar travel is reasonably cheap, but getting stuff into low orbit is expensive.

  28. Reading Antifragile I see this Federation thing of which you speak is incredibly fragile. Their extinction is just one black swan event away.

  29. Off Topic from Trekonomics but on Star Trek.

    One problem I had with Star Trek was all of the scientists with Officer Ranks. IE is that Lieutenant one of the scientists or one of the Starship command folks?

    If I were designing an Exploration Starship there would be the Crew (including Officers) and the Scientific staff who studied the situations that the Starship discovered.

    The Crew (including Officers) would run the Starship and perhaps “fight” the Starship (fights against dangerous aliens).

    The Scientific staff would be people who received education on shipboard situations (including staying out of the way of the crew especially in emergency situations) as well as in their respective fields of science. They sure wouldn’t be giving orders to the crew unless some enlisted person was assigned to assist them in a laboratory.

    Of course, any landing party sent down to study a planet would have a security team assigned to protect the “idiot” scientists and the security team would not “answer” to the scientists but to an Officer (from the crew).

    Is it necessary to say that none of the Bridge Officers would be in charge of the landing party? 😉

    1. Again I am compelled the show was badly thought out world-building, at a time when world-building was largely restricted t the small group of people actively engaged in writing SF/F. The remarkable thing is not that it was done poorly but that it was done at all.

      I am old enough to remember the SF television of that era and none of it was particularly well constructed. Lost in Space? Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea? Time Tunnel? Land of the Giants? Puh-lease! This was all intended as ephemera, readily consumable pablum for simple entertainment, to be shown and discarded and never seen again.

      1. I went to the wiki page on TT to refresh my memory. I managed to forget the future-set episodes (or never saw them because homework), but the show seemed to be a lot of sort-of historical shows with a thin SF wrapper.

        FWIW, all the shows you mention were produced by Irwin Allen. Even in my misspent youth, I considered his shows to be the epitome of schlock TV. OTOH, there was a lot of crap SF on during the ’60s. The Invaders was somewhat less bad, with the “tell’ of the aliens having something screwed up in their hands being a bit too convenient.

        Somehow, I remembered Science Fiction Theatre, (1955-1957), which my very young self (would have been 5 in ’57; probably saw it in repeats) thought was pretty good. The Wikis seem favorably disposed to that show. The Science Fictionoid episodes of The Twilight Zone* and The Outer Limits were tolerable. Watched much more of TZ than the other.

        (*) At least three TOS actors were in TZ episodes, Shatner, at least two, and Nimoy and George Takei at least one.

    2. I once daydreamed of a crew who used a Galaxy-class starship the way it was obviously designed to be used.

      It had three “crews.” One was the scientists and civilians. The other two ran the ships. Yes, *ships.” The saucer and the “battle section” were separate ships. Each with its own name.

      The crews periodically switched, missile-sub Blue-crew and Gold-crew style. Kept them from getting stale and gave them extended family time. Because you stayed on your side. When the battle section wasn’t pushing the saucer through warpspace, IT WASN’T ATTACHED. It was out patrolling a perimeter and guarding against dangerous surprises. Becausse THAT’S WHAT MILITARY ESCORTS DO!!! YOU HEAR ME??!!


      1. *ruminates on this concept….*
        Actually that makes levels of sense that’s perfect. Cruise into orbit of a new world, detach saucer/science section. Wander off to keep an eye on the perimeter.

        1. And the saucer includes a cloaking device. Or as close to one as the Feds can build. REALLY good stealth, anyway.

          In an “hostiles” emergency, the saucer captain channels every WW2 submarine movie he’s ever watched. And stays far away from the periscope. 🙂

        2. Andn yeah, it makes sense. When I watched the pilot, that’s what I thought the show would be like. Picard would be the Commodore, as it were, with Riker riding shotgun in the battle section.

          Then the show proper started, and they separated ONCE. Show after show, they met enemy after enemy with their WIVES AND CHILDREN ON THE FRONT LINE! Went into battle with a f***ing ball and chain strapped to their collective ankle!

          The last straw was when they actually fought the Borg. Remember? That officer mentioning in passing that standard procedure was to use the saucer as a decoy? You’re using your WIVES AND CHILDREN as BAIT??!!

          It was fortunate that the tv I was watching was not mine. Respect for others’ property saved it, and may have prevented injury. (Throwing a heavy object through a cathode ray tube was not the harmless funny thing Hollywood made it out to be.)

          1. Please note: the f***ing ball and chain referred to above was the saucer itself, not the wives inside. 🙂

        3. Nod. It makes a lot of sense with the type of starships in Star Trek.

          In an unused SF story-universe, I had exploration starships that carried several FTL “lab-ships”.

          When the exploration ship visited a new world without obvious high-tech civilizations, it would “drop off” one of the “lab-ships” which would land on the new world.

          The crew (and scientists) on the lab-ship would study the new world while the main exploration ship visited the next star system.

          Since the lab-ship could travel FTL, if the main ship didn’t return, it could travel to the nearest exploration “star-base”. 😀

          1. Properly speaking, the ENTERPRISE D should have been a squadron, with real warships escorting lab ships, a troop transport full of scientists and security types, etc. But when you play this game, you play the hand they deal you.

            1. Well yes….

              But once upon a time, I was attempting to write SF that showed exploration DONE RIGHT based on my thoughts on how Star Trek DID IT WRONG. 😀

            2. The exploration squadron idea might make a really good approach to an SF story or series.

                1. Some of the Starfire novels written by David Weber and Steve White featured survey flotillas, which were a group of specialized survey ships with escorting warships.

              1. The only problem is, STAR TREK has always been Hornblower in space. Fleet actions don’t really do well in that atmosphere. “Survey Squadron 8” would be a good story setting, bit it’s not really S3AR TREK.

        4. except, the saucer section is pretty vulnerable without the ‘battle hull’. It is essentially running on fusion reactors and batteries and if it got jumped (forex, cloaked vessel sneaks past the battle section) it is done.

          1. True. But that’s no worse than going into a fight WITH YOUR WIFE AND CHILD ON THE SADDLE IN FRONT OF YOU!!

            (Sorry. That always irked me.)

            I did think giving the saucer a “limp home” wrp engine wouldn’t hurt, but then I’m designing their ships for them. In which case, why not jist write my own books? 🙂

          2. Also, TOS strongly implied that shields, at least, didn’t take a boatload of power. In the episode with Elaan of Troiyus, Kirk held off a Klingon battlecruiser for *several* firing passes without warp power, before they found out dilithium crystals were semi-precious stones on her world. If so, the saucer would be no worse off than, say, a log cabin with the windows shuttered and Indians outside.

            And as I said above, I did postulate the best stealth the Federation has. Hopefully, between the two, there’d be time for the cavalry, um, I mean the battle section to come to the rescue.

            I mean, we’be got to have *some* suspense, right? 🙂

          3. The old classic pencil and paper wargame Starfleet Battles (set in a universe inspired by and licensed from TOS Star Trek) stipulated that in an emergency, a warship had a chance at successfully evading the enemy simply by detaching the warp engines. It wasn’t a guaranteed thing. But when your choices are either 1.) certain death, or 2.) a chance at evade and escape, the chance is better than the certainty.

            The idea behind it was that the enemy ship was tracking your ship largely by energy emissions (a not unreasonable theory). And your power generation systems were going to be the single largest chunk of non-weapon energy emissions by a pretty large margin. If you drop your warp engines, then suddenly those energy emissions decrease in a very dramatic fashion. Depending on the quality of the enemy’s sensor readings, it’s quite possible that it might be enough to avoid any further detection.

            I would imagine that the non-warp capable saucer section might work in the same fashion in a battle. While the battle hull is drawing all of the enemy attention, the saucer section is doing its best to minimize its sensor signature. If it can successfully blend into the general “background” emissions, then space is big enough that it’ll likely never be found by the enemy.

            1. But SFB really isn’t canon, at all and… their license is … weird.

              really going to try to shorten this

              When not at warp, the only ‘power emissions’ coming from the warp nacelles are going to be the bussard scoops. The rest of the nacelle isn’t really doing much of anything. the matter/antimatter reaction core (M/ARC, aka ‘warp core) is in the middle bottom of the secondary hull, and in an emergency is ejected out the bottom (antimatter tankage is above)


              This isn’t new, the movie Enterprise’s warp core was described as being in a similar location, even before Mister Scott’s Guide came out. TOS stuff was kinda vague.

              Also, the movie Enterprise, and Enterprise-A could technically undergo saucer separation.. but it would take an overhaul in spacedock to put them back together.

              and yeah there’s a looong story as to why I know so much treknology off the top of my head

              1. Ah, but it should have been. I’ve never seen anything else to match it for the *feel.* The SFB geeks actually seem to have watched TOS, and adjusted the feelz accordingly.

                As for the Bussard scoops, nacelle/antenna ideas, ejectable warp core, etc, most of that ems to date from TNG and beyond. In fact, the warp core is actually sorta datable, from watching the shows. No ship seems to have had one up to and including ENTERPRISE D. That’s why the whole secondary-hull-and-explosive-bolts thing was there, so you could abandon the entire engineering section if the warp engines were about to go ‘splodey. Which they finally did (on screen) in GENERATIONS.

                Then we got DEFIANT and VOYAGER. I will admit to not seeing enough DS9 to know if DEFIANT could dump the core, but VOYAGER made a major plot point of it at least once. And so did ENTERPRISE E

                I never followed FanCanon(tm) enough to know how they interpreted all that, though. I was never *that* interested. 🙂

                I do recall the producer notes from TOS saying the nacelles were where they were because, when they were running, they put out God-Awful Amounts of radiation…

                1. this is the Enterprise-D’s warp core


                  In the middle of the enginnering set, that was shown on the pilot for TNG.

                  (you said ‘up to and including enterprise D” when clearly the D has one…)

                  The Vertical Intermix Chamber- which looks exactly like an early warp core, and very close to the Voyager warp core- was present on the movie enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and there is an image of that on the page facing the title page of Mr. Scott’s Guide. Here’s a pic of it on Memory Alpha:


                  1. Looks nice. But the one time when ejecting it would have made sense, they threw away the entire battle hull instead.

                    This is why I don’t play the game much. They keep changing the rules.

              2. The point is that the anti-matter/matter reaction is going to be like lighting up a flashlight in a dark room. Sensors that are designed to map things like bursts of energy should have no problem picking out the warp core in deep space. If you get rid of the core, then suddenly the flashlight isn’t there. So it’s a lot harder to find if you miss the transition.

                As for the SFB license – it’s pretty straightforward. From what I understand, Amarillo Design Bureau got the rights to use the races, ships, etc…, but not the characters. And they only got the rights to use stuff based off of TOS (including the now non-canon Technical Manual). Also, since rights weren’t the money printing goldmine that they are now, there was no expiration date on the rights.

                So the Fed Heavy Cruiser, Destroyer, Scout, Dreadnought, and Tug are all based off of what’s in the Technical Manual. The Klingon D7, Romulan Warbird and KR, and the Tholian Patrol Corvette were filled out hulls that appeared onscreen (and I believe also had weapons layout elements borrowed from Lou Zochi’s earlier Star Trek miniatures game). And the Gorn and Kzinti ships were created out of whole cloth using races that had very brief appearances on television (the Kzinti were apparently in the animated series).

                1. They got the license from Franz Joseph Designs, according to the story. Hence why nothing after TOS is the same in SFB.

                  If sensors designed to detect energy emissions can detect the operating warp core, then Federation and Klingon ships couldn’t use a cloaking device, because that emission would still be detectable. Sure, the reaction would be that bright, but you’d be trying to detect that emission from the hallway outside the darkened room, not the same room. It is rapidly established in TNG that warp cores normally emit little and only have strong emissions when they are not working well. Otherwise, you’d just program photon torpedoes to home in on a ship’s warp core emissions…

                  1. By that logic, nobody could use a cloaking device at all. There are *always* going to be energy emissions. Thus the saying (among those trying for really hard SF), “There is no stealth in space.” The cloaking device clearly deals with energy emissions in some technomagical way anyhow; warp core emissions would be no worse than anything else.

                    And ECM is as likely (or not) as stealth, so hiding warp core emissions isn’t really a problem either. Presumably the difference would be that you can’t *pinpoint* a Fed ship’s warp core, while you can’t even tell a cloaked Klingon’s is there. How do they manage it? If I could tell you that, I’d start building warp drives and get rich.

                    Either way, some writer will nullify eveything either of us have said next time they do an episode of something.

                  2. They have elements that aren’t in the Technical Manual (the Technical Manual only covers Federation stuff). So they’ve got a license with Paramount. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to use the Klingon D7, Romulan Warbird, and Tholian Patrol Cruiser. The Gorn *might* be legal with just the Technical Manual, assuming that there’s a reference to them somewhere in there. But the Kzinti most assuredly are not (since they only appeared in the cartoon).

                    Lou Zochi was apparently friends with Franz Joseph, and the latter supposedly helped the former get a better deal with Paramount for his miniatures game. Are you sure that’s not who you’re thinking of?

                    1. they set it to track the physical emissions, as in the impulse engines, which they decided during TNG are just fusion engines.

                    2. “Thing’s got to have a tailpipe.” – Uhura

                      And I don’t think they actually had reactionless drive even in TNG.

                    3. Nope. ‘Impulse Drive’ is a fusion drive. In TNG the drives were improved by, according to the tech manual, adding a warp field so that the exhaust product would briefly go FTL.

            2. Ah, yes. The olde Shuttlecraft Evasion Rules trick, Saucer subsection. The Klingons used it more often–Starfleet crews didn’t mutiny as often…

  30. A lot of people (not here) seem to presume that a post scarcity society would be crime free enlightened utopia, because if there’s no reason to steal, then people will improve themselves.
    Nonsense and poppycock. A lot of criminals do criminal acts because of the thrill of doing something wrong. Because there’s a cachet & status to being a bad boy

    1. Even worse, a lot of the really impactful crime is boredom fueled by drugs and alcohol.

    2. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world!

      (Woo-hoooo, oo-oo-oo!)

  31. Has anyone noticed that the USA is -almost- a “post scarcity” society?

    What we call “poor” is -comfortably- well off in better than half of the planet, and solidly “middle class” in most of the rest.

    Contrast: There are significant numbers of 2018 humans, elsewhere, that live in huts and count their wealth in critters.

    1. We would be post scarcity if we didn’t keep redefining scarcity.

      If we ignore (for a minute) the schizophrenics, psychotics and drug users that fill our alleys and doorways, our “poor” mostly live like the middle class (materially, not in terms of behaviors) from 2-3 generations ago.

      If you were to define closely what the average person needed for a reasonably comfortable life–say what the the middle class in Europe had in the 1990s or early 2000s–we’re past that.

      The problem is that middle class behaviors and attitudes are what make that level of materialism reasonably comfortable and if you don’t have those behaviors or attitudes you’re NOT going to be comfortable there.

      Note that none of this should be seen as my advocating any sorts of limits on what people can have, nor advocacy of *any* sort of redistribution.

        1. I was actually thinking in terms of ranchers, dairy farmers, horse breeders, chicken farmers, etc. but what you say is very true in the sense of Bujold’s “All true wealth is biological.”

        2. >> ” Item four cats.”

          Speaking of – are you planning to keep Greebo’s new nightmare, and have you named her yet?

    2. I’ve noticed.

      I like to point out that in some sense all of humanity has been post-scarcity since agriculture was invented. We just keep on finding other things (than food and shelter) that we simply *must* have, often at the expense of food and shelter, which then become “scarce” via bad planning.

    3. And if someone doesn’t find that argument compelling, I just explain that as long as I (and everyone else) do not have eternal life and a personal interstellar space ship, we’re not yet post-scarcity.

      Had one guy blubber in response about not having space to park that many spaceships.

      It was amusing.

      1. Not having space to put all the ships. In a setting where hard docking is unnecessary due to easy teleportation.

        Not much of a sense of scale there, eh?

  32. I grew up watching TOS back in the day (as in riding home on sunday early even if the sun is still up, because Star Trek is coming on!” The individual that tried to describe ST as a post scarcity economy is a moron. First, yes there were several “enlisted” in the crew, including but not limited to Yeoman Rand. Second, if it’s such a “post scarcity” economy, why were there all those “mining outposts”, where shit was always happening that drove the miners to call for help from the Navy, because shit was going wrong? Mining outposts that had a hard enough life, and were a deprived enough situation that a scumbag like Harcourt Fenton Mudd could (and apparently needed to, which, why would you have tramp traders in such an economy?) rip them off with pets and robot sex toys.

    1. Replicators seem limited to the galley in TOS. But in NG…

      What drives the Federation’s interactions with other civilizations? It can’t be trade, because the Federation has everything it can imagine. And simply knowing that replicators exist would be sufficient for other civilizations to develop their own, even if they didn’t just copy Federation ones.

      The Federation seems to always be on bad terms with the Romulans, Klingons, etc. Why? If the Klingons wanted Federation “stuff”, the Federation could simply give them their replicator technology. And the whole Ferengi thing never made sense anyway…

      It’s doubtful land is an issue; we don’t see overpopulation problems in the Federation or its enemies. There seem to be plenty of empty planets for the taking, and the Federation is playing with terraforming as well.

      What’s left for conflict? Ideology? But the NG Federation makes a point of ideological diversity…

      1. I’ve always figured there was “stuff” the replicators just couldn’t replicate (or replicate well), and that the remaining conflicts were over that “stuff”, habitable planets, or ideology.

        1. TNG tech manual says it isnt effective to do large scale replication, which is why there are still shipyards. That part was actually duplicated from the writer’s tech manual on which the book was based.

      2. The Federation is an aggressively ideological empire, conscripting cultures insufficiently able to resist their “help.” While they may “makes a point of ideological diversity” it is the same point made by every Democrat administration hailing itself as hosting a diversity which looks like America.

        Their diversity is the diversity of superficial differences aligned along a single ideology.

  33. I dunno. I think people react a bit hard against the idea of a significantly more automated and wealthier society because it keeps being pushed along with a lot of other communist nonsense. At pretty much every point in human history so far, group A managed to get around the necessity of working for a living by enslaving group B to a greater or lesser extent. The commies are just slicker than most in selling their brand of slavery to the management and idle poor.

    At one point in time, the US was predicting 15 hour workweeks and absurd leisure resulting from the productivity gains from automated industry. The reason why we haven’t gotten to that point IMO is the sheer extent of the looting going on in our society, keeping us pressed up against subsistence. And the fact that we outsourced all that dangerous industry in the nick of time before it could make the wrong sort of people rich.

    .It wouldn’t bother me if work got significantly more casual as a result of people having extremely powerful tools to solve their problems and a vast surplus of time and resources. The prospect of a society so crazily wealthy that people stop keeping track of the favors they owe one another via money doesn’t necessarily bother me.

    What does bother me is that none of the economic utopias depicted actually depict that. What I care about is ownership and freedom (two sides of the same coin really). Do people own the tools that sustain their lives, and therefore are they competent to solve their problems? Are they responsible for producing, and therefore in control of the depicted wealth of their society? Ian Bank’s novels depict people who are explicitly and profoundly *disempowered*, and basically kept as pets. Too many of these settings aren’t just hostile to the idea of work and economic transactions – they’re hostile to ownership and liberty. That’s where I get off the bus.

    TLDR: Utopian thinking is poisonous. Utopia is another word for everyone doing what someone else wants for his aesthetic reasons. That’s why all utopias from Plato’s Republic to the Communist eschatology on are really very dystopian.

    1. Another society where slavery screwed up the economy comes to mind: Antonine Rome. At some point in the Roman Empire, the labor of free-men was so devalued by governors of vast Latifundia that barely anyone but the large slaveholders could hold onto property and find work. Freemen were reduced to begging for sustenance from political “Patrons” in exchange for their votes and fealty in nasty street battles. History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes.

    2. A real “post-scarcity” society as I imagine it isn’t what the leftists snarl about these days:
      It isn’t a society of “hopeless deplorable useless eaters” who are kept alive by the radiant beneficience of a patron class controlling all wealth in society (if you toe the line! And aren’t too inconvenient).

      It’s a society where everyone is so self-sufficient and productive that they can get their “chores” (economic work included) done in a small fraction of their time, so that they can move on to working on more interesting things.

      Also, I doubt the scarcity of people’s hours in a day will ever really go away, so human attention is likely to be economic for a long time.

  34. Roddenberry didn’t really want to tell stories about capitalism vs communism in the TOS, so he just tossed off an idea of them inventing some new third way. Obviously the new way hasn’t been invented yet, and his world building can’t stand up to 50 years of scrutiny.

    One thing that is always scarce, “because they aren’t making anymore of it”, is land. Who decides in Star Trek who gets the apartment with the real view of the Golden Gate Bridge? Or a beach house in Malibu? I’d like a 1500 sq ft house with a nice yard in the middle of London, do I get one just for signing up? Even with transporter tech opening up beaches all over the world, there’d still be more people wanting a beach front mansion than space available.

    What about non-replicable things like horses? Mares can only make foals so fast, and then they have to live somewhere (that land thing again). Pretty sure it will never happen that every teen girl can have a pony if she wants one.

    Post scarcity will never happen because something will always be scarce.

    1. What about non-replicable things like horses?

      We know that the teleporter can make copies of people. So why not use teleporters to make copies of horses? 😉

      1. Sorry, I thought there was some technobabble about not being able to copy people. What episode were copies in? Don’t recall them every using that.

        1. In NG, they visit a planet that an earlier starship had visited and find Lt. Riker who was a copy the Riker who apparently beamed up from that planet.

          1. It seems fairly obvious that the Riker who remained on the planet was the antecedent and the one who was beamed aboard the copy.

            1. Later in 2361, Riker led an away team to Nervala IV to rescue researchers stranded at the outpost on that world. Riker was the last to beam out. Atmospheric distortions threatened to dissipate his pattern, so the Potemkin transporter chief compensated by creating a second confinement beam. Only one beam was needed for Riker to rematerialize, so the second beam was shut down. The Potemkin crew did not realize that the second beam had, in fact, been reflected back to the planet’s surface. In an odd twist of fate, the second transporter beam, which had exactly the same phase differential as the distortion field, maintained its integrity and created a duplicate William T. Riker. The duplicate Riker remained stranded on the surface for the next eight years. Up until that moment, both Rikers were the same person. As a result, both had an equal claim to being the “real ” William T. Riker.


              One of the interesting philosophy episodes.

                1. Don’t forget “Spock Must Die” by James Blish (even if it was non-canon).

          2. Ah, okay. They never mentioned using the accident to create duplicates deliberately again (obvious ethical issues, I guess), but they could print up horses at will. People might steal a Triple Crown winner’s transporter pattern, and create several duplicates. Seems there could be a crash of genetic diversity as breeders would follow the whims of the moment to cash in on a particular horse’s popularity. (Or maybe the accident that created Thomas Riker was one in a million thing, and attempts to replicate it always end up with an unstable copy, like taking something out of the holodeck.

  35. Didn’t Isaac Asimov (PBUH) do something like this a long time previously, with The Naked Sun? The Solarians lived in a post-scarcity paradise—and were some of the most utter jerkasses ever seen in SF.

Comments are closed.