I saw a blog post earlier today regarding Star Trek. The core point it made was that Star Trek assumed a post-scarcity world in some respects, while not in others, and that there truly isn’t such a thing as a post-scarcity world possible. The example used was the concept of the Neutral Zone, and that space could be owned in a world where famine was a thing of the past because of replicators.
I don’t think it’s hypocritical to assume that there would still be a need for rules in a society where everybody is fed and housed and actively contributing to society. Gene Roddenberry most definitely modeled the Star Trek universe as one where communism was successful and worked out as Karl Marx envisioned. It’s amongst the things that makes the optimism of Star Trek attractive. However, the concept of ‘ownership’ is still very much alive and well. It’s not “everybody’s uniform”, it’s “Picard’s uniform”. It’s not ‘everybody’s starship’, it’s the Federation Starship Enterprise. Possession hasn’t gone away.
However, Star Trek only works because it operates under the assumption that man is basically good. The series generally reflects this. However, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is noble when involving self-sacrifice, but easily leads to tyranny of the majority at a societal level.
There were plenty of assumptions about how things would go in a post-scarcity society in Star Trek, and yes, it’s a near-utopian place where there is little want. However, there is another depiction of a post-scarcity society where everyone is taken care of: Wall-E.
Life aboard the Axiom is a life-long vacation, filled with swimming pools and virtual golf and smoothie cups and screens plastered in ads – and they didn’t even have holodecks! Side note: the least believable thing about The Next Generation was that fifteen year old Wesley Crusher had access to a holodeck and used them for scientific simulations…I’ve got some lovely beachfront property in Siberia to sell you.
What stopped the Enterprise from being the Axiom? What stops people from being endless consumers and causes them to desire to contribute and achieve the level of excellence they demonstrate? Because the way the world is right now, there is nothing to demonstrate to me that the level of self-determination evident in the Star Trek universe is any more fictitious than warp drive, inertial dampeners, or transporters.
And after my years of providing tech support, I believe that I’ll see warp drive long before I’ll see a society with an internal drive to better itself.