Since the 60s, Captain James T Kirk and his cohort of intergalactic travellers have inhabited a world of constraint free, technology supported adventures. To write these adventures, successive generations of screenwriters and directors have had a blank piece of paper to create their world.

Star trek doors

As with all writers, they start with the story and piece together plot structure and suspense; love, romance, disaster and triumph.  You can have an interracial kiss in the 60’s because it is ‘Star-date 2345’ and when there are aliens, the social constraint surely doesn’t apply. The huge cost of filming landing on a planet is reduced quite considerably by the ability to teleport and the huge supply chain management issues of feeding thousands of people on the ship is reduced by a food replicator (I wonder whether they need one of everything to have something to replicate from).

All the technology starts with a use case where any everyday thing is easily fixed. Once there’s a problem, it can be remediated instantly in someone’s imagination. In the real world, we are squeezed out of imagination by everyday constraints. But do we need to have our own ideas when we can just take the ones from Star trek and do that. Take sliding doors; have you other wondered why most sliding doors work like the Star Trek ones even though a normal door opens out or in? Did someone invent the technology for a door to look like Star Trek and did a young inventor see Chekov ordering his lunch and get to thinking about 3D printers? Would we have the same obsession with needle free medicine delivery and is love for VR just a desire to recreate the holodeck?

On the other hand alongside an advanced technological society, the Star Trek gang also live a hugely homogenised world, everyone in the same uniform, everything clean and shiny. Does anyone know how anything works? There’s lots of button pushing which is the only thing required to fix everything but Bones’s job is to read out what the reading on his medi-scanner and even Scotty blessed with his genetic Scottish prevalence towards engineering can only respond generically about di-lithium crystals and not having enough power. Only 5 people or so are ever trusted to go on extra planetary excursions (and one of those people is always there to be sacrificed) and perhaps even more sinister is the ability to communicate to everyone at all times and to know the whereabouts and condition of everyone all the time.

So the Star Trek gang exist in a world or technology enabled ease where social, morale, philosophical or (especially military) challenges are the only ones left.  Is that the world towards which we are heading? Perhaps the most intriguing thing is why the Starship enterprise is so big when they don’t need to carry much and it’s a core group of staff who do everything. Either there’s hundreds of unseen leisure hunters enjoying the United Federation Botanic gardens on level 48 whilst Captain kirk the real loser has to knuckle down Or perhaps there needs to be room for all the robots and the huge server rooms being cooled by the infinite bleakness of space.

 

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