There was one scene where Captain Picard earnestly proclaims that “[t]he acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity”.
“The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity”
Being an economics geek at heart, that got me thinking about the Star Trek economy.
By the time the movie was set, humanity had obtained a marvellous technology that allowed anybody to acquire whatever their heart desired. Instantaneously. For free.
The wisdom of youth
I asked my kids what they would do with such a device.
The 5-year-old wanted to save time spent rummaging in the Lego bag for the pieces he needed. Instead the machine could give him the required piece.
I suggested the machine could just make him the finished product. He gave me an eye roll. Then demanded to know how the machine could know what the finished product looked when he himself didn’t know until it was finished?
Arguing with 5-year-old logic is a futile endeavour at the best of times, but the boy made a great point: machines don’t have imagination. Replicators could only reproduce things already discovered. That means there will always be work for problem solvers, creatives, and inventors.
“Arguing with 5-year-old logic is a futile endeavour at the best of times“
Next I asked my 11-year-old. Without hesitation, he said: “money”.
Think about that for a minute.
Replacing scarcity with abundance
This magical device replaced scarcity with abundance.
Everyone had enough to eat, clothes to wear, and a warm dry place to sleep.
Money became redundant, no longer required as a medium of exchange nor a store of wealth.
There was no further need for people to trade their time for money, selling their lives by the hour.
I was struck by the parallels to people who have achieved financial freedom.
Financial Independence describes the point where a person’s living costs are met by passive (or “unearned”) income streams. Awake, asleep, on holiday, they get paid regardless.
That buys the freedom to choose how they invest their time, just as the people on Star Trek enjoy.
The question is with that luxury of choice, how did people spend their time? You don’t see any parking inspectors, tax auditors, vice presidents of paper clip procurement, compliance officers, or life coaches in Star Trek.
The replication technology provided the instant gratification of material wants.
That would have eliminated the demand for the functions performed by more than half stock market sectors. Interestingly employees in many of those same sectors find themselves vulnerable to automation and outsourcing.
Remove the financial imperative… then what?
Three commonly articulated goals of financially free people are to do good deeds, travel, and be remembered. That is not too different from the Star Trek mission statement: “… to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
“… to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Perhaps there is a reason that once the financial imperative was removed, people banded together to “better ourselves and the rest of humanity” while having adventures exploring the unknown.
- Make contingency plans if your job does not have a long term future.
- Check out the cool Star Trek Lego produced by the clever folks at Minifigures.me.
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