Anthony J. Pennings, PhD

WRITINGS ON DIGITAL STRATEGIES, ICT ECONOMICS, AND GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

Money and Motivation in Star Trek

Posted on | July 25, 2010 | No Comments

A perennial SF question of mine was asked in the movie Star Trek: First Contact (1996), when the starship Enterprise E of Star Trek: Next Generation fame goes back into time to Earth, circa 2063, about a decade after World War III ends.

They are following a Borg ship that is attacking early Earth to reduce its threat in the future. Lily Sloane, an assistant to the famous inventor of the dominant propulsion system known as warp drive, Zefram Cochrane, gets a chance to go on board the futuristic Enterprise. After getting a brief tour from Captain Jean-Luc Picard and a description of the amazing ship, Lily innocently asks “How much did this thing cost?”

Picard responds with an intriguing if not disappointing, “the economics of the future are somewhat different.” He goes on, “money doesn’t exist in the 24th century”. Lily responds understandably, “No money, you mean you don’t get paid?” He replies, the “acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force for humanity. We work to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity”. And then he adds “Actually we are much like yourself and Dr. Cochrane.” With this last, Picard has a moral, we are not so much different from you and neither are the motivations for the work we do.

Space ships are recurring icons of speculative fictions. They are usually focused on imaginative new technologies. I often wonder why we don’t have more stories dealing with imagining the new economic systems we would need to build them.

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AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s.

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    Professor and Associate Chair at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea. Recently taught at Hannam University in Daejeon, South Korea. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, media economics, and strategic communications.

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