The Hypothetical LIEF

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Life on Earth

What do you think life will be like on Earth in the 24th century?

There have been a few attempts to work this out but we know more about life on the Enterprise, Deep Space Nine or Voyager than we do about life on Earth. There is only circumstantial evidence as to what it was like, which mostly revolves around background information about the major characters, their families or their early life.

What do we know about the Earth from Star Trek Canon? Memory Alpha, as usual, has an exhaustive series of links to virtually every reference on the subject in the canon, including one on the different regions.

Frankly, what we see shows little development from the world of today. Other than some changes to the political makeup of the United Earth Government in what is commonly called "the Third World", the 24th century world map would look remarkably similar to todays. The major differences seem to be the European Hegemony or Alliance and the United States of Africa or African Confederation neither of which is well defined. Asia and indeed the rest of the world is ussually only mentioned in passing by a vague reference.

Perhaps though by applying Logic we can infer more about the type of Earth that represents the centre of United Federation of Planets in the 24th century? This fact alone, that Earth is the centre of the UFP, suggests that the Earth, or at least the human race, is of primary importance to the universe. Not only is it the seat of the Federation Council and the office of the Federation President, it is also the location of Starfleet Command, and at least the main campus of Starfleet Academy.

What about everyday life on Earth though? People marry, have children, split up, get divorced, just as they always have. People have not suddenly become saints! Parents have expectations for their children, families have traditions and property that is passed on down the ages.

This last is an interesting point since we are often told that there is no money in this socety. Throughout the whole of Star Trek canon there are contradictory statements as to whether money exists in the federation. On the one hand, in "First Contact" Picard remarks to Lilly that …

"The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century... The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity."
On the other hand we often hear about "credits" being used to buy things, especially from extratellestrial traders. This apparent anomaly is adressed by William B. Swift in his web article, 'The Economy of Star Trek'. It would be interesting to compare the possibilites of whether the economy of the Federation is capitalistic or socialistic ... or a subtle combination of the two.

This is important because it might lead us to an answer about what ordinary people outside Starfleet do on a day-to-day basis. Do jobs for pay exist? Or are they all done just for the love of being productive? Who does the menial tasks? What if you wanted more than the governments standard ration of credits, say if you wanted to collect artworks or travel?

We know that people do have businesses, such as Joseph Sisko's restaurant and Picard's brother's vineyard, but we never hear of any boring, repetative jobs. Who pushes buttons at the power stations or collects the garbage? Automation probably cuts out much of the drudgery. I have always assumed for example that waste was disintegrated to be re-used as the raw material for the replicators - the ultimate trash compactor!

The fact of the matter is that Star Trek is not about ordinary people. It is about the extraordinary people, the Kirks, Janeways and Picards. Epsicokhan's year 2000 piece "Galaxy of the Elite?" discusses much of this ground and comes to the same conclusion, that Star Trek is about elites.

One character who exemplifies the concept of elitism in Trek is often overlooked - Julian Bashir. At age six, Bashir was evidently educationally and physically below average. Just before his seventh birthday his parents took him to Adigeon Prime where he was subjected to genetic engineering that increased his IQ, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, vision, stamina, height, weight, virtually everything! In effect he went from one extreme of the elitist scale to the other. From zero, as it were, to hero!

Unfortunately such genetic engineering was deemed illegal because of the experiences of the Eugenics war and ultimately his father was sentenced to serve two years of minimum security prison in New Zealand for breaking the law. This, and later episodes involving four patients whose genetic enhancements have gone horribly wrong, stands out as one of the few Star Trek episodes which celebrates the falibility of humanity.

However even though Star Trek revolves around the elites of the 24th century, I like to think that it is an elite that recognises that it is morally and ethically bound to serve and protect the interstellar civilisation that it stands at the pinnacle of.

What combination of education and environment could create such an elite though? I wonder …