In defense of left-wing space utopias


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/15/availability-heuristic.html


#2


#3

It had all those things, they just weren’t the focus if the show. Kirk owed his freedom to a principled Space Lawyer in the episode “Court Martial” and Harvey Mudd Cyrano Jones wasn’t giving those furballs away for free in “The Trouble with Tribbles.”


#4

Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism


#5

"Elon Musk floating a “creepy private colony on Mars for ultra-rich survivalists who can shell out $200,000”

Putting them all there seems like a win.

Golgafrinchans
The Golgafrinchans first appear in Fit the Sixth of the radio series. In the novel series, their appearances are all in the novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and they appear in episode 6 of the TV series. In all formats, the story is essentially the same. Following their adventures at Milliways, Arthur and Ford teleport onto an “Ark Ship” containing a number of Golgafrinchans. This particular group consists of the Wodehousian[8] “middle class” who have common, middle-management types of occupations. They were sent away from their planet under false pretences by the (upper class) “thinkers” and (working class) “doers” of their society, who deemed them useless. They were told that the entire society had to move to a new planet, with a variety of thin excuses, and that it was necessary for them to go first to prepare the new planet for their occupation. However, it turns out that one of the middle-men was necessary for survival, and as a result, the rest of the Golgafrinchan society died off (see below). They arrive on Earth, where they become the ancestors of modern humans, except in the novel Life, The Universe, and Everything, in which in the beginning it is mentioned that they ended up dying out instead of the cavemen.

Small quibble - there were certainly lawyers in Star Trek.


#6

Part of the problem is that traditional left-wing space utopias were a lot like right-wing ones in that they believed in unlimited growth and unlimited resources. Realists know that both are limited (and no, going into space isn’t going to solve the problem; mining Mars or whatever would take more resources just to get miners [human and robotic] and ore back and forth than we could get). And those exoplanets everyone’s excited about? How are we supposed to get people there?


#7

But but but… magic warp drive! Reactionless something something!


#8

I’m all for Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.

The Culture is what I hope we finally achieve, instead of this “Snow Crash but worse” dystopia we are falling into.


#9

No back and forth, if you go you’re there to stay.


#10

It’s yet another symptom of the rightward shift the Overton Window made over the past 35 years, specifically the assumption of neoliberalism as the default economic endpoint of history. As much as Fukayama has been debunked since 2000, that assumption is still in place in middlebrow culture, which also houses a lot of popular science fiction. This is why any Fully Automated Luxury system that’s realised won’t be Communist but will be tailored first and foremost to benefit rentiers, large corporations, and other wealthy incumbents. The result will be something straight out of “Black Mirror.”


#11

Well, you know the trouble with quibbles.


#13

In DS9, Jake had to get Nog to lend him some money so he can buy a present. I got the impression that Star Fleet, and maybe much of the Federation, worked a moneyless society, but within an atmosphere of Capitalism.


#14

Today this is entirely true. The minimum level of resources needed to set up a self-sustaining industry even on a habitable world is probably comparable to the wealth of a small nation. And unless physics somehow turns out very different than we currently believe, “there and back” will never happen for large amounts of matter. Actual sci-fi, “left” or “right,” usually short-circuits this problem with FTL travel.

But you can send lots of information, and small amounts of matter. And we have no idea what the fundamental limit is for how much that “minimum level of resources” can be compressed. Is it that unbelievable that four centuries from now humans will be able to send out something like a von Neumann machine, a compact self-replicating nanofactory equipped with a flash drive full of instructions to build a fully automated industrial base and all the infrastructure humans or our descendants will need to live, given enough time? And that we could at least send people one way as far as Mars in groups large enough to have a self sustaining population?


#15

There’s also a strong focus on trade deals in TNG which suggests that they are capitalistic, just using a different financial system. Which makes sense since our economy would collapse in a day if someone figured out how to replicate gold.


#16

The Ferengi have that thing for Gold Pressed Latinum which is supposed to be un-replicatable.

(bonus like for Hudson Hawke reference)


#17

[quote=“Brainspore, post:3, topic:97065”]Harvey Mudd wasn’t giving those furballs away for free in “The Trouble with Tribbles.”[/quote]Indeed, because he wasn’t actually in that episode, which featured a different trader. But the point is valid.


#18

D’oh! Right you are. No wonder that Tribble I bought from Harvey turned out to be nothing but an abnormally large dust bunny.


#19

yeah but if they found a way to replicate or found some new abundant source of it their economy would collapse. It’s an incredibly fragile economy in the context of the star trek universe.


#20

Did Star Trek ever address what would happen to their economy if – for whatever [TECH BABBLE] reason – replicator/transporter technology disappeared? You’d all of a sudden have desperate scarcity being fought over by people who, initially, have the power to annihilate entire planets on a whim. As the tech fails and the scarcity goes asymptotic, it would be a galactic blood bath.


#21

Dude. It’s “Harry” or “Harcourt,” not “Harvey.” We’re not talking about that California Engineering school that’s overrun with unicyclists.