Star Trek, post-scarcity and DRM




you’re kind of late to the party.
The internet has exhausted this topic way before June 2, 1999.


TOS established that the cost of a tribble is ten credits.

That’s just the first tribble, of course—the rest are free. Basically the opposite of drugs.


A lot of the seemingly retarded computer plot points in Star Trek can actually be explained by onerous DRM.

Oh no, they can’t just restore the computer from backup, because they’re not allowed to make copies of the core thanks to the DRM!


Except that keeping tribbles is a demonstration of the principle that there’s no such thing as a free puppy…and a demonstration on drugs, at that.


That explains a lot about the Doctor from Voyager. “What, you can put him on a futuristic holographic jump drive but you can’t leave a copy running in the sick bay at the same time?”


Yes, invasive, pervasive DRM explains everything that goes wrong in Star Trek!


I think the point of having Chateau Picard is that Picard will know it’s his wine, and so will anyone else who gets it from him, presumably as a gift. If it’s sufficiently popular, other people will make replicated Chateau Picard because it’s sooooo good. It’s a distinction based on the value of social bonds, not on anything tangible in the product itself. Nobody will be able to tell the difference (of course some will claim they can) between the two so the authenticity issue is moot except as it relates to the relationship. On the surface it somehow seems more pure now that the artificial scarcity is removed.

What’s really interesting is thinking about if Picard just replicates it himself and then gives it to someone (and either keeps that a secret or tells). That opens up an entirely new can of worms…


The universe of Star Trek always seemed more to me like a late-capitalist, neoliberal fantasy more than anything else. All that free energy, all of that false-sounding harmony. The Federation as a entity that fosters science, exploration, and collaboration, without any sustained look into either the difficulties inherent in those practices, or how all of these tend to follow less-pretty phenomena like colonialism, competition for resources, war, and the rest. The whole shoddy lie of the Prime Directive and its ghastly pretense that one can observe a complex system without altering it, or participate in it without exploiting it in some way. And then some nods to social justice and equality and whatnot to keep the system running better, like the rough racial and gender parity that would seem to obtain in the universe, or that they at least talk about a lot (although Trek falls flat on the latter, just witness those uniforms, yikes). The replicator as a late-capitalist’s dream machine, all that is air congealed into a solid commodity: “Capitalism, Post-Scarcity-for-Elites-Only: Hot.”


The Federation’s economy was pulled from the asses of a multitude of TV writers. Of course it’s going to be a mess.

Iain M. Banks spent large portions of his novels exploring the implications of post-scarcity. 44 minutes a week just isn’t enough. And your explanatory lash-up is only valid until the next writer comes along…


Trademark would work better - it’s the certification of authenticity that makes the art-crafted product more valuable than an identical replicated one.

As such, it become more like Whuffies from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom… you gain social status by conspicuous consumption of artisanal products, and locations and political/economic entities become patrons much like 15th century Florence.

DRM can be circumvented, while being revealed as even once fraudulently passing off duplicates as originals would utterly destroy one’s accumulated social cachet.


The fame/money would be in the original creation and not the following replication.


One of the plot points in Star Trek TNG was that Replicators were not perfect, so something like a bottle of wine would be slightly wrong when replicated. For regular food this probably won’t be noticeable, but wine is something where people pay close attention to the details.

That said, I have to imagine that the technology would improve to the point where even the snobbiest of wine snobs can’t tell the difference. The only problem then being all of the old inferior recipes still stored in the database. Star Trek would get some major props from me if someone replicated some random dish and went “ugh, it has that metallic tang, this must be a first generation food scan”.

One has to wonder why you would need DRM in a post scarcity economy though.


I think you’re looking at things through DRM-colored glasses. There are plenty of ways to justify this quirk in the Star Trek universe.


most of it is just plain bad IT policies, like all those episodes that a high ranking officer is captured and interrogated only to come back on the ship and keep his old access codes or the shield frequency.
There’s also practically no computer security and all the doors will open for anyone on the ship and the strongest passwords they have are not only dictionary words but are limited to Greek letter combinations. No wonder Data can crack it in a couple of minutes.


Chateau Picard needn’t be restricted by DRM. The collector / aficionado desire for authenticity and subtle variation can be satisfied by maintaining a chain of trust from the vineyard to the consumer. Each bottle could also contain particles with a unique serial number verifiable via a subspace database call. Wine snobs can then debate the flavor of 2048 vs. 4096 bit nano-particles.

Exciting new fields of authenticity auditing will be established for ST universe workers.


Iain M. Banks (one of the greatest sci-fi authors in history) thought that post-scarcity would lead to anarchism. Hence the Culture.


He really did it much better, didn’t he? It never occurred to me why, until @lt_nemo.


The ST:TNG economy is really weird. Nobody gets any form of pay, but they can still buy things from those who require mediums of exchange. Presumably without replicating said medium of exchange because economic devastation


And yet nobody has mentioned that synthehol is nod as good as real alcohol in the trek universe.