Star Trek, post-scarcity and DRM

The “saucer separation” feature is one of those add-ons that seems cool when you first buy the thing but gets old really fast. It’s basically like owning a hardtop convertible.

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That’s the Enterprise-E. It’s not clear whether the Sovereign class ships could separate or not. According to Memory Alpha, design sketches for First Contact imply that they do, but that’s not canon. They also didn’t really have time to separate the saucer there even if they could.

“Hang on Shinzon. I’ll just be a few minutes.” - Picard
“I’m trying to have my moment of triumph here Jean-Luc. What are you doing?” - Shinzon
“Nothing. Carry on with your gloating.” - Picard
“Look, I’m a poorly-made clone of you. I’m dying and I’d like to go wipe out Earth before then. Can you hurry it up?” - Shinzon

Plus they stopped carrying civilians around and the Enterprise seemed to take that ramming amazingly well. I guess the Scimitar’s hull was made of flimsy crap.

Just like the rest of that movie! (A go-cart chase? Really?)

And in the J.J. Abrams-verse, seemingly everything below the saucer section is a Budweiser brewery!

Dune buggy chase…for reasons.

I thought the reason was that Patrick Stewart thought it would be a lot of fun to race some dune buggies around?

Okay, let’s start drafting the 3DCMA that prohibits reversing the 3DRM that protects the outputs of 3D printers…

Sorry, edit:

Oh, Star Trek makes Doctor Who look like hard sci-fi at times.

Or the thing of the Doctor completely disappearing, forever, if there’s an accident. What, they can’t make a copy? Apparently there isn’t enough storage capacity to make a backup of the Doctor’s 50 gigaquads of data, despite the ship’s computer being capable of storing 47 billion teraquads (Bryan Fuller really should have consulted the technical manuals.) Shouldn’t it require enough energy to destroy a solar system to run the computer? Anyway, they don’t have a trained medical officer on board, can’t free up enough storage space for a copy of the Doctor, but they have room for an Irish village…

Yeah, I think Kate Mulgrew was right to play Janeway as if she’d gone mad.

Meanwhile, there was an entire episode devoted to a backup of the EMH being discovered by an alien civilization.

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Eh, the idea is that you get many of the effects of alcohol, but if you’re tied on a few in Ten Forward after your shift and the ship goes to red alert and you’re called to your station, your adrenal response wipes out the effects of the synthohol.

Besides, people seem to get their hands on the good stuff all the time in Star Trek.

This is one of the things I actually loved about this story line. Not just liked but loved. For a change, it’s not the oh-so-perfect Federation sending their shiny ships out to negotiate with some other race that’s gone all pew-pew-pew, with a captain to stroke his chin and pontificate; this time around (if you acknowledge the Abrams movies as being in the same time line as Enterprise…ugh…) this is a Federation that already knows about the Borg, has been whupped multiple times by advanced alien species, and had one alien vessel destroy Vulcan and damn near the entire Starfleet. And they went full 'Murrica, and it bit them in the ass, big time.

Actually, no. As described in the Culture novels, quasi-anarchism and post-scarcity economics go together nicely, but neither one is shown to lead automatically to the other.

Several of the Culture novels describe competing interstellar civilizations, with comparable levels of wealth and technological advancement, that have other sorts of political and economic arrangements. For example, in his last Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata, he describes a civilization, the Gzilt, which has common roots with the Culture, and is similarly post-scarcity; it’s basically a democratic republic, and uses market-based economics, with a sort of odd system of tribes organized as militaries.

A point that’s reiterated through the novels is that the key feature that distinguishes the Culture from other advanced civilizations is the Culture’s attitude towards AI: almost all other civilizations with AI are shown to try to limit and subordinate it, whereas the Culture fully accepts AIs as people and lets the colossally powerful AIs, the MInds, pretty much run everything. I don’t know if there’s a political metaphor about AI that I’m missing, but I mostly read it as an optimistic response to the widespread trope of fear of AI in contemporary science fiction.

In fact, I think much of the appeal of the Culture novels is its simple, straightforward assertion of an imagined advanced civilization that we’d enjoy living in.


I like that the French language has apparently gotten rid of accents.

The thing is that only really works if you think Federation=America. I know even the original series sometimes got that confused (like with the episode with yangs and koms), but normally it is made clear that the federation is supposed to be the UN – even the Federation flag has the same leaves as the UN. Does the UN conduct secret military research despite having soldiers in the field?

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

I think that this could easily be a case of individual (or corporate) attitudes being slow to catch up to the reality of the world. There are always people who have not actually caught up to the current level of social progress. In our world, they would have been much happier back in the time of guilds and master craftsmen making individual products by hand. In the world of Star Trek, or some other post-scarcity economy setting, they would have been happier around our time with the height of capitalism.

DRM doesn’t make a lot of sense in our own world. It would make even less sense in a world like that, yet there are undoubtedly people who would insist their products carry it. I suspect this wouldn’t last more than a few decades, but I could see it being an aspect of the economy for some limited amount of time.

(Of course this being Star Trek, anything you establish as ‘fact’ for this episode is very likely to be completely disregarded five episodes from now … I do kind of enjoy the shows, but I really wish this wasn’t the example most people think of when they hear the term “‘science’ fiction.”)

It seems that replicators don’t nail food exactly. Troi has mentioned that real chocolate is better than replicated. Scotty picked up the fake booze immediately. Riker (I think) cooks his own meals when he can, as does Sisko - sometimes from replicated ingredients, but it’s a special treat when they have something authentic in the recipe. So it would appear that complex flavours are at best approximated - digital food vs analog.

Same goes for other species. Klingons, for instance. Live animals are kept on board as food stock. Gagh needs to be alive to be edible. Blood wine is kept in barrels.

You don’t see people attached to too many objects unless they were a gift or are antique (or both) - a favourite cup, compass, eyeglasses, etc… But food still holds a unique place. So real wine, real Louisiana home-cooking, a good chocolate souffle, etc., all make sense.

One of the weirdest things about all those Next Generation movies is that Captain Picard somehow transformed from the thoughtful, professional, diplomatic, disciplined officer of the TV series into an emotionally unstable, rebellious, revenge-obsessed thrill jockey.

In the TV show Picard rarely even joined the away team because that wasn’t the place for the top-ranking officer on a starship. By the end of Nemesis he was all “I’m going to abandon my ship and everyone on it to take on the bad guy one-on-one. Sure, sending a seasoned soldier like Worf instead of a senior citizen like myself would have a much greater chance of success, but this is something I have to do myself.


no it doesn’t, as everyone around the idiots like Troi point out, real food and replicated food is indistinguishable, even down to the molecular level. The taste difference is psychosomatic. So if Troi was served chocolate out of a fake oven she’d be going on about how much better it is then the chocolate that came out of the replicator.

The only thing that’s different is alcohol, which has some of it’s components replaced with synthase to prevent Scotti from hitting the Ballmer Peak on late night engineering sprees.

Clearly that was an intentional strategy.
Screw the kids, there wouldn’t have been enough mass to ram them without the saucer.

Me too! The OBL-blowback angle is a good one, and even somewhat brave of J. J. and the writers to smuggle in there. I loved the Starfleet badguy fellow who keeps intoning how Them Damn Russkie Klingons are Going to Get Us: it was a nice Cold War–Long War dimension to a universe that tends to only look at the happier, shinier parts of the last fifty years (or when it does look at the Cold War we get The Undiscovered Country, which is so heavyhanded and obvious). The best part is how they live in a universe with palpable, exigent threats, but that Starfleet is also overreacting and reacting badly to the same threats: so much more believable than previous Treks.