Much of my professional career (working with nonprofits, social enterprise, and private clients), as well as my personal philosophy, has been shaped by Star Trek. Whether adopting leadership lessons from Jean-Luc Picard or ethical principles based on the Federation, I have always gravitated towards Trek’s values (second only to those of Doctor Who). So when a recent YouTube video on the economics of Star Trek name-checked Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek by Manu Saadia, I was intrigued enough to check out the book for myself.
As someone who finds higher-level economic theory relatively dry, I thoroughly enjoyed Trekonomics. Far from being a how-to-get-there guide, Saadia uses Star Trek as an endpoint for this theoretical exploration. Focusing primarily on Star Trek: The Next Generation and its follow-ups, Saada explores the implication of various types of technology (like replicators) and the change in attitudes around wealth and money. (As Saadia himself states, the original Star Trek series mentioned currency, commerce, and other economic factors. Balancing both economic theory and fannish enthusiasm, Trekonomics explores the greater meaning of how an “ideal” world like the Federation might emerge. With the growing conversation about Universal Basic Income, our society appears to be moving slightly towards a shift in perspective.
In many ways, however, Trekonomics feels like a very well-considered argument of support for another book featured on this blog. As much as Winners Take All by Anand Girharadas highlighted the ways in which “elites” fail at social change, Trekonomics provides insights into the end goal. (Granted, it assumes that the society of Star Trek was fully conceived rather than enhanced by scriptwriters and production crew). Even though the book can feel a bit draggy at times, Trekonomics does a very good job in providing a slightly fan-oriented theoretical base to a fictional economy.
So why review this book? Many nonprofits, social enterprises, and individuals are driven to foster social good and social benefit. Frequently, they engage in utopian thinking without considering the consequences or believe that their actions have minimal consequences. One of the advantages of Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek is that it successfully reverse engineers such a society, examining the attitudes that could move society forward towards such a future.
It’s also a really good read for any Star Trek fan, and it’s highly recommended.
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