United Federation of Planets, a protection racket?

Another utopia bites the dust:

How does the Prime Directive fit into this? On the surface, it seems incompatible with an imperialistic Federation. But remember that the Prime Directive only applies to planets which are at a much lower level of technological development than the Federation itself. That is, only to planets that are not wealthy enough to be worth the cost of occupying and taxing. Star Fleet Command wants to prevent glory-seeking captains like Kirk from taking over underdeveloped worlds that are likely to drain more revenue than they bring in. The Prime Directive serves this goal, while also cloaking Federation imperialism in a veneer of righteousness that has been all too successful in fooling generations of TV viewers.

3 thoughts on “United Federation of Planets, a protection racket?”

  1. How come no one in the comments picks up on originality as a scarce commodity in a post-scarcity economy?

    I’ve got a magic replicator machine that can create just about anything up to and including a copy of itself. I’ve got a functionally unlimited power source for it, and I can use just about any random chunk of matter as feedstock. I drop some mud into the intake hopper, open the menu to see what I can create, and… it’s empty. Shit. I need some patterns to make!

    Ok, ok, patterns are just data, so I can copy anything anyone makes available, and let’s pretend that storage space isn’t an issue. Maybe I can use clever procedural algorithms to extrapolate things from simpler materials, so I have a means to synthesize derivative patterns (cake) from the patterns of their ingredients (flour, eggs, water, fudge).

    That still takes sentient input, measured as real effort in real time. Someone has to collect or write the patterns. Star Trek touched on this in most of the series. Characters made original creative works (paintings, holodeck programs, meals, musical compositions, vehicles). Characters also performed scientific and technological research.

    They also hijack intellectual property from pre-warp civilizations by spying on their people and communication networks.

    Also – note that they never replicated life or living organisms. Flora and fauna specimens, cell cultures, and livestock should also be on the list of scarce goods.

  2. Sort of. The replicators in Diamond Age rely on a centralized feed, so a single authority dictates what they can manufacture. The core conflict in the book (though just one plot strand among many) is over a “seed,” or an independent replicator technology that doesn’t require a feed.

    If I were a blowhard literary critic, I would claim that the theme parallels themes of international patent law and western cultural/technological hegemony. But I’m not, so I won’t.

Comments are closed.