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Published:May 27th, 2012 00:59 EST
In The Future, Things Will Be Different

In The Future, Things Will Be Different

By Sean Stubblefield

Many people have wondered about the huge discrepancy between today`s level of technology and that depicted in the future of the Star Trek universe. Trek has been criticized and mocked for this apparently glaring inconsistency; diminishing it as unrealistic and no longer relevant.


Why does much of Trek`s tech look less advanced, and a step backwards from what we have today?

Given our trend toward increasing technological interconnectedness and reliance on computerized/ roboticized tech today, not continued into that future?

Why are there no transhumanists; no cyborgs, no transgenic mutants or hybrids? Nowhere are there seen any versions of the internet, smart phones, iPads, or Facebook. The answer can be found in the question.

The psychology of a society can really determine what direction science and technology takes.

The premise that history will be a singular progression from our contemporary point is erroneous.  In reality, there may be regressions, renaissances, deviations and reconceptualizations.

If anything, despite their advanced technology and its widespread, commonplace integration, there is a vague implication of an underlying anti-technology sensibility through Star Trek`s social psyche. Despite the huge benefits their technology gives them, the people in that reality tend to spend much of their spare time doing good-old-fashioned, non-technological, wholesome pass times. While technology is highly sophisticated and widely available in the Star Trek reality, their society is clearly not obsessed with or addicted to it, as we are today. Technology is a considered a tool, furniture--- not a way of life.

Actually, in their reality, a collapse of civilization began in the mid-90s! 

A major reason there are negligible remnants of today`s technological progress or new 21st century classics in Star Trek, is that Earth spent the first half of the 21st century in a mini dark age due to WW III, and the second half rebuilding civilization on Earth. This is also following the era of Eugenics Wars and Colonel Green`s tyranny that is akin to Hitler`s reign of power.

They had widespread nuclear war and social breakdown; and as a result, the internet effectively died in its infancy. So they didn`t just lose the internet, they never really had it; at least not in the sense that we know it.

Also, future social relationships and practices of socialization in the Star Trek universe may have changed to such a degree that people would not find our digital and social media lifestyle to be preferable, necessary, reasonable, or even conceivable. There may be issues of etiquette, or taboos, around using text for conversation rather than video or face-to-face communication.

There may be a social stigma against living life through digital devices or "on-line". It may be that people believe that it is more "personal" or "real" living off-line and unplugged. They would have no use for, or interest in, utilities like Facebook, Myspace or Twitter. In their mindset, such an existence lived through digital devices conflicts with a desire for more authentic living. Philip K. Dick observed that the bombardment of pseudo-realities begins to produce inauthentic humans very quickly, spurious humans-- as fake as the data pressing at them from all sides. Fake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities.

 Social media is a product of the kind of technologically interconnected society that we live in today; as soon as you take away those connections and interest in them, social media as we understand it can`t function, and has no need to. Maybe the prevalence of invasive and pervasive electronic surveillance in previous years has led to certain expectations and preferences of privacy.

Besides the obvious point that they took a different historical path, they exist in a cultural recognition and cherishing of authenticity; preserving what makes us prototypically human. Consider the social attitude against the Borg and genetic engineered.

Their opposition to these alterations is not just based on a fear of harm these things can cause. More than that, it is about the distortion these things represent; a fear based on a loss of purity of self, loss of identity, loss of authenticity. The prevailing zeitgeist seems to be a concern about losing touch with their humanity.

Technology is meant, for them, to be a tool, not a defining feature or attribute. As Tyler Durden said in Fight Club, "We are not our khakis ".

Plus, the people of that future are not interested in what are essentially time wasters and mindless diversions. They have found, what is to them, more productive ways to spend their time. Social networking, Youtube, video games, smart phone apps and texting are considered less valuable uses of time than carousing with friends, getting some exercise, thinking deep thoughts, or being creative.

We`ve allowed ourselves to be convinced and trapped by the idea that our current technological progression is inevitable, that it could not develop any other way than it has.

We are enabled little choice but to accept and submit to a perceived historical momentum, or be socially ostracized. We are fooled into thinking we need the newest gadgets to live in a modern world, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We are tricked or manipulated into believing we must use Facebook and smart phones and iPads and e-readers. We are being forced into a position in which we cannot function without these things. But in the famous words of Admiral Ackbar: It`s a trap!

We`ve contributed to building our own prisons of the mind. Instead of us using technology, technology is using us!

The difference between our real world and Star Trek`s fictional world is the attitude toward technology. They rely on tech, but are not dependent on it. Their environments are designed with a minimalist aesthetic. People in the Trek reality have a wary respect for technology. They believe tech can and will save them, makes their lives better. But they also realize how easily technology could destroy them and diminish their lives-- their sense of self-- if tech is given too much power.


Marshall McLuhan tells us that the future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb.

We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication. 

As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of "do it yourself".