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Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek Hardcover – May 31, 2016
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"Like Star Trek itself, the book is about more than spaceships and aliens; it illuminates the present by showing a future to strive for." ― Publishers Weekly
“Saadia proves that Star Trek is an even more valuable cultural icon than we ever suspected.”― Charlie Jane Anders, former editor-in-chief, io9
"Trekonomics is a fanciful romp through the economic theories that underpin Final Frontier life in the mid-22nd through late-24th centuries―as seen through the eyes of an erudite, if occasionally fawning, fan. But the book is also a serious and informative economic discourse, complete with a forward by Berkeley professor Brad DeLong. ―Ben Geier & Robert Hackett, Fortune
“In Trekonomics, Saadia reminds us of what made Star Trek such a bold experiment in the first place: its Utopian theme of human culture recovering from capitalism. Smart, funny, and wise, this book is a great work of analysis for fans of Star Trek, and a call to arms for fans of economic justice." ― Annalee Newitz, tech culture editor, Ars Technica
“Trekonomics will change the way you see three different universes: the one that Gene Rodenberry created, the one we’re in, and the one we’re headed towards.” ― Felix Salmon, senior editor, Fusion
"Manu Saadia has managed to show us one more reason, perhaps the most compelling one of all, why we all need the world of Star Trek to one day become the world we live in." ― Chris Black, Writer and Co-Executive Producer, Star Trek: Enterprise
“Like many classics of eighteenth-century literature, Star Trek used fantasy travel to explore problems close to home. Unlike Gulliver’s
Travels or Candide, however, it also suggested answers. Trekonomics takes seriously the promise of those solutions. Make it so!” ― Rebecca Spang, Indiana University, author of The Invention of the Restaurant and Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution
"A post-scarcity economy is actually far more within reach than the technological advances for which Star Trek is better known." ―The New York Times
"Almost fifty years after Captain Kirk first took the U.S.S. Enterprise on a voyage to explore strange new worlds, the Star Trek universe is more expansive than ever. It's been the subject of serious study by political scientists, sociologists, even religion researchers ― a sign of how deeply influential the show and its ideas have become. Star Trek posits a world in which hunger, war and poverty have been eliminated ― a utopia that isn't just free from want, but also free from capitalism and even currency." ―The Washington Post
About the Author
Manu Saadia was born in Paris, France, where he fell into science fiction and Star Trek fandom at the age of eight. He studied history of science and economic history in Paris and Chicago. His work on Trekonomics has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Business Insider. Manu Saadia is a contributing writer for Fusion.net. He lives in Los Angeles with his son and his wife.
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Second, his tone is unbearably negative and intellectually dull. He criticizes everything from Star Trek plots and their foundation in other science fiction to technologies he clearly doesn't understand, even theoretically. Is the replicator more valuable than a transporter because the transporter just does one thing? Can you imagine what it would mean to be able to transport from San Francisco to Beijing in the blink of an eye? That would change everything. Maybe a replicator is more valuable, but does it always have to be one is better than the other? Saadia is very black and white, very critical, and strangely married to negative imaginings of how the Star Trek future would work. Should we be excited about the pursuit of humiliating one's intellectual opponents in the pursuit for top reputation? What? Unfortunately, Saadia substitutes thoughtful and interesting exploration of this topic for negative, nasty black and white portrayals...and lots of personal opinion.
Third, this is a book of tangents. We touch on economic issues, and then Saadia goes off on some story about this or that Star Trek episode or this or that friend of his. Name-dropping much?
Fourth, speaking of name-dropping: Saadia doesn't come across as a Star Trek fan at all. I guess he is one—I'll trust him on that—but he spends an awful lot of time criticizing Star Trek and name-dropping Star Trek references (just like when a person drops the name of this or that famous person they supposedly spend time with, it feels false and unnatural the way Saadia uses Star Trek references), and he even gets some nasty details wrong amidst his outlandishly narrow-minded claims about a high-minded, open-minded future. For example, a reference to Picard’s nephew: “No doubt, like many of us, he will wholeheartedly embrace the replicators [when he grows up], and all that comes along with them” (p. 70). Does anyone else cringe when they read that? Yes? Good. René will never get a chance to wholeheartedly embrace anything as an adult. He’s dead. So, that's awful as a Star Trek reference, and it's also stupid as a claim. The idea that the older people are married to less technology while the younger ones will inevitably embrace it is intellectually shallow. First of all, those older people grew up with lots of technology they're not using. It's not like talking about our grandparents. René is interested in technology and space; those are good reasons to expect he may embrace replicators...not just that he's a kid or he's normal and his parents are relics of a bygone era.
Fifth, Saadia uses reporter-style sound bites that, in the end, don’t follow from what he’s just argued or is about to argue. Dramatic, sure. Accurate, no. These sound bites usually conclude sections, but similarly over-dramatized and inaccurate claims are used throughout. One example of a ridiculous exaggeration for the purpose of effect is this kind of phrase, utilized at several points: “the abolition of human labor” (p. 66). Human labor hasn’t been abolished. It *isn’t* unnecessary to survival and so on, as he claims over and over again (and then contradicts in a few side notes). Sure, replicators are great, but we see them malfunction relatively frequently; that alone is sufficient reason to understand that labor is still absolutely necessary. Without it, some malfunction, solar flare, alien virus, or act of sabotage would have disabled every replicator in existence within a few decades. Someone has to maintain them. Even if we assume absolute minimum labor, human labor to assemble replicated parts (including for shelter) and maintain the replicators would be absolutely necessary. Furthermore, unless the universe is 100% peaceful, human labor for the purpose of protection and defense advancements would still be necessary for survival.
To be fair, I only made it through page 92, at which point I couldn't stand another second of his negative, nasty tone and complete avoidance of saying anything useful. I skimmed the rest, and didn't see anything different, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt he apparently can't bear to give anyone else but his pals and say that maybe I missed something.
In the end, this book was a vast disappointment. I'd like someone who has respect for this optimistic future (minimally you should write about an optimistic future with an optimistic tone!), who can seriously think through some of the economic systems and trade-offs necessary to operate this system (as another reviewer noted, you can't just do everything; who/what decides which ships are being built?), and is willing to explain this with respect for the reader's desire to truly seek this future...to write a new Trekonomics.
So, here's hoping that the legacy of this book will be to inspire someone else to write a better one. Or maybe even to inspire a discussion with input from many sources of how this could work in the real world...so that we can build our own Star Trek future.