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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Book Says Forget Socialist Sanders or Huge Trumpism: Try Trekonomics



While listening to the presidential debates we hear a wide range of economic approaches, from Ted Cruz saying abolish the IRS, lower taxes, and ignore the poor to Bernie Sanders saying Corporate America and the wealthy must pay more while the poor and middle class get more services from the government. Which way, if either one is given a chance, will work best or at all?  Well, we may not have that answer just yet but a new book offers some interesting ideas of how a future without money would look.  

Imagine a world where the economics of Star Trek exist.  Well, on the 50th anniversary of the television debut of the cult-favorite show, Trekonomics is being released by Manu Saadia, a Parisian-born Los Angeles resident who contributes to fusion.net and has been featured in The Financial Times, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

The Star Trek franchise – television, books, and movies -- focuses on issues of war and peace and the human condition, exploring what really makes us human and why logic must be combined with passion to produce the ideal person.  But along the way it is shown that the future no longer seems to function around money.  This book explores:

·         How society would exist without money.
·         How to define the role and meaning of work when robots replace most labor-intensive jobs.
·         How to create abundance so that we’re not fighting for scarce resources.
·         How society can manage common resources.
·         How the world will benefit when more people can focus more time on science and justice when freed from work and economic necessity.

The author writes:

“My primary objective is to describe the economics of Star Trek.  The idea is to take a step back:  instead of trying to reverse engineer the future one piece of technology or one policy fix at a time, I attempt to take Star Trek at its own word, to give credit to its economic imagination.  Exploring how to get there makes very little sense without a clear picture of what it’s like once we get there.

“Furthermore, to my great surprise, in the process of researching and writing this book, the question of possibility gradually dissolved.  It turned out that Star Trek’s main economic thesis, that machines can eventually free us of the drudgery of work, is almost as old as the industrial revolution itself.  It is not at all crazy. On the contrary, it seems rather reasonable in light of the trajectory of the past two centuries.  Human activity has quickly moved away from the purely physical toward the mental and the symbolic.  Meanwhile, more or less autonomous machines have taken on the task of transforming raw materials on an unimaginable scale.  Star Trek’s  utopia is nothing more than the world that awaits us on the other side of that great social metamorphosis, provided that we decide to distribute our newly acquired freedom evenly and that we avoid boiling our planet.”

This book will be released at the end of May.  According to its publisher, Inkshares, it is “the first book in famed financial journalist Felix Salmons’ imprint, Pipertext.  Since its official announcement at Comic Con New York 2015 on the panel “The Amazing Economics of Star Trek,” with economists Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong and Tech Culture editor of Ars Technica, Annalee Newitz, Trekonomics has catalyzed a discussion on how this utopian universe could inform how we live today.  Sure to be of interest to both armchair economists who love Freakonomics and die hard Trekkies, Trekonomics poses the question:  If you could live in Star Trek’s economic utopia, would you want to?”

Humanity has been searching for utopia for many centuries of generations.  First it seeks to be free of war and violence.  Next it wants to make sure everyone’s basic needs are met – shelter, food, clothing, health, education. How do we achieve the first two and where do we go from there?

There are many interesting concepts explored in this book though it gives us little to go on by way of how to implement the policies and procedures needed to transform 2016 Earth into 23rd century Star Trek.  Still it is passages like this one that allow us to at least dream and visualize of better days to come:

“In Trekonomics, the absence of money implies that status is not tied to economic wealth and discretionary spending.  Conspicuous consumption and luxury have lost their grip on people’s imaginations.  The opposition between plenty and scarcity, which under our current conditions determines a large cross section of prices and purchasing behaviors, is no longer relevant.

“For Federation citizens, the notion of luxury itself has evolved to encompass the full range of experiences available to humanoids.  It is possible to envision that people seek the unique and the memorable in personal relationships and in fleeting moments of satori, rather than in the acquisition of things.  Looking for and collecting artful artifacts, ancient or otherwise, seems to be among the few areas where one can exert her erudition and flaunt her good taste.”


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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