Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: "Trekonomics" by Manu Saadia

Manu Saadia first encountered Star Trek as a child in Paris.  The utopia it presented caught his imagination then and helped shape his thinking about how the world can be good.  In college he studied economic history and as an adult he sought an accounting of how economics works in Star Trek.  When he didn't find such a book he decided to write one himself.

Manu Saadia divides Star Trek into two sections.  The first part includes the original series and the movies up to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  This first part assumes an economic model more like our current experience.  In Star Trek IV that changes when Kirk says the Federation doesn't have money.  The book mostly focuses on the second section because getting rid of money is a much more interesting economic situation.

The book then covers several different parts of the economy.  Chapter one explores getting rid of money.  Chapter two goes into how work works in Star Trek.  Chapter three discusses the replicator and through it how capital works.  Chapter four considers natural limits.  Chapter five gets into the problems of free riding and negative externalities.  Chapter six steps back from Star Trek and gets into the roots of Star Trek in earlier science fiction.  Chapter seven returns to thinking about work and extends that into the way people in the Federation think about everything.  Chapter eight uses the Ferengi to consider how the Federation's economy interacts with capitalism elsewhere in the galaxy.  Chapter nine asks whether we can move towards Star Trek's economic system in the real world.  The book then concludes with a reflection on the meaning of "Live Long and Prosper".

This is an interesting book.  It is one of the best books exploring the problems and concerns of post scarcity.  It also points out the ways we're already approaching post scarcity in several fields.