In this fascinating interview for the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, Manu Saadia (author of Trekonomics) says that, in the Star Trek universe, society is based on an economy of reputation, rather than an economy of accumulation of goods. This is because:
- There is such an abundance of material things (because of automation and advances in energy production), that everything is available on demand very easily and prices have converged to zero.
- There is such an abundance of material things that worth does not come from accumulating goods, but from having knowledge.
Isn’t this description very fitting for our digital society, too? Replace ‘abundance of material things’ with ‘abundance of facts’. Facts are easily accessible, nowadays, because of the www, broadband, and the ‘free’ business model, that power does not come from an accumulation of ‘facts’ about something (e.g., being a journalist or, indeed, a teacher). Rather, it comes from having the reputation for being knowledgeable about that thing.
I think that the main difference is that, in the Star Trek universe status comes from cultivating talent and intellect; whereas, in the digital society, status comes from being first. That is, nowadays, being ‘in the know’ is perhaps more important than knowing.
Oh, the status symbol changed, too! In the Star Trek universe, the ultimate status symbol is the captain’s chair. In our digital universe, it is the number of followers on social media.