More homework for “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology”
Scott asked, “What Star Trek technology is on your list of must-haves?” Could the Star Trek universe exist without this type of technology? How would it be better (or worse) with (or without) this technology? Be sure to use evidence to support your argument.
The obvious answer: Star Trek could not exist without warp-drive. Getting from planet to planet would be impossible. What is really cool is the transporter. But that is not at must-have. Neither are phasers, quantum-torpedoes, (medical) tricorders etc. Would Star Trek be worse without warp-drive? No, it would not exist.
But I think the most important technology is the replicator – in combination with, for all practical purposes, unlimited energy. That, in my opinion is the important technology.
What it does, is making the Star Trek universe a universe without scarcity. Picard sums it up in “First Contact”:
“The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
Humanity does not want anymore. No one needs to starve, no one has to be without housing, food and clean water. And assuming that what ever delivers the energy required, does so in a clean way, we can do it without destrying the environment.
That, the unlimited energy, the instant delivery of “earl grey. Hot”, is the most important technology.
Star Trek can work without it. Voyager frequently has to ration the energy reserves, and in TOS at least a couple of episodes are centered around the need to get fresh dilithium crystals.
That does not imply that money is a thing of the past. It might be in the ideal world of the Star Fleet flagship. But we see several instances of Star Fleet officers having to pay for things. And the other races, Ferengis is the obvious example, do have money. But hunger, and need for material things is a thing of the past in the Federation. And that, makes the replicator and unlimited energy the most important technologies in Star Trek.