I find it amusing how incapable most people are on the subject of defining money. Even this guy:

YoutubeFirst Contact – (Alfre Woodard, Patrick Stewart) – 1996

Captain Jean-Luc Picard The economics of the future are somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century.

Lily Sloane No money? You mean you don’t get paid?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.

Why would a 24th century captain who doesn’t know there are credits that are deducted every time he uses the replicator care that the credits are deducted as long as there are credits there to cover his tea order? They never once said there weren’t accountants in the future.

There have to be accountants, even if they are A.I. based accountants. How does the replicator system know the demands for the components of Earl Grey Tea if there isn’t some way to chart demand? That is what we call money today. They’ll just call it something else in 300 years.

It is entirely possible that demand for tea components could be calculable based on raw need. Who can say what technology will emerge over the coming century? No one knew what the future held back in the 60’s as the complete lack of hand-held computers in all of original Star Trek easily revealed. In the meantime, money serves the purpose of calculating demand.

Money has been with humanity for almost as long as we’ve been human. Certainly for as long as we’ve lived under civil government. Barter has been around since humans existed, and that is the simplest form of value trading. Paper money was invented by the Chinese and the Knights Templar set up the first banking system in Europe to help pay for the crusades.

Do you know why a quarter is called two bits? In the early days of the American colonies, the most common coin in circulation was the 8 real Spanish silver dollar. English currency was notoriously hard to find and so most transactions occurred illicitly in money that was available to the colonists. Spanish dollars were everywhere back in those days and were the standard of trade well into the days when the United States came to exist and claimed the name dollar as its own invention.

A quarter was worth two Spanish real and thusly was and is still referred to as two bits, a bit being the smallest coin minted at the time. We took the time to mint smaller coins and so there were long bits and short bits and names of all kinds for the money that we handed around, but the standard of the dollar was slightly less than one ounce of sliver for centuries. Until it wasn’t.

If you think it is energy that fuels the replicators and not matter, your lack of scientific knowledge marks you as a product of the public education system. The replicator is more like a 3D printer than a transporter, the latter being a wholly unscientific shortcut invented for storytelling purposes. A replicator is entirely possible, given sufficient stores of CHON to build the food/drink items from. Energy isn’t what the food is made out of. Energy rearranges the molecules to make food out of raw elements.

On the subject of where you get the CHON, think about this fact; the individual atoms that make up your body, as we understand transporter technology theoretically today, are not transported to wherever you end up when you use the transporter. Somehow the essence of you is captured and then coalesced out of the elements where the transporter beam is pointed.

Technically, you need a rematerializer on the other end of the trip, something to do the reassembly of the essence of you. But that requirement glitches the storytelling device, so they don’t bother with it on any of the shows that utilize transporter technology. But the underlying fact remains that the CHON your body is made up of stays on the ship and is probably added to the stores used to create consumables with the replicator.

To put it bluntly, that ham sandwich you ordered has a piece of the captain’s butt in it. I wouldn’t think to hard about that. Whether this disturbs your stomach or not, the replicators still end up assembling the food and drinks (not to mention clothing and other consumables) from raw materials kept in storage banks, not created out of raw energy.

Most of the technobabble in speculative fiction is dismissible on its face, no matter which series or movie you are referencing when discussing it. Internal consistency is the only measure of storytelling that applies to that kind of dialog.

This is something that original Star Trek failed at several times. I give them more leeway because they were the first. Once they had smoothed out the tech involved in the universe it became obvious that replicators would be based on the same (essentially magical) technology as transporters. Why not? If the tech can reassemble you somewhere else, it can certainly manage to whip up a decent ham sandwich. You still need raw materials to work with.

I get into these kinds of arguments frequently and not just when talking about the fantasy universe of Star Trek. Science and skeptical geeks want to know what Iron Man uses for fuel for his jets, for instance.

Iron Man doesn’t have fuel, he has repulsors that are energy driven. Repulsors are essentially a reactionless drive, a fantasy device that explains away the need for fuel. This goes way back in the comic books, it’s not like this is some big mystery. But it does fly in the face of science, like nearly every power that Marvel’s mutants have. That ain’t the way reality works; but if you are going to try and enjoy the show, you have to just try and go with the narrative.

The thing that bugs me these days is this: when someone dies in Star Trek, like some redshirt on a planet, why do they leave him dead when the pattern he beamed down with is still stored in the ship’s computers somewhere? Why not reconstitute the guy and just explain to him the dangers of beaming down while wearing a red shirt? Wasn’t Scotty’s experience in Wolf in the Fold lesson enough? You can be the best engineer in Star Fleet, but if you beam down wearing a red shirt, you’ll be luck to escape with your life.

Why is that unlucky redshirt suddenly dead because that version of him died on the planet? What was so special about that particular grouping of atoms, an identical grouping to the one in the transporter buffer that can be reconstituted anywhere? The economics bothers you? You clearly lack imagination.


I have yet to read Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek recommended to me by David Buth in that long forgotten thread on that long gone Facebook group. He also linked these two Wikipedia pages: Post scarcity economy, Post growth. I got what he was driving at at the time, I simply disagreed with the direction he insisted we all had to head in. Disagreeing civilly is something I struggle to do at times. This article is made up of the bits I left out of a previous article:

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.

%d bloggers like this: