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Star Trek Support for Clinton Fittingly Reactionary October 7, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Science Fiction, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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About a week ago, numerous Star Trek notable released a statement opposing Donald Trump and encouraging Trekkers to vote for Hillary Clinton. The statement concludes with an appeal to “civil duty” and “our democracy.”

It’s utterly appropriate for Star Trek to take a stand for the neoliberal status quo. Despite the reputation, Star Trek falls far short as a utopian future vision for the following reason: formal hierarchy, bizarre preference for baseline biology, and Rule-of-Cool incoherence.

Hierarchy: Although they seem to have close to a post-scarcity economy, folks in the Federation make military-style hierarchy (Starfleet) their highest ideal. This entails all the bullshit you’d expect. Poor redshirts die in droves for the glory of Starfleet and their character-shielded superiors. Officers struggle for power and pursue romantic/sexual relationships along traditional heteronormative lines. Etc.

Baseline Preference: The Federation generally prohibits augmentation of biological beings and carefully controls the creation artificial intelligences. Star Trek presents the drive for genetic improvement as essentially fascist (Khan) and cyborg enhancement as essentially state communist (the Borg). Thus people still die of old age in the Federation. This all stands out as antithetical to liberty.

Incoherence: Like most fictional universes, Star Trek makes precious little sense when you take a moment to think about it. As perhaps the most glaring example, punches, kicks, and blades take a extensive screen time in setting that powerful energy weapons and guns that shoot through walls. There’s no plausible explanation for any of this. At least the Dune universe has contrived force fields to make knife fights sort of reasonable. At least in the Hyperion Cantos has an in-universe logic for plot armor and time-warping tech that facilitates the apparently obligatory hand-to-hand combat. In Trek, it just happens because it’s awesome. While the Trek Against Trump statement trumpets science, logic, and rationality, the classic technobabble solution employed across the franchise makes a mockery of these things. Genre conventions almost always trump coherence in Star Trek shows and movies. A Star Trek that seriously explored the implications of demonstrated technologies would diverge wildly from what we’ve got now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d happily exchange my lot here on 21st-century Earth for a place in the Federation. (Please give me generous holodeck privileges!) But there too I’d rail against hierarchy and unfreedom. Given what Star Trek represents, it’s no surprise Star Trek wants you to vote for Clinton.

We can do much better, both in politics and in science fiction.

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