The Star Trek Future

Fred Wilson, on the limits of capitalism:

When we stare into the future, we see that our cars will not have drivers. We see that the stuff we buy from Amazon will be delivered by drones. We see that the foundations and structures of our homes will be built by 3D printed concrete. We see a world where many jobs will not exist anymore. Taken out by technology. The very technology that many of us here at AVC are working hard to create and that many of us here at AVC celebrate.

[…] People need to work. They need to have something to feel good about doing every day. Work is a big part of self image and self worth. Any system that makes it possible for people to sit at home eating bon bons (as the Gotham Gal likes to say) is not a good system.

I like this line of thinking. I would reframe Fred’s thinking as “people need to challenge and improve themselves” rather “people need to work”, though that may just be pedantry.

mentioned after reading Fred’s thoughts that these resemble what I’ve in private often called the Star Trek Future. This is not an outlandish concept; it is simply the world Gene Roddenberry created in the Star Trek series. A world where money is no longer necessary and people are generally free and able to do what they want, so long as they do not harm others.

That “able to do” piece is key. In this world, this Star Trek Future, the pursuit of self-improvement is the goal. There is no war, no famine, no poverty, no sickness. Those problems have been solved.

And that is the difference between our world today and the Star Trek Future: even in the many countries where freedom to pursue happiness is already a citizen’s right, many of those very citizens are not realistically able to pursue happiness due to war, famine, poverty, oppression, and sickness. Often for interrelated reasons.

So can we get there, to the Star Trek Future? I believe yes we can. And I also believe we will. I believe it is inevitable.

I believe those things because we’re already seeing so many of these problems starting to be solved. For example how massive availability of mobile phones has allowed many in poverty to easily charge for goods and services when they don’t even have a conventional home.

And that’s before we get to greener technologies that are only just beginning to make an impact. For example: the unbundling of healthcare, on which Dustin Curtis recently shared some thoughts about what he wants to exist:

I want a system that continuously scans my body and tells me if I have actionable disease, like cancer or a contagious flu. I want this device to tell me if I have a higher than normal risk of a heart attack, and, if so, which steps I should take to prevent one.

[…] I want doctors to be way less involved with practical medicine, and for computers to diagnose and treat disease; we know so little about the human body, and innovation in medicine moves so slowly, that tens of thousands of people die every day from things that could be completely and easily prevented with technology. I want the human body to be treated medically as a machine, by machines.

There’s no doubt about it: healthcare is being unbundled, just like newspapers were. It’s not that the Internet replaced newspapers so much as specific Internet services replaced sections of newspapers, like Craigslist vs. classifieds.

Wearable activity trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone have unbundled the need for paper diaries to share with your doctor. Newer wearables are now also starting to measure pulse, glucometry, and biometrics. It won’t be long before we’ll have one device that can track all our body’s vitals and activity, before we are able to treat our body like a machine. Thinking of our bodies as machines processing input and output that require maintenance may be uncomfortable but only until we realize that is just a starting place. That doesn’t mean we need to think of ourselves as machines; we are more than our bodies.

I want the Star Trek Future to become our reality. I believe it will happen eventually and therefore I believe working on things that will expedite that reality is the best use of our time. And I am now working every day of my life to push us towards that goal in the best ways I know and am capable of. If you’re doing similarly say hi, let’s talk.

Originally published on my blog, Noble Pioneer.