Trekonomics by Manu Saadia

Disappointing. Starts out strong, with several good chapters covering how the replicator enables Star Trek’s cashless society, and what could motivate competition and work in such a society.

Starting with the middle of the book, though, the author indulges in multiple digressions, ranging from a chapter covering how Isaac Asimov’s work influenced Star Trek (true, but way off-topic) to one listing all the ways the Ferengi represent 20th-century humanity (also true, but obvious). 

Ends with a chapter claiming that interstellar travel is an economic dead-end, a fantasy, and the only way to get there will be to enable a Star Trek-like society beforehand. Not exactly a perspective to inspire exploration and discovery.

Still, I did learn a few things:

  • Currency-less society wasn’t part of original Star Trek; the idea was introduced in Star Trek IV, and fleshed out in Star Trek: The Next Generation (and later series, like Deep Space 9)
  • President Reagan opened up GPS to the public because the Soviets shot down a Korean airliner in 1983
  • In the US, from 1970 to 2012, GDP per capita doubled, while energy use dropped from 2,700 gallons of gasoline (equivalent) to 2,500