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Publisher's Summary

What would the world look like if everybody had everything they wanted or needed? Trekonomics, the premier book in financial journalist Felix Salmon's imprint PiperText, approaches scarcity economics by coming at it backward - through thinking about a universe where scarcity does not exist. Delving deep into the details and intricacies of 24th-century society, Trekonomics explores postscarcity and whether we, as humans, are equipped for it. What are the prospects of automation and artificial intelligence? Is there really no money in Star Trek? Is Trekonomics at all possible?

©2016 Manu Saadia (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Manu Saadia has managed to show us one more reason, perhaps the most compelling one of all, why we all need the world of Star Trek to one day become the world we live in." (Chris Black, writer and coexecutive producer, Star Trek: Enterprise)

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An idea of the future you want

You don't have to know star trek. Or even like it to appreciate the depth of philosophy this book converses. The world we live in is not sustainable the ideas this book explores are already happening in it's infancy.

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  • Lost In The Wash
  • 19-09-2016

An Amusing & Practical Analysis of Fictional Ideas

What does Oliver Wyman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Oliver Wyman reads this dissertation as if it was his own. Breathing life into non-fictional works can be challenging, even with help from the author’s writing style and/or subject matter. Oliver makes listening to rather bizarre and abstract ideas of Star Trek and economic theory (at least to those uninitiated) enjoyable. Well done.

Any additional comments?

I‘m mainly writing this review in reaction to a peculiar bevy of negative assessments on Amazon and Audible. Much of this book is presented with a literary “wink” from the author. I mean, it’s a deconstruction of a fictional economy from a beloved science fiction franchise, that culminates in addressing whether such an imaginary system of wealth could be realized in reality. On those merits, it delightfully excels. If you enjoy Star Trek, there are a variety of things in this book for you.

30 people found this helpful

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  • Elisabeth Carey
  • 14-07-2017

A lively discussion of the economics of Trek

We don't ordinarily think much about the economics of Star Trek when watching an episode or a movie, but when we step back from the stories themselves, it's a pretty interesting question. How does the Federation's economy work? Although there are references to a currency called simply "credits" scattered through The Original Series, that's later retconned to "just a figure of speech." As explicitly stated in Next Generation and Deep Space 9, the Federation operates without money.

How does that work? Can it work?

Saadia says yes, it can work.

The Federation is a post-scarcity environment. They have more than enough food, shelter, clothing, and what in our time are "luxury goods" to go around, and no need to manage their distribution by means of money. This is true in the time of TOS, but even more true by the time of Next Generation, with its replicators able to produce as many of anything at all as may be wanted, as long as the raw matter exists.

There's no need for anyone to be short of anything, whether they work or not.

Yet everywhere we look in the Federation, we see people working hard at a variety of professions and occupations. Mainly, of course, we see Starfleet officers and crew, but also diplomats, scientists, scholars, and artists. We also see dilithium miners, entertainers, and Picard's family of vintners. There are lawyers and craftspeople and the pleasure workers of the pleasure planet of Risa. Sisko's family runs a famous, popular restaurant in New Orleans.

Why are all these people working, when they don't need to?

Not for money, but for reputation, for status, because they enjoy it, and to make life better. Freed of the necessity to struggle for the basics of survival, humans, as well as other intelligent, social species in the Federation, compete for status and the approval of their peers.

Saadia also looks at the problems. Other cultures don't necessarily adopt the same money-free socio-economic system. The Klingons do use money but clearly place a higher value on honor and reputation; this may be why an alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire was eventually possible. We don't really know what the Romulans do.

The Ferengi are full-on rapacious capitalists of the most extreme kind.

There are also still luxury goods, though of a different kind--experiential goods, like Risa, or the Sisko restaurant in New Orleans, or Picard wines. Any replicator can provide wine; only the Picard vinyards can produce, say, the 2340 vintage of Picard wines, and only so many bottles of that. Next year's vintage will be different, in ways that can't be fully predicted in advance. Only so many people can be seated and served in the Sisko restaurant on any particular evening. A less obvious point: Only so many people can work at Sisko's for the experience of making and serving fine food.

In Saadia's discussion of all this, he shows a breadth and depth of knowledge of both economics and science fiction. I was impressed that in discussion the antecedents of Star Trek's post-scarcity economy and the replicator, he mentions not only more well-known writers and works, but also George O. Smith's "matter duplicator" from the Venus Equilateral stories. A discussion of Mr. Data and the uneasy status of artificial intelligence in the Federation includes not just Asimov's sunny early view of robots and the rise of automation, but his later, darkening views on the subject, that robots and artificial intelligence could make humans too safe and comfortable, leading to the stories that eliminate robots from the future of his future history.

The Federation is a near-utopia, and Saadia makes a reasonable case that we can get there--even without the replicator--and indeed that we are already on our way. He also notes, though, that the transition from one type of economy to another is never easy; it is generally brutally hard on a large proportion of the population. We are already producing more and more goods and services with fewer and fewer people. There is less work for people to do--and so, in the midst of plenty, in the richest society on Earth, we have people unable to afford even the basics, because there is simply not enough work available for them to earn those basics.

This is a lively and fascinating discussion, touching on things I've worried about myself, as well as the considerable potential upside if we make this transition successfully.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-08-2016

Should be Mandatory reading for everyone.

It is rare that I make it a point to spread the word of a book.
In this case, it should be necessary for anyone wanting to be a politician to read this, for if we don't make changes, our current economy will be our downfall. And this book shows us how to avoid it. I cannot recommend this book enough.

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  • Brandon
  • 02-09-2016

Shallow on examining trek universe economics

Interesting as a trek fan, but little deep dive into its economic. More of a social commentary and history of star trek than a conjecture of how the universe would function post scarcity.

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  • Planetary Defense Commander
  • 29-09-2017

Shallow discussion of random topics

I would love to read an in-depth discussion of the effects advanced technologies (such as Star Trek's replicators) would have on an economy and a society. Trekonomics isn't that. The first couple of chapters take a stab at it, but if you spent five or ten minutes thinking about the topic on your own, you'd probably end up with something more detailed.

The rest of the chapters seem to pick random topics from economic theory, or random episodes of Star Trek, and discuss them at a similarly shallow level.

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  • R. MCRACKAN
  • 18-05-2018

I really wanted to like this

The concept is fascinating, the narration is great, and the result is entirely underwhelming. There are moments of greatness but they are few and far between. The concept is sound. There must be a right way to ponder the economics of Star Trek in depth. I'm not sure in what way that would be exactly, but this isn't it.

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  • Rob H
  • 06-11-2017

Thought Provoking, but needs less politics

This has been, overall, a fun book to read/listen to. The discussions and possibilities derived from the Star Trek universe are hopeful and potential; fun to imagine and a goal to strive for. These are the good aspects of the book, and the ones I will take away from it.

Other than Chapter 5, where the author goes into a socialist triade, the book was enjoyable and gives good food for thought, as it explores our possible future through the viewfinder of the Star Trek universe. Of particular interest, is the notion of how the economy changes with the allegoric invention and free access of replicators and a post-scarcity economy, and the assumptive exploration of how most humans were freed from work by robots prior to this. It will be interesting to see how our own economy changes in the near future as additive printing (3D printing) improves and become commonplace in homes.

The author spends a good deal on the automation of work, which frees humans to pursue more creative and scientific endeavors. Many parts of the book go into detail on how and why this would happen, and sets it up as a brighter future to look forward to. Unfortunately, he also uses this as a platform for political agenda.

The author is a French Socialist, and much of his discourse comes from this point of view. Particularly in chapter 5, when he wastes too many words on man-made global warming (now proven to be a fallacy), and the thrashing of Libertarian viewpoints in favor of socialistic dogma. Which is interesting in itself, as the Star Trek social and economic underpinnings are more Libertarian than socialist (though probably better described as a not yet formed combination of the two). From this point, his socialist leanings continue to come out in the rest of the book, as the author takes jabs and stabs at various people and ideologies he doesn't agree with, though stops short of actual mockery.

The author notes the complete failure of Paul R. Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb," when describing how past scientists try to predict the future based only on their current understanding of the world (encompassing science, technology and social pressures). However, he then completely dives into the man-made global warming myth, himself failing to realize the same issue surrounding these claims, as existed with past predictions. Inconsistencies, such as this, tend to put the book's entire premise into question, and I found I had to perform editorial surgery and split the book into two logical parts - one for the discussion of Trekonomics and another for his political viewpoints.

This is further reinforced by the author's constant reference to "social democracy" and how we must obtain that in order to achieve utopia. The issue with social democracy is it requires justice to be meted based on mob rule, not whether it's right or wrong. Despite this reference, the author brings up very valid questions on how do we move from the work-based economy we have now to a post-scarcity economy, where work isn't even available for those who need it, or want it. Getting from a capitalistic work economy - where people are rewarded for their hard work - to an economy where goods are universally available to all - regardless of their work input - isn't going to be easy, no matter how desirable it may be.

As thought-provoking this book has been, it's unfortunate the author used it as a platform promoting global redistribution of wealth now. It's almost as if he didn't write the entire book, as parts of it clearly spelled out redistribution could only be sustained, and accepted by society in general, when we reached a post-scarcity economy and the wants and needs of people are no longer an issue of distribution and work by humans is no longer necessary. Between these two points, the author does little to suggest a course of economic or social action which would work, electing, rather, to jump immediately to the socialists' dream of free everything for everyone. Which, as nice as that sounds, isn't very plausible in our current economy.

The author is well read and did a fair amount of research for the book, and his connections to various sci-fi and scientific literature has given me an appreciation for them. Ignoring his political tendencies and focusing on the potential future where humans can focus on creativity and improving themselves and society, we're left at the end of the book with the feeling of, "Now what?" As there is no suggested course of action that will help prepare us for a post-scarcity economy. Which, in my opinion, leaves me less hopeful than when I started the book.

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  • Theresa
  • 20-09-2017

IF you are a serious trekki

Then and only then read on. It also helps if you a intimate with the genre as other science fiction references run throughout the book. I am the former but not the latter thus did not finish the book as it was overload for me.

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  • rosemary
  • 02-08-2017

Trekonomics

Interesting look at the utopia of Star Trek. What is a world where money is unnecessary and there is no need to work. What Star Trek misses is the human condition of pride envy hate and love an the outcome of greed jealousy and mental conditions that bring about the evil that makes mass murder and enslavement possible. Can you really talk these things out of existence. The hope in Star Trek is its selling point.

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  • oliver
  • 02-08-2017

Boring

The book makes the odd good point, but in general it is quite boring and is just the writers opinions of science fiction.

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  • EA1
  • 22-08-2017

Interesting concept but not as good as anticipated

Author spent less time talking about actual episodes of Star Trek where economics are referenced and more time philosophising about society. Would be fine, but became very repetitive.

Narration was okay but some very common Trek character names were mispronounced.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Grant
  • 06-10-2020

great economics take for trekkers

a great hypothesis on how the economics and social structures of the trek universe work. Leading into a discussion about 21st century economics and what we can aim for and what life won't be like in the real world Star Trek.

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  • Manson88
  • 28-04-2020

Oliver Wyman Excellent - Otherwise Terrible

My enjoyment of both economics and of Star Trek has been dampened. Rather than an enjoyable exploration of economic theory in the fictional Universe of Star Trek, the author decides to pursue it through a lens of his own opinions. As a result there is criticism offered of every economic and religious sect that the author does not admire. He treats the alien races of the Star Trek universe with simple prejudices. And frequently opines about episodes that he did not enjoy as though his lack of enjoyment of a particular episode is a reason why people would be looking at "Trekonomics" What looked like an excellent book has turned out to be something very poor. . Oliver Wyman gives an excellent performance however, and for that reason alone the book may be added to the library of any Star Trek fan provided they have an abundance of credits (Audible, not Federation).

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  • ladan jiracek
  • 24-06-2017

great! I recommend it!!

very good!! its very interesting to set what the future of humanity might look like

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