Last month, I reached out to my Facebook friends, asking for ideas for posts. It could be a topic they’d like me to discuss, or a question they might have for me. A few of my friends took me up on my challenge, and now, I’d like to weigh in on their questions.
Question from Marie M.: Will our future match up with Star Trek? Although, we already missed the Eugenics War, there could be a huge nuclear war in 2033.
Interesting thought! I love writing about topics that make me do in-depth research, and I’ve found a few things along the way that have made this question really enjoyable for me to consider. Let me answer your question with a question: When considering the current global political and social climate, would you consider yourself more optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Even if you don’t pay a whole lot of attention to politics, everyone has an opinion about it. But, if you’re asking me, my answer would be: No. It would be wicked cool, but no — although I can easily imagine a world transformed by a nuclear war. However, that nuclear war would have to cause a lot of social and political reform. Let me explain…
In my Googling for thoughts and evidence to support my position, I ran across an article on (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) Fox News that made perfect sense to me in this case. It discusses Bruce Willis’s new film, Looper, and what it tells us about the future. In it, the author, James Pinkerton, compares two possibilities for the future of America: the one of Star Trek and the one of Blade Runner. While we could look at the timeline of the franchise, starting with Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) since it is set closest to our own time, beginning in 2151, and find comparisons or probabilities for the future, to really answer the original question, we have to consider the existence of the franchise, period.
Created by Gene Roddenberry in 1964 and airing from 1966-1969, Star Trek came on the heels of JFK’s challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. All that was space-y was in en vogue… just look at the fashions, home decor, and concept cars. It only makes sense that TV networks would want in on the action, too. (Lost in Space and The Jetsons, anyone?) The 1960s was obviously harbored plenty of optimism and general “Team America” spirit. The space program enjoyed a great deal of support, which was fueled by a race against the Ruskies to reach the moon amid Cold War fears. Roddenberry, as Pinkerton points out, constructed a not-so-distant future where “the world would be safe and prosperous,” and Earth would join with other worlds in the United Federation of Planets. Several people who prefer more of an isolationist-style of foreign policy would liken this to a large scale, futuristic United Nations, and there’s the first point where all hopes of having a Star Trek future are dashed. Since William Shatner first uttered those immortal opening lines at the beginning of the original series, the world has witnessed several wars and acts of terrorism, leading one to believe, as Pinkerton states, that Earth just isn’t ready to lead a federation like that. Also, while we have recently seen excitement over space exploration with the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover earlier this summer, NASA will be faced with huge budgetary cuts through the next several years.
The other reason why our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren won’t be marrying Vulcans or Klingons in the future is that the United States, as a whole, isn’t that great at math and science. According to the National Science and Math Initiative, “U.S. students recently finished 25th in math and 17th in science in the ranking of 31 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.” Issues of funding plague all levels of education, from elementary schools all the way through colleges and universities. American students have a hard time competing globally when text books are outdated and materials and equipment are either scarce or in serious need of upgrades. Young girls and women need more encouragement to explore the sciences; when more people are able to contribute to innovations in the STEM fields, I believe we’ll see our global rankings go up. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced the “creation of a new, national STEM Master Teacher Corps comprised of some of the nation’s finest educators in STEM subjects.” The growing career fields that will spur American innovation in the future will require the knowledge and skills gained from studying the sciences. Heralding this commitment to STEM education, President Obama said “If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.” If, someday, we can crack the top ten in those rankings, we may have a shot at making Star Trek a reality.
So there’s my argument. While it might be really cool to explore the galaxies on a ship three times the length (height?) of the Eiffel Tower, I just don’t know that it will happen. I don’t entirely agree with his underlying sentiment, but Pinkerton thoroughly sums it up at the end of his article:
And yet at a time when politics seems like a downer and the popular culture seems even more down-bound, it will take more than hope to change the future to a better course for America and for humanity. Each and every optimist will have to stand up and do something positive and constructive toward that better course. To borrow a phrase from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” we will all have to do our part to “make it so.”
While doing my research, I came across a few entertaining bits, including an analysis of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad as the Ego, Super Ego, and Id. Having minored in psychology in college and being particularly fond of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories, I thought it was great. (I always felt that Kirk was more of the Id, considering he romanced a life form on almost every planet.) However, while studying the highly detailed timeline that intertwines each series, down to the episode, I came across a species with which I was unfamiliar. Admittedly, I’ve only watched The Original Series because I’m a huge fan of William Shatner and I love the 60s kitsch of it all, so I’m not familiar with other crews. The species I encountered was the Cardassians, and, you guessed it… my mind went immediately to “Kardashian.” Therefore, I will from now on imagine this is what the Kardashians must look like without their makeup:
But reading about this extra-terrestrial species, there are some similarities. Compared to many other humanoid Star Trek races, Cardassians prefer warmer and darker climates. I like to assume the Kardashian equivalent is being in “da club,” as it were. Cardassians tend to be predatory in nature, like wolves always seeking a dominant position in social gatherings. In normal courting behavior, Cardassian couples routinely act bitter and snap at each other. (Five minutes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians will back this up.) I’ll never be able to listen to that show for background noise the same way ever again.
How’s my argument of why our descendants will probably never get to wear cadet uniforms? Agree? Disagree? I want to hear your thoughts! If you have a topic you’d like for me to discuss, or even have a question you’d like to ask, leave it in the comment section.