I’ll never forget one winter evening in the early 90s when Star Trek: The Next Generation used to be in reruns on TV. I had just gotten home from a college class and I’d settled into watching some TV before going to bed. It must have been slightly after nine and my snack of choice was a big bag of chips. About a month before, my parents also had purchased a new 27-inch Sony TV. For the time, when the standard was twenty-five inches for a tube TV, we were at the cusp of technology.
Anyway, about halfway through an episode, there was a scene where Picard, the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, had requested “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” from his quarters’ replicator. Think of the replicator as a very quick 3D printer. In the scene, he then takes his tea and sits behind his desk reading on a tablet.
I remember thinking, “It would be amazing to have one of those tablets to read from.”
Here we are now, almost thirty years later: 60-inch widescreen TVs are standard, tablets are the norm for reading, and 3D printers have gained in popularity, soon ready for purchase at reasonable consumer prices.
Is this Star Trek? We’re getting there.
Besides future technology in the present, Star Trek had also introduced aliens of various sorts and how the United Federation of Planets expressed tolerance by not interfering with alien domestic matters. Two things I’ve learned I soon would not want to forget because of the TV show’s influence: 1) humanity has yet to encounter an alien, although scientists did find sea plankton on the outer surface of the International Space Station, and 2) humanity is anything but tolerant when it comes to anything it doesn’t understand.
At this point, the first North American colonists come to mind, but that’s another story.Thinking about aliens, and if they do exist, I’d assume they’d have a higher intelligence than humanity. For instance, they’d have to know quantum physics in order to travel the vastness of space to reach the little corner of our galaxy. They’d also have to have a certain set of governance laws that would dictate their actions toward us, much like Star Trek’s Prime Directive, which is a simple hands-off rule.
In all practicality, though, let’s think about this for a second. If there are aliens out there, much as described in the Star Trek shows, what’s to say they haven’t already arrived having taken a hands-off approach to our civilization? It would make sense—if, in fact, they are more intelligent than any one of us. They would qualify as true observers of the human condition.
In addition, let’s say they are observing us. Who’s to say they haven’t discovered that in the midst of humanity’s short history lay civilizations burnt to the ground all in the name of progress? Moreover, let’s say they’ve learned that progress also goes by another name, that name being war, and being of higher intelligence than any one of us combined, what if they’ve decided to reside in the shadows to see where we go with our progress?
With humanity’s destruction of the planet’s resources, environmental pollution and wars, of course, can anyone blame them for hiding?
Perhaps we’re not as close to real advancement as we think—at least not according to Star Trek’s mythology.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
Have you watched any of the Star Trek episodes? What do you find appealing about the show.