Nonfiction

Technologies of Star Trek: Resistance is Futile

31 March 2015

Star Trek has given birth to a plethora of ingenious ideas pertaining to the world of technology. Living in a time where Back to the Future is now set in our past, we as the human race are sitting here waiting around for the day these technologies become a reality. I mean how are hover boards not a thing yet? It’s a tragedy of unfathomable proportions, much like the hover board itself. But what if the unfathomable became fathomable? Would the human race be ready for such a thing? Would you be ready?  Really think about it, because if you say yes, then you may be opening up a can of wormholes, and there’s no coming back.

Any (Doctor)who, let’s get back to Star Trek. Other than being a fantastic TV show, it was a milestone of science fiction and has remained one, airing in the ‘60s and continuing right through to the 2000s. Within such a long-running show it’s safe to assume that anything that could be hypothesised in relation to the future, has been.  So, let’s unravel some of this space tech and see what happens.

Arguably the most applicable technology of Star Trek is the replicator. A machine that coalesces matter, initially used to synthesise meals on demand on a spacecraft where resources were extremely limited. Essentially, this meant nutrition wasn’t a problem on voyages that could span years. So what a breakthrough it was when these scientists of the 23rd century made such a discovery. They could’ve celebrated with whatever feast their hearts desired.

HOW IT WORKS: According to an academic thesis inexplicably written about a television show, the replicator is able to reconstitute matter by rearranging subatomic particles, which are literally everywhere. For example, to create a nice piece of rump steak, the machine could form atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen etc. and then arrange them into amino acids, proteins and cells. These could then be assembled to form a steak of structural perfection.

WHAT WOULD THIS MEAN? If replication technology existed today, solving world hunger would not be a high priority. Commercialising and distributing the technology would be the first order of business. Our already gluttonous lifestyle would be exacerbated, the food industry would collapse and Macca’s would operate much like a food ATM. Is this the world you want to live in? Luckily we are light-years from any potential prototype.

Okay but maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe it’s my cynicism that’s driving this piece. Maybe there is something salvageable in all the space junk Star Trek showcases.

Which brings us to the medical tricorder, a  device that has numerous applications and could surely not be misused in any way. Used by the physicians on the ship, the tricorder is a small touchpad/scanner designed to collect bodily information about a patient that would then help with diagnosis.

HOW IT WORKS: In accordance with medical research, for a device such as this to work effectively it would need to be able to accurately observe 5 vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation) in order to postulate a diagnosis. This is carried out in a non-invasive way, in that the tricorder operates by scanning a person rather than breaking the skin, like most tests carried out today.

WHAT WOULD THIS MEAN? Imagine the possibilities! Doctors could more efficiently and effectively cure rural and urban patients, which would in turn increase the general health of the world’s population. Wait a minute! If everyone’s healthier then less people will die, which will mean an over-populated earth, which would then cripple our supply of resources and lead to chaos. Then again, would doctors even have jobs if tricorders existed? It can be speculated that a huge boom in self-diagnostic practices would take place, as essentially a tricorder is a portable doctor, but this would only be true if it became a commercial product. Which it will… Don’t believe me? Look up the Scanadu Scout, which is basically what we’re talking about.

There’s that cynicism creeping back again, and I suppose it’s hard to veer from that disposition. Perhaps the future should forever stay in the future, because I don’t know about you, but for me, technology is as scary as it is amazing. If Star Trek has taught me anything, it’s to not mess with things that are beyond human comprehension.

Though perhaps we need to be pushed far beyond that which a human can comprehend to fully understand our place in the universe. Right now, we’re all extremely self-centred and self-important beings with little perspective of how vast the universe that surrounds us is. Before we can be trusted with such powerful technology, we must learn how humbling existence is and to not take advantage of all the fruits we have born.

Perhaps what we need is a warp drive. The fundamental driving force of the Star Trek series, the warp drive allows the various starships to travel to new and distant parts of space. Without the technology, most of the exploration conducted by Starfleet would not have occurred. As the absolute behemoth of all technology seen in Star Trek, the warp drive is as iconic as Spock’s eyebrows. (RIP L. Nimoy)

HOW IT WORKS: The warp drive enables a spacecraft to achieve a type of FTL (Faster than Light) travel, by combining both matter and anti-matter in a chamber to create plasma, which is then sent into warp coils creating a warp bubble that allows a spacecraft to enter ‘subspace’. Once in subspace a ship can reach speeds of great velocity, travelling light-years in mere minutes. NASA have interpreted this into actual real science, leading them to create speculative theories of FTL travel. (Look up the Alcubierre Drive.)

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Travelling far from our home planet can only mean one thing. Growth. We will learn, and expand our tiny human scope to the size of the universe. It will create jobs as we will need crews of trained officers to man the decks as we set forth  into the celestial wilderness. What could be a more exciting prospect? It will mean making new friends and of course new enemies, but above all it will mean adventure! An innate and wondrous human desire!

No matter how many people may disagree with this piece, you cannot argue that Star Trek’s most important message for all those who watch it isn’t this: exploration of any kind is dangerous, whether it be in space or in your neighbour’s backyard, but it is necessary no matter how absurd, so that we may hope to evolve and become a greater people. In this era of technological abundance it is only a matter of time before our race creates the first replicator, or tricorder, or warp drive. But the question you must ask yourself is this – will we be ready?


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