Social and Technological Innovation

by George Hatjoullis

I was never a big fan of the Star Trek series until Star Trek: Deep Space 9. This series introduced so many social and philosophical issues that I began to ask myself who were the writers. The context is a space station set near a wormhole created artificially by some species that exists outside of time and space (as humans understand it). The ‘wormhole aliens’ are portrayed as ‘good’ and have imprisoned ‘bad’ members of their species in some caves on a nearby planet called Bajor. They appear to have tried to communicate with the humanoid inhabitants of the planet through visions generated by orbs that act as windows into their dimension. To the Bajorans these orbs are gifts from Gods or ‘prophets’ and the visions constitute prophecies (though in prophet space they are now). It is just the basics of most human religion with Gods, devils, heaven and hell, good and evil. It does however make use of the idea that the concepts of linear time and linear space are human constructions.

The ‘good guys’ are the Federation. Armed with infinite energy and replicator technology the Federation has eliminated material want and has a computer that knows everything about anything known and is constantly learning. Within the Federation humans and other humanoids live the lives that they find fulfilling. There is no need for theft or conflict because there is no purpose to it. Of course there are rules for this society but any species that can honour these rules is admitted to membership and can share the technology. Not all species join but peaceful alliances are formed. Despite the existence of this wonderful want-eliminating technology other species pursue their somewhat redundant cultures. The Ferengi pursue wealth. It is their way of keeping score (which reminds me of some traders with which I once worked). The Orion Syndicate, a kind of intergalactic mafia, exists. The attitude of the Ferengi and the Orion syndicate to female humanoids suggests that a sexual power trip is involved in the continued activities of these two groups. The message is that the psychodynamic psychology of humans is such that ‘bad’ behaviour is not simply about material need. There is a ‘need’ for power over other humans.

The most devastating species is the Founders. This introduces a paranoid species of metamorphs. They have created genetically engineered series of sub-species to fight their wars and basically seek to enslave all non-metamorph species. It is an extreme form of racism born of paranoia. Their paranoia becomes infectious and contaminates paradise (i.e. the Federation) in the wars that ensue. The allusion to human paranoia is not particularly subtle. Infectious paranoia is clearly implicated in human conflict and goes beyond material want. The philosophy of this series is that even if the technology is available to solve all material needs and all humans can live lives that they find fulfilling, conflict, crime, and greed will still be with us. They are somehow hard wired into the collective human psyche.

Infinite energy and superfluous productivity is becoming a reality. Technological innovation has advanced enormously. Social innovation has not. In social terms humanity is stuck in a single point in time and space. Humanity is no different today than it was at the start of what we like to call history. The collective human psyche is stuck. Paranoia, greed, and a lust for power are everywhere evident in human society. Moreover, they are unrelated to material wealth achieved. It is time for human society to address its social psychology because no amount of technological innovation will free it from the grasp of its own paranoia and the lust for power over other humans. Curiously, this message has spawned many religions and philosophies over time (e.g. Christianity and Buddhism ) but has been subverted. There is no reason to believe that a new ‘religion’ would not again be subverted. It is time for human society to stop looking out to the stars and look inward in to the deep recesses of the collective unconscious. It is the objects constructed in there that will destroy us and not anything from off the planet.