Lysella: So Wait. If nobody has to have a job then why do you guys all work?
Cmdr. Kelly Grayson: The right work can be satisfying for other reasons besides compensation. It’s funny. With all the technology and all the different alien cultures this is still the part that newcomers always have the hardest time adapting to.
Lysella: I mean it is all just so basic. You have a job, you survive. You don’t, you starve.
Cmdr. Kelly Grayson: It used to be that way on Earth, too. Until the invention of the matter synthesizer. It was the single most transformative moment in our history. When all your material needs are provided for at no cost it changes the entire game.
Lysella: So then why don’t you guys just lay around all that day and do nothing?
Cmdr. Kelly Grayson: Well, it’s sort of frowned upon socially, but more important than that, it’s no fun. See on your planet, currency is money. In the Union, it’s reputation, so if you do something, anything that benefits society, you’re rich. And that can be anything from being a great scientist or a great doctor, a great chef, or a great waiter. It’s all value.
Lysella: That’s amazing.
Cmdr. Kelly Grayson: Or maybe you want to study a field of research; learn all you can about history, physics, literature, or art, just for your own pleasure. That’s a respected life, too. The only life that is considered poor is the one that’s wasted on apathy.
- From “Future Unknown” (2022), Season 3, episode 10 of The Orville: New Horizons
In “Future’s End” (1996) after the crew of Voyager finds themselves stuck back in time in the 1990s, Tom Paris asks his new local friend, Rain Robinson, why she became an astronomer. “My brother had a telescope,” she says, “a little refractor. You could barely see in the tree house next door actually, but it was enough. It was enough to see the rings of Saturn. I remember. I remember I used to think they looked like jewels from a pirate’s treasure. All I ever wanted since then was to reach up and touch them.” Rain Robinson worked for SETI at Griffith Observatory and is the first one to detect Voyager in orbit. She sends a standard greeting message intended for extraterrestrial life, but at that point does not expect how she will be caught up in the adventure with Tom Paris and Tuvok (and later, The Doctor) as they attempt to contend with Henry Starling. It is a two-part Star Trek: Voyager episode worth watching as it may help one to think differently about the computer revolution of the 20th century.
It is interesting to a see post-scarcity citizen, Tom Paris, interacting with a Rain Robinson, who is still firmly entrenched in capitalist survivalism. Yes, I do realize that to use an astronomer to make this point would appear to be biased towards those who are already privileged. However, is not that not the point? In a post-scarcity, post-capitalist world everyone would be free to explore the career of their choice, be it an astronomer like Rain Robinson, or as Cmdr. Kelly Grayson discusses from “Future Unknown” (2022) stated above, one could do anything at all as long as they are contributing to society. I have long argued that without a currency economy people would still work because they would want to give back and contribute to a society that saw that all their needs were taken care of. Popular, oppressive, opinion would have the public at large believe that without currency no one would work. I do not believe that would be the case.
Consider the ethical leadership of T’Pol in Star Trek: Enterprise. When Captain Archer plans to steal a warp coil and strand another ship, the Illyrians, from getting home in “Damage” (2004), T’Pol breaks through her Vulcan emotional blocks that have been trodden down by her addition to trellium d, and states, “I can’t justify this course of action.” Archer replies, “We don’t have a choice” to which T’Pol aggressively slams and breaks a PADD on his desk and proclaims, “I won’t let you do it!” Here we can see even with T’Pol’s weakened state enduring withdrawal and addiction, she remains a steadfast ethical leader. Did a currency economy train her to maintain such a formidable ethical framework from which she drew out her grounded stance on right and wrong? No.
Without currency people will still know the difference between right and wrong. I go into how vital a greatly reformed education system is required for societal growth in my other two websites, Space Ethics and First Contact Ethics as well as at Towards Post-Violence Societies, and if you are so moved, you may read and understand my position that a reformed education system can offer unlimited potential for societal growth. As Kelly Grayson puts it, capitalism become irrelevant in The Orville universe after matter synthesis only because society was ready to share the technology for the benefit of all. They did not attempt to exploit the technology for financial gain. That is what led to a utopia in which everyone could follow their dreams and contribute to society in whatever manner they wished. What matters is that it is demonstrated, we see, that people still wanted to contribute to society.
We all learn these lessons as children. I do believe it is not just Western thinking in which children and youth are able to view the world in terms of an ethical framework under which they understand their place in the world as one in which they are mandated to respect others’s place and value in the world. My primary theory is that what happens is that the trauma of growing up in a hyper-aggressive capitalist world diminishes that understanding in our young people to such an extent that by adulthood the memories and ontological placement on oneself within that understanding evaporates. So few of us have hope and grace that survives within capitalism.
I do write about Captain Archer’s atypical behavior in another post on this site, “Narrative Obtrusion and Difference in the Deep Space Nine episode ‘In the Pale Moonlight’ and Enterprise’s ‘Damage’.” Yes, we do see an instance where post-scarcity citizens are behaving unethically, but even then it is measured. Though Archer steals the warp coil, they leave behind supplies, food, and plan to have a ship meet them for assistance once their current mission at hand – to save Earth – has been addressed. Though it is not discussed again we can safely assume that an assisting ship was sent to help the Illyrians. However, that is not the point I want to focus on. What we see in the episode is T’Pol signature ethical impulses that signifies everything that Starfleet itself signifies and will come to represent after the establishment of the Federation. What is perhaps a masterwork in the Star Trek universe is that there can still be an organizing, governing body that is ethical and motivated by good intentions. I am aware of the common criticism that compares the Federation with colonial infrastructure and I am not rejecting that criticism, as it does prove to be true on number of occasions as I have pointed out on this website, such as in my post, “Eddington is Right When He States that Utopia Requires Assimilation.”
There are valid arguments to be made that any governing body over a utopia is just as susceptible to a colonial persuasion as a capitalist society. That is what is lovely about debate. This is a universal discussion that we can have now being viewers of this utopian society and that in a rather meta analysis, we see those very citizens of that utopian society having among themselves as well. It is not just Eddington. In the Enterprise episode, “Demons” (2005), Gannet, an old friend of Travis Mayweather, told him that he should not join Starfleet because it represented the “last vestige of colonial impulse” demonstrating that they were thinking in those terms early in the canonical universe of space exploration and the living in a utopia. What is most interesting is that even though Gannet had this cautionary opinion, she still joined Starfleet Intelligence operations. Someone expressing those ideas was still able to contribute to the very body that represented what she was hesitant about. Is that not an ethical societal framework?
Why could we not establish a post-currency, reputation-based economy now, before our own ability to discover the scientific advancements of the Star Trek universe or The Orville universe? What they both made clear throughout both series is that society must be ready for advancement first before advancement comes. As the title of this post claims, without capitalism Rain Robinson would still be just as valued an astronomer as she is in a capitalist society. I would even go further that without capitalism society could heal from the trauma that a currency-mandated economy has imposed on the population. And there is trauma. This history of this trauma is beyond the scope of this post, but it is a reality of our world. It will take generations for collective society to overcome this trauma. It will take generations for a holistic, reformed education system to lead citizens towards a new world that would endow the opportunity that advancements could bring; be it space exploration or just exploration of our own humanity. It is all value.