Audiences have been introduced to works of science fiction that take place in a future where hunger, disease, crime, poverty, and states have disappeared on Earth, while humans explore the galaxy and routinely encounter alien species. These fictional future humans have very high ethical standards, and try with all their might to not intervene with other civilizations in ways that are disruptive to their own development.
Perhaps the most well-known is Star Trek, which first aired in 1966. Curiously, a similar work was published in 1962 as a Soviet novel titled Noon: 22nd Century, written by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
Trekonomics author Manu Saadia explains one can find a first sketch of most of Star Trek’s themes not only in Noon: 22nd Century but also in the Strugatskys’ subsequent books as well. It is unlikely Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had heard about them. They were not translated until several years after the finale of Star Trek The Original Series. Saadia notes: “In a way it is even more intriguing to think that Roddenberry could create the Star Trek universe, along very similar lines, without even knowing of his Russian counterparts’ existence. Same broad conclusions, from the opposite side of the Iron Curtain.”
Both space utopias had similar economic processes behind them. Humans have overcome scarcity and no longer have to worry about providing for themselves. Our needs and desires are all taken care of by technology. Most notably, this future economy does not require currency or market mechanisms to produce and exchange goods. Monitoring and communication through a process of continuous feedback direct the flow of supply and demand harmoniously. This is similar to what economist David Laibman calls an economic system of multilevel iterative planning. This paper argues this is also an example of Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.
After further analysis, it is not surprising that Roddenberry and the brothers Strugatsky simultaneously came up with such a similar vision of future Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism. “Multiple Discovery” or “Simultaneous Discovery” is a common and vastly documented phenomena. Famous examples include the simultaneous development of calculus by Newton and Leibniz, and the simultaneous invention of the telephone by Meucci and Graham Bell. The list of strangers independently and almost simultaneously developing grand ideas or inventions is quite extensive.
While many conceive history as a succession of geniuses with world-changing contributions, history may be more aptly described as a succession of Multiple Discoveries or Simultaneous Invention. Most discoveries or inventions are simply the product of piecing together previous discoveries and inventions. If the necessary pieces of the puzzle aren’t there yet, the discovery cannot take place. As soon as all the pieces are available, the global race is on to see who are the first to piece them together. In many occasions it is actually much more than two people. The First Law of Thermodynamics was roughly developed by five different people during the late 1800s.
The idea that something cannot take place until the necessary material conditions are present resonates with Marxist theory. Thus, the simultaneous conceptualization of a high-tech interstellar post-capitalist utopia is understandable. By the 1960s, technological development was advancing at unprecedented speed, and many were convinced the crisis-generating and dehumanizing contradictions of the capitalist mode of production were intrinsic features of capitalism. In contrast, many science fiction writers envisioned technological development would lead us to a robot-ruled apocalyptic future.
Labor-saving technological development can lead to profoundly different outcomes depending on how the benefits of these developments are distributed. If only robot-owners or anti-human sentient robots benefit from this technological development, we may encounter a new form of barbarism. If this technology is utilized in a communitarian fashion, we may encounter a Trek-like space utopia. Science fiction’s technological paradox resonates with the crossroads Rosa Luxemburg warned we have encountered. To paraphrase, either we transition to Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism or we regress into [techno]barbarism.