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Star Trek Predicted Economic Collapse

August 8, 2011

I mentioned not so long ago I’ve been rewatching Star Trek Deep Space 9. An earlier episode made me think about mentors in engineering. I recently watched an episode called Past Tense. I’m typically not a fan of time travel in any form and Star Trek time travel episodes are usually my least favorite. However, this one seems particularly prescient right now.

Commander Sisko, Doctor Bashir, and Dax end up in the year 2024. They find themselves unconscious on the streets and are picked up by security forces or what passes for the local police monitoring the area. When they can’t produce an ID they’re taken to a “Sanctuary District”.

They find themselves at a particularly historically interesting time and Sisko knows a series of riots are about to occur that will change the course of history. But in the meantime, there are vast numbers of unemployed people. One person describes their story as moving out to the area and working at a brewery before being laid off. Most are people with families. Due to their vast numbers and inability to provide for themselves they’ve been forced to live in a separate part of town while they wait for a government bureaucracy who tries to find unemployment but doesn’t have the means to do much. The security forces are also grumpy since apparently their funding just got cut recently.

In addition to those looking for work, those who can’t qualify for mental health care are also quarantined in this area. Dax does a little better as a wealthy communications mogul finds her on the street. He gives her access to computers, takes her to a nice party, and other rich people complain about how European countries are going downhill and how it’s good the same thing won’t happen in America.

The episode originally aired in 1994. Maybe the crime rates in cities and concerns about urban poor were the background for the writing. But now, 17 years later it seems not so unreasonable for a dystopian future in 2024. Demands to carry ID or dragged off? Arizona’s SB 1070. Millions of unemployed? Failing healthcare and mental healthcare system? Wealthy with connections and private companies who seem detached? Cutbacks in government aid and police forces? Rather prescient I’d say.

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