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I have vague memories of watching Star Trek (both the original series and the next generation or TNG) as a kid, mostly dominated by the quirky personas of Spock and Data. Watching Star Trek TNG on Netflix is, in a way, a walk down a memory lane where the memories have sadly not withstood the test of time. It is like re-discovering something that one had not quite discovered properly in the first place. And yet, even if I had watched it back then with the full force of my attention, I would have still missed the profound philosophical undertones of this wonderful series.

The year is 2364. The Enterprise, a Starfleet ship of a United Federation of Planets, is on its mission of deep space exploration, commandeered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his team that, notably, includes Data (an android), Deanna Troi (a betazoid who has telepathic abilities), and Worf (a Klingon). In the course of their voyages, one gets glimpses of different species inhabiting distant planets – each with their peculiar customs and beliefs, varying levels of technological advancement, and with names like the Ligonians, the Edo, and the Ferengi. Through the physical and moral challenges that Jean-Luc and his team face, one gets a sense of their ethos. There are references to the troubled history of war and violence as also capitalism out of which humans had evolved, to having stopped enslaving and killing animals for consumption, to the Prime Directive of not interfering with alien civilizations. The technological advances – of warp speed that allows travel faster than the speed of light, of teleportation, AI (as portrayed by the persona of Data), and space travel to distant galaxies  – are likely to be the stuff of fantasy for many years to come until we realize it, if we do. The portrayal of this distant future fills the gap in one’s imagination of what the world might look like 300 years from now. What separates the world of Star Trek from us is not merely time or the technological advancement, but also the ideology that looks back at the time we now inhabit for all that it is not. There is no nostalgia for the past, merely a sense of relief at having evolved out of it.

Fictional futures of the kind portrayed in Star Trek provide us with an idealized view of the future – one of space explorers that, much like the seafarers during the Age of Discovery, explore the far reaches of the galaxy but with a reformed ethos – to learn and understand and not interfere. An alternate view of the future may have humanity snuff itself out of existence or atrophy away on a desolate planet. It is the burden of every age to determine where this trajectory is headed, for the path to the future goes through us.

  • No, it was not my new year resolution to stop blogging – just a prolonged case of otioseness. Yes, it is contagious and now that you have read this far, you shall suffer.
  • I have been doing the one other thing that I have disparaged in the past. I am on twitter. No, I have not yet figured out why anyone would be interested in one’s “twitters” – least so, what someone had for breakfast, lunch or dinner (and maybe you can name 3 people that would be interested in this kind of detail, and perhaps in 2047 you are likely to be interested in knowing what consumed on a nondescript day in the past, but why a public twitter?). Perhaps it human tendency to be interested in l’affaires des autres that makes Twitter and Facebook popular and their founders rich (Why else would be have E!). But I diverge. I was guardedly curious, and it did not help that Twitter is perhaps the next most oft-mentioned term lately, after “recession”, “global recession”, and “the great depression”. The withdrawal symptoms from not blogging and a perceived lack of time (not true) made the easy option of 140 characters-or-less posts tweets hard to resist. The rest, as they say, is history – divvied up as tweets here.
  • Prior to Twitter, another piece of technology (a physical one) I’d long argued against was the iPod – the first versions. I preferred a lightweight device where I could store and carry ~40-50 songs (and there were flash drives that served the purpose), rather than carry all my music around in a far more expensive and heavier player. By induction, it seemed to me that not many people would be interested in such a music player. The subsequent iPod mania caused me to eat my words and buy one of the clunkier video iPods (already a classic) more than a year back. I ended up spending more time organizing my music collection, deciding on,  and switching between playlists than listening to music. I also found jogging with the iPod to be wearisome, if not for the music. A couple months back I got the cheaper $49 iPod shuffle that is perhaps not the most popular of the iPod models, but has all that I care for in a music player – it’s much lighter, saves me the time and agony of choosing between playlists, and it’s cheap. It is strange how with technology, given adequate adoption, popularity drives itself, often at the cost of one’s own contradictory instincts and logic.

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