060: Manu Saadia on Trekonomics – The Economics of Star Trek: Scarcity, Productivity and Public Goods
Manu studied history of science and economic history in Paris and Chicago. After many happy years in the Ivory Tower, he yielded to his childhood passion for the future.
Manu embarked on his continuing mission to explore strange new worlds by boldly going where many have gone before: Los Angeles, CA, where he advise and (occasionally) builds tech companies.
Manu received the 2005 Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Chicago.
His book, Trekonomics, is currently available for pre-order at www.inkshares.com and will be released in 2016.
Star Trek offers much more detail about its own world and the way its economics actually works – like the plumbing so to speak. So that’s what I wanted to do. Go into the plumbing of Star Trek. – Manu Saadia
In this interview, Manu mentions: trekonomics, crowd funding, labor, economic history, trade, robots, capitalism, comparative advantage, currency, money, Gold-Pressed Latinum, public goods, conspicuous consumption, scarcity, peak oil, productivity and opportunity costs.
In this episode you will learn:
- why Manu Saadia wrote Trekonomics.
- about the Star Trek Economics panel at Comic Con.
- why economists love Star Trek.
- about inkshares and how it can help authors publish their book.
- how traditional media rather than social media boosted pre-order sales of Trekonomics – an ironic outcome.
- when Manu’s interested in economics and Star Trek collided.
- about the work of Isaac Asimov and how his stories are a discourse on economics.
- how the stories of robots and the future by Asimov influenced and shaped the storyline in Star Trek.
- about the replicators in Star Trek and how they solve the problem of economic scarcity.
- about the Ferengi’s and how they represent capitalism and trade.
- why The Federation or the humans in Star Trek do not use money but have a foreign account to trade with the Ferengi’s.
- about the Ferengi’s currency, Gold-Pressed Latinum, which cannot be replicable.
- why owning a replicator is a ‘pain in the ass’.
- how things that cannot be replicated has value but those that can be replicated has no value.
- if Keynes’ The Economic Possibilities of Our Grand Children is a rebuttal of the writings of H. G. Wells.
- about GPS being a public good and the benefits it has brought to the public.
- why making GPS a public good in 1983 was one of the best decisions Ronald Reagan made as US President.
- Manu’s favourite Star Trek episode is Lower Decks (The Next Generation).
Quotes by Manu Saadia in Episode 60 of the Economic Rockstar Podcast:
“It always baffles me when you have these very famous and serious economic thinkers were in fact total Star Trek nerds. I was on a panel at New York Comic Con with Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman and Annalen Newitz from i09. There was Chris Black as well and Felix Salmon.” – Manu Saadia
On Isaac Asimov: “All of his work is a long meditation on economics, either foundation where there is this science called psychohistory which is in fact a fictional mathematical modelling of human behaviours on the scale of societies on a galactic scale.” – Manu Saadia
“One of the reasons why I wanted to study economics was that I was fascinated by and really wanted to understand the transformation of humanity’s relation to its own labor. This is one of the great questions of political economy because it determines a lot of things when it comes to the shape society and the role of the state and how behaviors are determined and constructed over time. But it’s also the key to understanding where we’re going”. – Manu Saadia
“I would say the replicators are more of a metaphor. If you look at their status in the series, they do not help move the narratives forward. They’re just there to signify that there’s no need to work. They’re a little bit like robots in Asimov. They have the same narrative function, which is to show and demonstrate that post-scarcity does exist and is based on automation and artificial intelligence.” – Manu Saadia
- Scatter, Adapt, and Remember by Annalen Newitz
- Isaac Asimov
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
- The Economic Possibilities of Our Grand Children by John Maynard Keynes
- Romer (1990) Productivity Gains
- What I Learned Crowdfunding Trekonomics by Manu Saadia
- Trekonomics The economics of Star Trek: how does it work, and how do we get there? by Manu Saadia
- View the transcript to The Amazing Economics of Star Trek at New York Comic Con
- What the economics of Star Trek can teach us about the real world by Brian Fung, Andrea Peterson and Hayley Tsukayama Washington Post
- The Live Long and Prosper Edition Slate Money
- Club of Rome
Manu’s Favorite Star Trek Epsiodes:
- City on the Edge of Forever
Where to Find Manu:
- Star Trek Episode Amok Time