As an avid Star Trek fan, my hope is that the show’s creator — Gene Roddenberry — will be proven a prescient mind and that humanity will divest itself of the shackles of money. That we will unite under a banner of unity and common progression. That our food will arrive out of thin air, and a drunk who resembles James Cromwell will invent faster than light travel…
Then I look around at the devastation exacted upon the planet and human beings by other human beings, and that future seems pretty far off. Except in the world of media.
In its own weird way, social media echos those often-socialist utopia tenets of Star Trek. All for one and one for all. Services like Twitter, and most recently Hulu, have proven to be tremendously useful to connect people, and allow them to share and consume culture, among other things. They aren’t only useful, but they’re tremendously successful in nearly every single way… except when it comes to generating any kind of significant revenue.
So much of what we’re seeing as change in our society is, at least in some major or minor form, data driven. That data can be statistical in nature, or it can be a collection of “friends” you have on Facebook, or it could be a count of how many Twitter users in Edmonton invoke the #yeg hashtag. But there’s data out there and socially-minded developers are finding ways to free this information and let the masses consume it — quite often without demanding any pay for it, at least not right off the bat. Knowledge is power and some of the individuals with the keys to unlocking this knowledge using a variety of tools or apps, ostensibly arming at least some cross-section of the population with power, are content to just put the information and tools out there gratis, secure in the knowledge that this will increase their social capital. I hate to use the term (since I thought the movie was utter drivel), but these individuals are paying it forward.
And guess what? It works.
These people — many of the ones I know are in Edmonton, including guys like Sean Healy, Joel Jackson and their @etsinfo Twitter app, and Mack Male with ShareEdmonton.ca — are giving us these tools for free and just sort of waiting to see what happens.
Now I’m not suggesting that one of them’s going to create a food replicator and decide not to monetize it… the fledgling capitalist in me thinks that would be downright stupid!
But the idealist in me hopes that we’re witnessing the seeds of that strange, alien-yet-human society created by Gene Roddenberry back in the 1960s at Desilu Studios. One where we aren’t concerned with the acquisition of wealth so much as the advancement of all society. A true reflection of the idea that no child, no human being, be left behind.
To me, that’s a place I think we need to boldly go. And while I don’t expect we’ll get there in my lifetime, I’m hopeful that it’s something that a least some people will continue to work toward.