Star Trek, the iconic science fiction franchise, has captivated audiences for decades with its vision of the future and its exploration of social and technological issues. The franchise has explored topics that have since become a reality. Star Trek has shown its ability to anticipate the future with striking accuracy.
Many Star Trek episodes have dealt with themes and technologies that, at the time of their airing, were purely fictional but have since become a reality. The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, always intended for Star Trek to be a lens through which we can explore current societal issues, so it’s not surprising that many of the stories and technologies depicted have come to fruition.
10/10 Flip Phones & Mobile Devices
Introduced in nearly every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew of the USS Enterprise uses a communicator, a small, hand-held device used to speak and locate each other on away missions. The device is activated when it’s flipped open and has a small antenna that extends out of the top.
The small electronic is nearly identical to devices from the turn of the century, which evolved into smartphones that became a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. They have communication, locating, and transmitting capabilities, and the flip-phone design was a memorable feature in many mobile phones.
9/10 Virtual Reality In Video Gaming & Training
In the episode “The Big Goodbye” of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise crew becomes trapped in a holodeck simulation of a 1940s-era detective story, which uses advanced holographic technology to create a fully-realized virtual environment.
The episode showcases the concept of virtual reality, which has become a critical technology in video gaming, medicine, education, and military training simulations. Virtual reality technology can immerse players in a game or simulation, making it feel more realistic and engaging, and it is also used in fields.
8/10 Ethical Dilemmas With Artificial Intelligence
Star Trek: The Next Generation, android officer Data is on trial to determine whether he has the same rights as a sentient being in “The Measure of a Man.” The episode raises ethical dilemmas related to artificial intelligence and its rights, especially when Data is one of the friendliest AIs in entertainment.
The idea is explored again in ” The Quality of Life” when the crew of the Enterprise has to deal with sentient robots and the ethical dilemmas that arise from creating artificially intelligent life, which is also an ongoing area of concern in the field of artificial intelligence research.
7/10 The Privatization Of Space Travel
Privatized space travel is being explored and implemented by private companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Future’s End, Part II,” the USS Voyager crew becomes trapped in a 21st-century timeline where commercial interests have begun to sell travel among the cosmos.
The billionaire owners of these companies and their wealthy friends are currently the only people on earth who can afford such a trip. However, it won’t be long before space becomes a popular destination for vacationers across the globe.
6/10 Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, & Mind Control
The crew of the USS Enterprise becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving mind-control technology in “The Mind’s Eye” of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode deals with the topic popularized as an ongoing area of research in neuroscience and cognitive science.
Again in the episode “The Nth Degree,” the crew encounters an alien with enhanced cognitive abilities from a brain implant. The idea is being researched today with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), including Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink. The technology boasts potential applications in medicine, communication, and control of prosthetic limbs.
5/10 Blending Biological & Technological Humans
In the 1998 episode “Drone,” the USS Voyager crew discovers a “Borg baby” while investigating a damaged drone from one of the most powerful Star Trek species. The drone assimilated a new form of technology, allowing for the creation of a perfect blend of biological and technological entities, similar to the idea of a cyborg, combining life with artificial elements.
Cyborgs, and the possibility of merging biological and technological entities, have been explored and researched for decades. The concept highlights the ideas of consciousness, free will, and the relationship between the mind and the body.
4/10 Rapid Advancement Of Technology In Less-Developed Countries
The original USS Enterprise crew arrives planet whose culture has been modeled after 1920s Chicago gangsters in “A Piece of the Action,” the seventeenth episode of the second season. The storyline predicted the rapid advancement and proliferation of technology in less-developed cultures.
The original Star Trek script also discussed the effects of introducing advanced technologies to less-developed societies, a real-world concern still relevant today. As technology becomes more widely available and accessible, it has the potential to impact the way of life and the development of less-developed societies.
3/10 Virtual Personal Assistants
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Data’s Day” follows the android officer who keeps a personal log used to show his daily routines and relationships. The show predicted the use of virtual personal assistants, like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, and the related privacy concerns. The script also discusses the nature of artificial intelligence and the relationship between humans and machines.
Data’s personal log serves as a parallel to the concept of virtual personal assistants. The episode is a reminder of how science fiction can often anticipate and explore the implications of emerging technologies. Perhaps predicting the future will earn Data the deserved promotion that he never received.
2/10 Autonomous Drones & Specimen Collecting
“The Most Toys” of Star Trek: The Next Generation finds the crew of the Enterprise meet a collector who uses an autonomous drone to gather specimens. The technology is widely used for various applications such as delivery services, surveying, and search-and-rescue operations.
This form of the collector’s autonomous drone collecting specimens is well-known for its use in collecting samples on Mars by NASA and other space agencies. The first autonomous drone landed on Mars over thirty years after the episode aired.
1/10 Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation
In “The Outcast” on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew of the USS Enterprise becomes immersed in a society where gender is not a factor, and sexual orientation is fluid. The episode examines gender identity, sexual orientation, and societal expectations.
This topic is an ongoing societal issue that has gained more attention and acceptance in recent years. Movements such as LGBTQIA+ rights and non-binary gender identification are gaining traction and becoming more mainstream. And the topic was primarily considered taboo in 1992 when the episode aired on one of the most historically important shows of all time.
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