What Star Trek means to me (video essay)

What Star Trek means to me (video essay)

Why does Star Trek matter? It’s not the futuristic technology that
influenced our modern world. Or the all actors, creators, and scientists
who credit the show for inspiring them to become who they are. These are important contributions, but there’s
something else about Star Trek, something more foundational and subversive that is at
the heart of why Star Trek is so important. To understand, we have to go back to the 1960s. To a time when America was tearing itself
apart. And the threat of nuclear war was real. Science fiction on television mostly gave
us an escape. Or highlighted our biggest fears. Star Trek also reflected the unrest of the
60s: there were stories about the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the cold war. But Star Trek gave us hope. It showed us a future where we overcame our
differences. And it’s the way Star Trek told its stories
that had a profound impact on our world. We believe we are all rational beings, that
we weigh arguments like a judge and make decisions based on what makes the most sense. But psychological research continues to show
us that our minds are emotional and our thoughts reflect how we feel. This is why humans struggle to have conversations
about the issues impacting our world. The moment we hear an idea that conflicts
with the way we see the world, we get emotional, and our mind fights off the thoughts just
like our immune system attacks a virus. But when ideas are presented in a new way,
one that does’t trigger strong emotions, it bypasses our mind’s defenses. We can hear it, understand it, reflect on
it. This is why Star Trek matters – for over 50
years it has given us new ways to understand the challenges we face as a species and inspire
us to take action. Star Trek celebrates the best of human psychology. We know that teams work best when people with
different backgrounds and expertise come together to tackle a goal no one could accomplish on
their own. Every story, the first Star Trek pilot to
Star Trek Beyond, has emphasized how important diversity is to a crew. Every Captain has upheld the most important
lesson from the psychology of leadership – create an environment where everyone can share their
opinion, even if they disagree with you. Star Trek reminds us of an important finding
from recent research: even though we might disagree on how to move society forward, we
all value the same things – safety, opportunities for our family, and the ability to grow. When we emphasize shares values instead of
arguments, we can overcome political gridlock and move forward. This is why we need Star Trek again. Americans are more polarized now than any
point in history since the civil war. The threat of nuclear war has returned, along
with terrorism and a rapidly changing planet. Once again we see this reflected in our media,
how little faith we have in political leadership to tackle the real crises facing our world,
the hopelessness many have in our future, and the fear of new technologies. If Star Trek: Discovery can help us to have
a real discussion about the issues facing our world, if it can remind us of our our
shared values, our shared hopes, our shared humanity, then maybe it can help us to believe
in the future again. Thanks for watching! This video is based on an article I wrote
about the psychology of Star Trek’s optimistic future. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever
written so you can check that out in the description below. Over at Patreon, I’ve got a video about
all my favorite psychological lessons from every single version of Star Trek. And if you like this video be sure to subscribe
on YouTube and like The Psych Show on Facebook.

About the author


  1. I've always admired Star Trek for its dedication to intellectual problem-solving. It's not afraid of violent conflict, and its protagonists will fight back if necessary to protect what's important to them, but it's always treated as the last resort. The goal is always to find a peaceful solution, one that's based on mutual interest rather than ruling through physical dominance.

    Also, as an autistic person, I appreciate their commitment to autism metaphors in basically every iteration, although especially Voyager which has 3. It's nice to see myself on television and the portrayals tend to feel respectful. When they're played for laughs, it's in ways that I can laugh along with too, and when they're played for drama, it's in ways that feel relatable and unforced.

  2. If Discovery doesn't take up the role of "Optimistic Star Trek" I really believe that The Orville by Set McFarlane definitely fits that bill.

  3. Thanks so much for this video! I hadn't thought this way about the shows before. Now I'm looking forward even more to Discovery!

  4. What i always liked in Star Trek was it gave me hope for a better future, it had charming, intelligent characters and it was just so adventurous, i don't see any of that in the reboots or STD.

  5. Oooh, I love that you did this video!

    I think that one of the reasons the original series was a hit was how relatable Kirk, Bones and Spock were to the average viewer. Kirk was impulsive and often acted without thinking. But when he did have to put some thought into something he consulted the emotional Bones and the logical Spock. He made a decision by weighing up emotions and reason.

  6. The meaning of Star Trek to me is boldly going where no man has gone before! Its Introvert SPOCK vs extroverted KIRK. Its logical masculine DATA vs the feminine collectivst BORG queen! (First contact) I see a recurring theme here of order and chaos finding balance 😀. The known and the unknown! Great video Man!https://8bitnerds.com/spock-introvert-kirk-extrovert/

  7. I've always been a ST fan. For me it represents hope for the future – the best of what humanity can be. Unfortunately I don't think new ST shows necessarily get that!

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