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Old December 5 2012, 01:40 AM   #1
JirinPanthosa
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Replicator Economics

One of the biggest mistakes I think DS9 made in its run was presenting the Farengi economy like the 20th century Earth economy only with 'futury' sounding words. Oh, it's not platinum, it's 'latinum', a precious metal that for some reason we can not replicate and is never explained why it is considered so precious.

With the existance of replicators, shouldn't the entire structure of the economy have to be re-imagined? Why should somebody pay latinum for self sealing stembolts when they can just go to a replicator and make them? They could have had an entire episode detailing how the farengi became a huge economy because with the invention of the replicators they were the first to adapt to the new economic model.

Nog guffawed at the idea of trading for land, but in a world with no scarcity, wouldn't land be the most scarce good there is? Wouldn't they market non-replicated goods as 'luxury' items, or maybe even try to sell subscriptions to replicator plans instead of selling physical objects? Like, play five bars of latinum a month and you get to be the first ones to be able to replicate new items.

That seems like a major missed opportunity, that instead of trying to imagine a futuristic economy they did a simple word-swap on a modern one.
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Old December 5 2012, 06:53 AM   #2
FKnight
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Re: Replicator Economics

Perhaps all replicators require latinum to function. That solves a host of problems.
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Old December 5 2012, 10:03 AM   #3
Nightdiamond
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Re: Replicator Economics

I've always been skeptical of this idea. And people committing crimes for money when they know there are replicators available?


It's hard to understand the 'some things can't be replicated' concept.

My theory is, if you can transport it through a transporter, you can also replicate it.
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Old December 5 2012, 12:26 PM   #4
T'Girl
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Re: Replicator Economics

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
Why should somebody pay latinum for self sealing stembolts when they can just go to a replicator and make them?
I came up with this JirinPanthosa.

Let's say you want one kilogram of antimatter. And you have a replicator connected to a matter/antimatter reactor. How many kilograms of antimatter are you going to "burn" in the m/am reactor to produce one kilogram of antimatter in the replicator. One for one? More?

If your using up five or ten kilos of antimatter, to make one kilo in the replicator, then producing the antimatter some other way makes more sense.

It's the same way with the stem bolts. Trading the land for the stem bolts is 'cheaper" than paying the price of replicating them.

We see people in Star Trek still engaged in mining. So if you need a million tonnes of some metal, it's more desirable to obtain those metals through extracting it from rock, transporting it across interstellar distances, and forming them into a shape --- than having the metal replicated. It's more economical.

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Old December 5 2012, 02:30 PM   #5
Romulan_spy
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Re: Replicator Economics

Merry Christmas wrote: View Post
JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
Why should somebody pay latinum for self sealing stembolts when they can just go to a replicator and make them?
I came up with this JirinPanthosa.

Let's say you want one kilogram of antimatter. And you have a replicator connected to a matter/antimatter reactor. How many kilograms of antimatter are you going to "burn" in the m/am reactor to produce one kilogram of antimatter in the replicator. One for one? More?

If your using up five or ten kilos of antimatter, to make one kilo in the replicator, then producing the antimatter some other way makes more sense.

It's the same way with the stem bolts. Trading the land for the stem bolts is 'cheaper" than paying the price of replicating them.

We see people in Star Trek still engaged in mining. So if you need a million tonnes of some metal, it's more desirable to obtain those metals through extracting it from rock, transporting it across interstellar distances, and forming them into a shape --- than having the metal replicated. It's more economical.

That makes perfect sense. When we see replicators used, it is mostly for those basic needs like food and clothing. I always got the idea from watching different Trek episodes that replicators did not eliminate the need for currency, but eliminated poverty by providing a cheap way to meet basic and common needs. No longer were people poor because they did not even have the money for basic things.
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Old December 5 2012, 10:15 PM   #6
Pavonis
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Re: Replicator Economics

There are such things as "industrial replicators". Apparently one is enough to supply industrial needs for a planet like Bajor, and four could help the Cardassians bounce back from the Klingon invasion.

I imagine those industrial replicators would fabricate large but simple pieces for subsequent assembly.
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Old December 5 2012, 10:51 PM   #7
snakespeare
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Re: Replicator Economics

Pavonis wrote: View Post
There are such things as "industrial replicators". Apparently one is enough to supply industrial needs for a planet like Bajor, and four could help the Cardassians bounce back from the Klingon invasion.

I imagine those industrial replicators would fabricate large but simple pieces for subsequent assembly.
It was 2 for Bajor and 12 for "over a dozen worlds" in the Cardassian Empire, fwiw. I know because we just watched "For the Cause" last night.

To the OP: The economy of DS9 was established before the arrival of the Federation. I think Starfleet brought the replicators and the Replimat with them.
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Old December 6 2012, 12:58 AM   #8
Pavonis
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Re: Replicator Economics

Damn, I'm usually not that far off. I guess four did seem too few. One or two per planet, though, seems to be the norm. Though, MA says that the Cardassians/Dominion gave Bajor 15 industrial replicators when they were occupying the station. Seems like quite a lot for one planet. I guess the Vorta really wanted to be friends.
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Old December 6 2012, 05:53 AM   #9
Triskelion
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Re: Replicator Economics

Where Trek went wrong was the Picard line noting "economic systems" as a thing of the past.


That's like saying "energy" was a thing of the past.

He may have been referring to "currency-based economies" but competition for resources was clearly a 24th century reality. The Barzan wormhole, for example. Stubbs' egg, for example - where the resource was knowledge, and then the right to live in peace. Countless bids for vaccines and weapons. Just a few examples off the top of my head.

Economics = the physics of desire. Conservation of energy. Equal and opposite reactions. Economic laws still at work. Still plenty of resources to compete for in the future. Captaincy of a starship, for example.


I sometimes wonder about this topic, it is fascinating! For instance, in reality if there were replicators, the first thing people would replicate would be replicator-disrupting devices - and of course, sell the anti-disruption solutions.

This question makes me wonder one thing: can the medical industry allow cures for disease?

Last edited by Triskelion; December 6 2012 at 06:05 AM.
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Old December 6 2012, 08:56 AM   #10
T'Girl
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Re: Replicator Economics

snakespeare wrote: View Post
The economy of DS9 was established before the arrival of the Federation. I think Starfleet brought the replicators and the Replimat with them.
I believe the Cardassians already possessed replicator technology, there were replicators on the station before Starfleet arrived, at least in a few places.

Whatever natural resources the Cardassians were extracting from Bajor, the replicators couldn't produce those resources. Not at the same cost, or in the same volume.

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Old December 7 2012, 09:44 AM   #11
commanderkai
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Re: Replicator Economics

I always figured a part of the issue was quality control. Throughout the series, non-replicated food is held to a higher quality and standard compared to replicated food. I always figured it also played a role for other products as well. Even though replicated food solved hunger, food that's actually grown is significantly tastier.

I mean, supposedly, Voyager only had (I think) 53 Photon torpedoes when it arrived in the Delta Quadrant, and they made it sound like they couldn't replace them, even with replicator technology on the ship. Yeah yeah, I know they went through way more than 53 Photon torpedoes in the ship, but I remember it being brought up. I figured a part of the reason was because either A) Photon torpedoes are inherently less reliable, or B) They're unable to replicate some component to the torpedo.
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Old December 7 2012, 12:10 PM   #12
Timo
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Re: Replicator Economics

I mean, supposedly, Voyager only had (I think) 53 Photon torpedoes when it arrived in the Delta Quadrant, and they made it sound like they couldn't replace them, even with replicator technology on the ship.
But the ship did not have replicator technology - that was the point. When Janeway said that there were 38 torps aboard, and no way to replace them when they were gone, the ship was still suffering from the damage she had received when the Caretaker transported her to the Delta Quadrant.

Later in the show, the ship had access to the port facilities of cultures far more advanced than those dominating the Kazon lands. Supposedly, the replicators started working just fine, too. Janeway still kept the "replicator rations" as a disciplinary measure for some time, but it makes sense that the ship would gradually grow more self-sufficient again.

They're unable to replicate some component to the torpedo.
In DS9 "Tribunal", it was considered plausible that the Maquis would want to steal empty photon torpedo warheads, even though we have every reason to think the Maquis would have access to at least food replicators. Supposedly, then, the warheads would be non-trivial to manufacture.

Granted, the Maquis would later go and steal industrial-grade replicators in "For the Cause", suggesting their logistical situation before the theft might have differed from that of Starfleet, which supposedly enjoys regular access to such technology.

As for replicated food being inferior to "real", I think it's just empty talk. We never see a character recognize a food for replicated by the taste, after all.

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Old December 7 2012, 10:11 PM   #13
Triskelion
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Re: Replicator Economics

^Hm, I'm a 20th century-born planetbound average person. I'm transported to the other side of the galaxy with a limited supply of weapons.

What to do, what to do....

I know! Traverse the galaxy with what I have in my pocket!

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Old December 8 2012, 03:02 PM   #14
Ln X
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Re: Replicator Economics

Replicators required energy to work and the materials to build, plus replicators could not produce energy itself, and for those reasons you can't solely have a economy based entirely on replicators themselves. You need fuel sources: hydrogen (for nuclear fusion; something which is used a lot in Star Trek -- think impulse drives), deuterium and whatever solid-state or gaseous energy resources are out there. Plus the various metals to build a replicator.

Furthermore replicators are very energy consuming so in terms of mining and farming, if it expends less energy to extract minerals from planetoids and planting crops or growing them in hydroponic facilities, then that's what will happen in such an economy. In any time, place or situation, the means to extract the most resources with the least amount of energy expended will nearly always be chosen.

On the subject of latinum, perhaps it can be replicated however replicated latinum does not possess all the qualities of real latinum. Consider synthetic diamonds; yes we can produce them, but synthetic diamonds do not have internal refractive light patterns of real diamonds and such a quality is one which adds considerably to a real diamond's value. So if replicated latinum is not as valuable as real latinum, then real latinum will be used for a) it's appeal (just like our race's fascination with gold and diamonds), and b) it's scarcity thus making it very valuable.

Finally replicators don't duplicate objects and materials, they assemble them according to a specific set of programs. This is an important difference because it explains why characters complain about replicated food, or why replicators can't make certain items or complex ones. If a device could perfectly duplicate objects, would that make it a duplicator?
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Old December 9 2012, 05:01 PM   #15
T'Girl
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Re: Replicator Economics

Ln X wrote: View Post
plus replicators could not produce energy itself ...
I wouldn't think that it would. The replicator would consume energy when recycling items back into base materials.

and for those reasons you can't solely have a economy based entirely on replicators themselves
I don't believe the Federation's economy is based solely upon the replicator. There would be other means of producing things.

... it explains why characters complain about replicated food ...
Riker: "You've seen something as fresh and tasty as meat, but inorganically materialised ..."

Sounds yummy.

The replicator makes a lot of sense under certain conditions. If you're going to be aboard a starship, out in the middle of no-where for years on end, the replicator is better than hauling enough food for everyone aboard the ship. The 1,019 people aboard the Enterprise Dee would eat about one thousand tonnes of food a year, and three quarters of a million liters of fluids. 1 Liter equals 1 Kilogram. The inclusion of a replicator extends a ships range and utility. The same would apply for a space station.

But what about people living on a planet? There is evidence that farming does take place, even on high tech Earth. And the harvesting of fish. Do the people of Earth get the majority of their food from replicators? Or from tradition sources?

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