6 Ways Our Tech Is Better Than Star Trek’s

A model of the Starship Enterprise from the TV series Star Trek.
Rob Lavers RIBA ARPS/Shutterstock.com

Star Trek was one of my geekiest influences, and it inspired real scientists and engineers to make some of its tech a reality, but not everything in Star Trek is that impressive anymore. Some of our tech is even better.

Star Trek Is Prophetic, But We Can Do Better

Star Trek has been a beacon of futurism since its inception in 1966. It showcased technologies that were miraculous for the era it was born in. Fast forward to today, and we can see Star Trek’s influence on our technological landscape.

Take the communicators in the original Star Trek series. These handheld devices, used by the crew of the USS Enterprise for voice communication, were a clear precursor to our modern cell phones. In fact, the creator of the first cell phone, Martin Cooper, has openly credited the Star Trek communicator as his inspiration. It’s remarkable to think that a piece of sci-fi tech has transformed the way we communicate and connect with each other globally.

Similarly, the medical tricorder used by Dr. McCoy to diagnose ailments and injuries in a non-invasive manner is another Star Trek invention that’s now becoming a reality. Various companies and research institutions are now working on creating real-world versions of the tricorder. For instance, the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE was a global competition that inspired teams to develop portable, wireless devices that monitor and diagnose health conditions, reminiscent of the medical tricorder.

Star Trek’s voice-activated computer systems are another technological prophecy that’s come to fruition. Today, we have Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, AI-powered virtual assistants that can perform a multitude of tasks, all activated through voice commands.

While the series has been prophetic in some ways, the reality is that our tech has not only caught up but surpassed what Star Trek envisioned in many ways.

Our AI Is More Impressive Now

Star Trek presented us with some of television’s most iconic AI characters. Data, an android with a positronic brain, was the epitome of artificial intelligence. However, when you compare Data’s AI to our current artificial intelligence, we’re actually ahead in some ways.

OpenAI’s GPT-4, for instance, is a language model AI that can write essays, answer questions, and even generate creative content like poems and short stories. It’s not confined to a physical body like Data and can process and generate information in a fraction of the time. It’s also constantly learning and evolving, something that Data struggled with throughout the series.

Technologies like GPT and Google’s Bard are also way better at faking human affectation, and there are numerous realistic artificial voices these days that can sound emotional, and even use contractions! Data was also an avid artist, but machine learning systems that lack his sentience have arguably reached a higher level of artistic mastery than the beloved android.

RELATED: How Good Is Midjourney at AI Art? We Compared All the Models

Data’s Processing Power Is Weak

Speaking of Data, his processing power, while impressive for the 24th century, is rather weak by today’s standards. Data’s creators, Dr. Noonien Soong, claimed he was capable of sixty trillion operations per second. Contrast that with our current supercomputers, which can perform quintillions of operations per second, and Data seems rather quaint.

We don’t even have to look at supercomputers; an overclocked RTX 4090 can hit 100 Teraflops or 100 Trillion floating point operations per second.

Now we don’t know how complex the operations are that Data’s positronic brain can do, but in terms of pure speed we’re way beyond that point. However, the fact that Data’s brain can do what it does at around room temperature might be the most impressive thing about it.

RELATED: How to Stream Every ‘Star Trek’ TV Show in 2022

Star Trek’s Holodeck Is Better and Worse Than Our VR

Star Trek’s holodeck is an impressive piece of tech, creating fully immersive virtual environments that can simulate touch, smell, and taste. However, it’s also a technology that’s fraught with problems, often malfunctioning and putting crew members in danger.

Our current virtual reality technology might not be as immersive as the holodeck, but it’s far safer and more reliable. With advancements in haptic feedback and VR graphics, we’re inching closer to the holodeck experience without the life-threatening malfunctions.

While some folks still manage to trip or throw a VR controller into their TV screens, it’s unlikely that one of the characters in a VR game will gain sentience and stalk you into reality like Dr Moriarty from the show.

Smartphones and Tablets Are Better Than Communicators and PADDs

Star Trek’s communicators and Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs) were revolutionary to audiences in the 60s and 80s. But there’s no contest when you compare them to our smartphones and tablets.

Our devices are slimmer, more powerful, and more functional than communicators and PADDs. We can browse the internet, stream videos, play games, and access many apps, all in the palm of our hands. Not to mention the superior graphics and display capabilities of our devices. That being said, there’s still something undeniably sexy about LCARS.

We Have Better Automation

While it might simply happen off-screen, Star Trek seems to have a suspicious lack of robots and general automation. People drive vehicles manually most of the time, and who cleans the carpet on the Enerprise D’s bridge? I have two robot vacuums already, but maybe there’s an organic cleaning crew on Starfleet ships?

In one episode, the Next Generation crew encounters “ExoComps”, which are utility robots that can repair and maintain machinery, and this seems to blow the Chief Engineer’s mind, while we’re well on our way to having these types of systems already with robots like Boston Dynamics’ Spot and the many, many, types of utility drones that are out there.

Now, Starfleet’s technology does involve a lot of hand-waving with force fields and energy beams, which might be doing all the jobs that Roombas and factory robots would, but it does seem weird that they aren’t as robotised as we’re getting.

Our Tech Doesn’t Blow Up (As Much)

Lastly, let’s not forget one of the most frequent occurrences in Star Trek – technology blowing up. Star Trek tech seems to have a penchant for pyrotechnics and extremely poor safety standards, from warp core breaches to exploding consoles. OSHA would have shut the whole thing down years ago. Some fuses would help, and what happened to seatbelts?

In contrast, our technology is far more stable. We have our fair share of glitches and bugs, but our tech seldom results in explosions. That’s not to say our technology is perfect, but we’ve certainly come a long way in ensuring the safety and reliability of our gadgets, vehicles, and other technology.

I really, really still want replicators to be a thing, but I hope we never invent transporters!

RELATED: How to Stream Every ‘Star Trek’ Movie in 2022

Leave a Comment