OSU’s Science Pub will be hosting an interesting presentation tomorrow, Oct 11. The episode will feature philosophy professor Dr. José-Antonio Orosco. His talk is titled, “To Boldly Go: Why Scientists and Social Justice Warriors Need Star Trek”, and looks to be a fascinating discussion about the philosophies found in Star Trek and how they can help us create a better future.
Star Trek has had an interesting place in history given it’s directly responsible for the form that some of the world’s more ubiquitous pieces of technology have taken, like our tablets and cell phones. It’s also, in Orosco’s words, “the story of humanity creating utopia out of dystopia.”
Star Trek isn’t the only story Orosco plans to talk about. He’ll also be discussing some popular examples of dystopian fiction that have come out in recent years, like The Handmaid’s Tale and Squid Game.
Even with the popularity of dystopias, Star Trek has remained a touchstone of sci-fi television. In an interview with the Advocate, Orosco wrote, “Star Trek stands apart… because it offers us a complex story of hope about the future of humanity that isn’t based on being saved by technology or some outside force but our own capacity to learn from our mistakes.”
He added, “That’s an important story to be reminded about today when we think our problems are overwhelming and there’s nothing we can do to alter the future.” Star Trek for many is a comforting and nostalgic show, but it is also a show that has a lot to say.
Orosco himself draws on the political philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, writing that the problems that Dr. King faced are still the ones we’re facing today. Dr. King was also a fan of Star Trek, interestingly enough.
Orosco also wrote that he is also influenced by Ursula K. LeGuin’s writing, saying, “Her work tells us that struggling to build better worlds must involve exercising our imagination about what is possible. Too often activists get hemmed in by trying to be practical and to go with what works. It’s important to think about how things could be radically different and that can influence how we plan campaigns for political action today.”
This ability to imagine how one can build a better world is key for both young scientists and activists. Burn-out is a real problem with working for long-term change. Orosco’s advice for activists is “…to study organizing and social movements for the ways in which our ancestors dealt with injustice and oppression. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented each generation, and we can learn a lot from history about how to make changes today without having to repeat everything older generations said and did.”
In addition to his upcoming talk, Orosco is also publishing a book about Star Trek and activism titled Star Trek’s Philosophy of Peace and Justice. It comes out next February and argues that Star Trek is one of the best places to find stories to inspire change for the better. “Science fiction can be more than escapist fun, but a tool to help our imagination picture visions of a possible future way of life that is more just and more humane.”
The presentation will be available for free via Youtube Live, running from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Registration information for the event can be found here.