A couple weeks ago someone asked me if it was possible to create a real United Federation Of Planets (UFP) a la Star Trek. Holding a couple degrees in sociology, I am not at all qualified to answer this question. A lot of research really ought to be done. And not just social research. You should probably get like a biologist and a linguist or NASA. At the very least, Bill Nye should be in the room.
But all that’s tedious and who wants to read a 300 page report on the intricacies of xenolinguistics in speculative alien species? Eff that noise. I’m just gonna tell you if it’s possible or not based on my limited understanding of social structures and what I’ve learned from science fiction. Suit up.
So first we need to define exactly what a UFP is. In Star Trek, it’s a conglomeration of alien planets that agree on a single set of principles to be governed by; rules about how sentient cultures should treat, be treated, and treat their people. In addition, these are rules of alliance not unlike NATO. You attack one of us, you attack all of us.
Oh, and they all pool resources, have economies without money, and share a single military.
You see, back in the day the United Federation Of Planets was an allegorical United States. A perfect 1960s United States without poverty, sickness, or money where people are driven by the pure desire to explore and learn. A United States that stood in the face of an allegorical communist threat.
So basically a UFP is a space United States with a federal government located at a capital (Earth) and member states made up of planets or small conglomerations of planets.
So begins my list of things we need to get this bitch off the ground.
We would need a lot of cultural similarities to have the kind of UFP we’ve described. Humans take for granted that across all cultures there are some universal constants. For example, not matter what society you look at, sex/gender dynamics exist. We as individuals tend to seek other individuals to have children and build families with. These families are varied in ways we don’t often see (see: polyandry), but they are still families.
There is no reason to assume aliens have dichotomous gender structures. Maybe 5 genders. Maybe 1. Maybe they procreate by sharing a bathroom. Maybe only a single group of them were ever created and they just live forever.
Something else we come across is religion. Most cultures have religion or several religions in them. Many are based around human ideas of nature. Who’s to say aliens would have any religion at all. Or think about life and the universe the way we generally do. They may not even see the world (literally) the same way we do. Or see at all. Things like sight have a very big impact on our worldview.
My point is that all the aliens in Star Trek are basically humans. Yeah, they have different colored skin, deep voices, and putty on their noses, but they are still basically us. There is an episode of Star Trek that even explains that all sapient life in the universe was seeded by a progenitor species exploring the area. So basically everyone is human, give or take a couple million years.
And they still fight all the time! Klingons. Romulans. Borg. The Dominion. Other actual humans! But instead of referencing Star Trek, we could just look at the history of the U.S. It’s been around 200 years and change and hasn’t seen more than 15 years without a major war; one of which was a CIVIL WAR. Oh, and we killed almost every Native American on the continent.
The best example of what I’m getting at may be Halo. Basically, the Covenant bump into us and they figure we are the unholy menace described in their religion. No conversation. Just them jumping from one planet to the next killing every human they see and glassing anything we’ve ever touched. Not like it was the first time in human history a group of people were ascribed with a religious demarcation and punished for it.
Actually, we used to do it all the time. And again, we are all humans.
The aliens we meet, if they are out there, will probably not be like us. Those differences will make or break any potential UFP, and that might actually be a good thing. God forbid they turn out to be like us; we’d have to fight it out on principle alone.
Next week I’m going to talk about the second item on my list: Interests