Star Trek: Review from an ECM Perspective

Back in the eighties, David Letterman used to have a segment called Limited Perspective Movie Reviews, where movies would be reviewed by experts that only concentrated on a single aspect of the movie – for example, a dentist would review the teeth of the actors or a mortician would review Creepshow and only talk about how realistically the bodies decayed. In that spirit, I offer this short review of the usage of ECM in the new Star Trek movie.

Spoiler Alert: I have to give away some details of the movie in this review.

It’s a few hundred years in the future and information overload is still basically solved by serendipity. The entire plot hinges on Kirk seeing a similarity between some events from 25 years ago, a quick description of a distress signal from Vulcan, and an overheard conversation about an intercepted Klingon communication. 

There doesn’t seem to be much to tie them except a Romulan reference, which would be rare because, according to the original series, there were very few interactions with them. Any contact with Romulans was probably exceptional, so two within a day would be noteworthy, and Kirk had intimate knowledge of the older event.

But, why do they need to rely on luck? Shouldn’t their super-advanced computer systems alert them when there’s relevant information available? Kirk even mentions that the older event is well-chronicled in his “files” and that his captain knows all about it – so the problem is not capture, but something that we haven’t scratched the surface of yet – computer systems that notice connections and bring them to your attention. Even Wolfram Alpha doesn’t do anything with it’s computational model of all knowledge unless you ask it a question.

It seems that like today, they can collect data and search it, but that there isn’t any way for the system to analyze data as it is captured, make connections, and alert. Today, the closest I can come is with Google News Alerts and RSS feeds set up to search Twitter and other sources. But, I have to pick the keywords – I guess I could imagine some kind of Starfleet Twitter where someone is monitoring #romulan and sees the connection, but with so little traffic on the word, it doesn’t seem likely. But, it is its low traffic that makes it interesting this time – perhaps someone parked on Trending Topics would notice it.

So, I guess we’re stuck with that for at least another three hundred years – and being able to make those connections will still be a prized skill that makes one worthy of ridiculously quick promotions.