Replicators are pretty widely used by the time of Star Trek TNG, and with their ability to produce pretty much anything short of living tissue, it seems that it would be useless to build anything with factories or even to use people for QA testing. Instead, object which can be replicated are just "programmed" into the device, and thanks to the Federation's open-mindedness, this means that anyone can easily produce anything for free.

Therefore, factory/mechanical work seems obsolete for people to do, but what about what we call "service" jobs today? It seems that many of these would also be obsolete - just listen to how the Enterprise crew routinely address's the ship's computer. They generally get better quality responses than I do from real people in a call center!

We certainly already know that nobody "works" for money like today, but people on Earth have been shown living otherwise similar lives to contemporary times in prosperous countries. What do people do to keep busy? Is everyone a scientist/teacher/artist/writer/entertainer/starfleet officer?


2 Answers 2


We have seen restaurateurs/chefs such as Joseph Sisko and presumably restaurants have professional waiters. We have also seen at least one vintner in Robert Picard and given his attitude towards technology, the Picard vines were presumably tended by people. Another example would be Cosimo:

who took the form of a Human owner of a coffee shop in San Francisco, in order to interact with Ensign Harry Kim, who had inadvertently created an alternate timeline in 2372.

Also, given the prevalence of replicators, it would be reasonable to assume that hand crafted goods (such as clothing) would be a highly prized break from the homogeneity of standard shirt style 6.11 with color variation beta 23. Just because you can replicate something doesn't mean you want the exact same something that everyone else has. I suppose you could call craftsman artists but they're not the same thing.

I wouldn't expect much in the way of unskilled labor in civilized Federation areas but skilled labor would certainly exist. Of course, all this depends on what unskilled labor means.

I watched The Wrath of Khan last night. In the opening scenes, you'll see Admiral Kirk (be sure to say that in Khan's voice) and Spock leaving the Kobayashi Maru simulation room and they walk past someone vacuuming the hallway. I think a janitor qualifies as unskilled labor.

Not quite the 24th century but relevant nonetheless.

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    I think restaurateurs and chefs would like not to be considered "low-skill"
    – HorusKol
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 3:32
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    I don't think that restaurant (other than Burger King and the like) are low skill. Sure you can replicate a meal, but it's exactly the same every time... that piece of gristle in the steak is identical down to the micrometer. If you want a unique meal that no one else has ever eaten before, you'd still go to a chef. Likewise, we should remember that Picard's brother ran a vineyard, despite wine being easily replicated. But again, I don't think being a winemaker is low-skill. It's interesting to consider what low-skill might mean...
    – John O
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 3:57
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    The definition of low skill labor is important. Is a groundskeeper (Boothby) low skill? How about janitor? There's also some conflict between low skill in the title and service level and scientist/teacher/artist/writer/entertainer/starfleet officer in the question body. I wouldn't call a chef low skill (my brother would have something to say about that) nor would I call a waiter low skill. Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 4:36
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    There's also someone who creates all these replicator patterns of food, clothing, etc. I would expect them to be skilled in cooking, stitching, etc. So, those skills would still exist on the replicator backend.
    – user1027
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 1:56
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    @PaulD.Waite: I'm pretty sure The Doctor triggered the Eugenics Wars of the nineties to prevent Roombas from being invented so that they couldn't merge into Skynet and force all the humans to move to The Verse and create the final five Reavers. Or maybe I have my realities confused. Again. Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 21:39

In U.S. labor markets, low skilled workers are usually defined as those with no more than high diplomas and no vocational training. If we map the kinds of jobs such people usually get to the 24th century, I think the only people we've seen in such positions are the people waiting tables in Ten Forward on Enterprise D, the Dabo girls at Quark's on Deep Space Nine and perhaps the men and women of Risa, though they may not be employed per se.

So there are low skill jobs available, but there's no reason for a Federation citizen to fill them unless they enjoy the work. Food, shelter, clothing and health care are available to all, gratis, so poverty is no longer the coercive force that propels men toward jobs they would rather not be doing. You might still find people who are gregarious enough to enjoy waiting tables, but I doubt there will be many who would willingly (for example) stand in one place for eight hours a day disassembling animal carcasses.

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    I'm still curious about the janitor in the Kobayashi Maru simulation room - perhaps he enjoyed vacuuming? Notice in the scene that Kirk seems to do a double take seeing the janitor. Maybe the vacuuming robot was out of order that day.
    – RobertF
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 23:12
  • Good eye! I completely missed that guy!
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 1:32

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