To many the idea of space ships flying around faster than the speed of light and fighting cyborg zombies sounds very unrealistic. But what seems much more unrealistic to me is the very premise of the entire story of Star Trek, which is that the human race decides to live in harmony upon discovering there are aliens.
Lets say humans really did discover there was intelligent alien life in the universe, and that the first aliens discovered were semi-friendly like the Vulcans. Do you think that discovery would actually motivate the majority of the human race to "come together", or do you think the same problems we have now would continue?
The vast majority of humans do live in harmony in Star Trek but not all of them. I think its from cornucopian technologies that alow humans to exsist in peace not the fact that we are not alone or have been visited by aliens for the first time. My 2 cents.
I've always believed that it isn't mankind's introduction to aliens that cause the problems to go away, it is the advent of technology.
How much of your income is spent on transportation, food, and fuel? In an age of transporters, replicators, and anti-matter reactors, most of what we consider an economy is non-existent. Poverty, disease, and war are almost all related to a lack of transportation, clean and healthy food, and fuel and the quests to get them. Remove the need for those and you have pretty much ended the causes of most wars. Even wars based on religious or political purposes have a resource management undertone. Even Bin Laden was a US ally until they quit funding is fight against the Soviets.
So, to me, it is possible for mankind to reach that state of unity. But to quote Quark, "Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people – as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts... deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers... put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time... and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon."
If we ever do reach a state of unity, it'll be because of the technology we develop, not the aliens we meet.
Good point about technology; I suppose if everyone could have everything they wanted for free from a replicator people wouldnt have much to fight over. That said, when was replicator technology invented in Trek? Was it supposed to be before or after the human race "came together"?
They do not unite just because there are aliens. They unite because the nuclear war devastated the planet and killed "enough people" to make sure it never happens again. Also, in Enterprise you see there are still different states on earth (e.g., the existence of the Royal Navy).
It is also pretty obvious that not everything is so shiny and nice. Terra Nova and Terra Prime are examples from Ent era, the dictator of Cestus III is a TOS-era example, and the maquis are a TNG/DS9/VOY example. Captain Sisko said it best - earth is paradise, but outside it there are struggling colonies and many more shades of grey.
As for FTL speeds, general relativity theory actually provides the theoretical foundation for warp speed. Many of the technological gizmos in ST do rely on solid mathematical/theoretical grounds. I recommend the book "The Physics of Star Trek" by Lawrence M. Krauss on this subject. I found it an interesting reading material for a Trekkie mathematician.
That said, when was replicator technology invented in Trek? Was it supposed to be before or after the human race "came together"?
After, its a byproduct of tractor beams if I recall, same with teleporters.
But keep in mind First Contact was made some time AFTER we nuked ourselves and we were still recovering from it, this might be why humankind adopted the policy it did because they were just recovering after a Nuclear War and were getting help to do that by a Alien race.
Who knows how things would be in First Contact was done before that Nuclear War, perhaps the Federation would never be born.
The idea of a better future, that goal where all humans work together without the desire for pesronal gain is the dream. It is the thing we should be working towards. The technology, the aliens, that was all extra fluff around the core message. A utopian Earth, I believe is possible, but not the way humanity is now, and without some major catastrophe. As Wolf said, it was WWIII that caused everyone to come together in ST. The species came to the brink of death, and finally, we realised 'wait a minute, we really need to stop this from happening again. There were no winners from that, we need to make sure no one ever does that again.' I think having discovered there were aliens in the galaxy, so shortly after such a catastrophic event, was the final thing that made everyone come together.
I believe this is realistic, but it will need a world extinction event to occur first.