What's the connection between a bad Star Trek episode and Chile's 1970-1973 Soviet-backed president Salvador Allende? The answer is Cybersyn, a make-believe project by British "visionary" Stafford Beer. Cybersyn (control room seen above) was supposed to replace free markets with totalitarian central planning, but ended up as nothing more than an expensive joke. According to Marginal Revolution's Tabarrok:
It is no accident, say Axelrod and Borenstein, that the control room looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise because the whole purpose of the room was to exude a science-fiction fantasy of omniscience and omnipotence. The fantasy naturally appealed to Allende who had the control room moved to the presidential palace just days before the coup.Indeed, Cybersyn is nothing more than an excellent inner mind portrait of Messianic politicians. If Beer was for Allende what Friedman was for Pinochet, than it's easy to understand why Beer's Chile resulted in economic failure while Friedman's Chile resulted in economic success.
The control room is like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in another respect--both are stage sets. Nothing about the room is real, even the computer displays on the wall are simply hand drawn slides projected from the other side with Kodak carousels.
Ironically, when rumors of the project began to circulate, the illusion of omniscience and omnipotence that Beer had created, the same illusion that so appealed to Allende and that had funded Beer's visions and experiments, this illusion caused fear that an all-knowing big brother was on the way--and such fear may even have encouraged the coup.