Where does dilithium come from? You mine it from extremely unpleasant planets, where the miners live stoic lives of terrible loneliness and physical hardship, as seen in the 1960s Star Trek TV episode “Mudd’s Women.” The miners’ lives are so wretched, they’re willing to contract with a con artist to bring them mail-order brides. It would seem the mining process cannot be fully automated, since the technology of Captain Kirk’s day was sufficiently advanced to have done so, if it were possible. (Of course, until the character of Lt. Data was introduced in the “Next Generation” series, the Star Trek guys seemed very squeamish about building self-aware machines – and with good reason, since they always turned into planet-destroying psychotic monsters.) So: who’s working in those dilithium mines? Is the Federation lucky enough to have an adequate number of people who find self-fulfillment by volunteering to work in dingy hell-holes, digging up those precious crystals? Those guys aren’t prisoners being forced to work off their sentences, are they? That didn’t seem to be the case in the TV episode.