ST: Original Series
ST: Feature Films
ST: Next Generation
ST: Deep Space Nine
Articles & Misc.
The Rating Scale
About the Author
Copyright & Disclaimer
Tools & Delivery
Share this page
By Comment Text
By URL (where posted)
By Comment Author
RSS for this
Total Found: 22,251 (Showing 1-25)
Page 1 of 891
- Sat, Nov 1, 2014, 6:20am (USA Central)
The Omega Directive
I feel a little silly commenting in 2014, but It's 5am and I'm a little drunk...
so Re the article:
why can't the borg continue their experiments in Omega? Because the molecule, like most radio-isotopes can only be synthesized by taking another rare element, and bombarding it with radiation/energy. Seven actually said in the episode that the borg exhausted their supply of the ore necessary to make it.
Why can't the Aliens-of-the-week just synthesize more? Well, again, this was mentioned in-script. basically it's the opposite of the borg dillema. they apparently have the ore(maybe not) but they don't have the power generation technology to attempt the experiment again. which of course means it is perfectly plausible that they might be able to start over after 10 years, but what you gonna do. the Federation going to declare war on yet another interquadrent alien species in absentia? Imagine if vulcans landed tomorrow and dropped a nuke on CERN. Also, and this is kindof not in the script, but, the captain blew up the molocule prematurely. It's entirely possible that voyager left this alien species a parting gift to ponder over the next 10 years in the form of their own collapsed-subspace-wasteland.
starfleet and the directive. Starfleet destroyed ALL knowledge about omega. The only training the captain had was a short briefing about what omega is and how to destroy it. In fact, it is likely that that is what she was doing while she was locked in the ready-room for 'hours on end.' reading up on info that she wasn't cleared for until the omega directive was triggered. So if janeway were dead, and chakotay were in command, he would have gotten the same files to read. Also on the subject, it mentions in the show that Janeway modified the directive. the whole "I'm a lone wolf and I'm going to destroy omega by myself" plan was hers, and hers alone. Starfleet had no hand in that.
My biggest problem with the plot was that the borg and the federation were only able to synthesize a "handful" of particles combined, while generic aliens-of-the-week managed to synthesize hundreds of millions... that and the fact that each one of these particles should probably contain more energy than a supermassive black hole... synthesizing a "handful" seems like a much more reasonable(not to mention practical) challenge.
as for the comment section controversy,
Seven was in charge of the design of the maintanance chamber. She was the only person aboard the ship with any real knowledge of omega. Omega directive > Prime directive. Ergo in some senses, she outranks even the captain, just like the doctor outranks the captain in medical situations. It is perfectly reasonable that chakotay would give her all the latitude she needed to accomplish her goal. It is also reasonable that she would be a micromanaging perfectionist egomaniac and that she would use borg designations and minimize conversation to improve efficiency.
As for the borg-human religious experience thing... I never had a problem with that. I am moderately surprised that Seven went along with the "destroy god" idea that was planted in our heads (she doesn't even really fight it really) but all in all, I can see why the borg queen would be willing to devote large scale resources to getting her hands on omega, I can even see her getting a little obsessive about it.
- Sat, Nov 1, 2014, 5:17am (USA Central)
A great-looking episode with an interesting premise, but the poor writing and unbelievable third act really hurt it. The actors do what they can but it doesn't add up to much. If they dropped the whole "evil Garak" idea and stayed focused on the Cardassian soldiers and why they were there, O'Brien and Garak still could have worked out their issue by going after the killers together.
- Sat, Nov 1, 2014, 2:45am (USA Central)
'Til Death Do Us Part
What's neat about the Final Chapter arc vs. the Occupation arc is how much more of a slowburn it is. This is because how many seemingly unrelated threads are going on. In the Occupation arc, nearly everything that happened involved angst over DS9 as a location. Our heroes wanted to take it back and the baddies wanted to hold their position. The Final Chapter, however, is cleaning up character relationships, wartime politics, etc. It's not focused on any single element of the show, so it needs time to simmer.
"'Til Death" is a stronger episode than "Penumbra". One reason being that it has quite a bit more tension. When Sarah interrupted Sisko's vows, it might be the most anxiety I've felt during a wedding scene. Sisko's decision to say "I do" - just the look on his face as he tries to keep from destroying the moment for Kasidy - is genuinely moving.
Is it a little surprising that Sisko would willingly "defy" the Prophets' warnings again? A bit, yeah. But this episode really sells how tough that decision is for Sisko. I imagine it's difficult to allow vague warnings (no matter how reliable the source) to dictate your whole life, especially when it involves breaking the heart of your fiancee.
Another reason why this ep is a solid entry is the Breen twist. It's a great way to up the stakes of the War one last time (seriously, how many elements are at play in this war? Think about it - there are probably more than you can name). It's also a neat bit of continuity if you remember the Breen prisoner from "By Inferno's Light". The Dominion were working on convincing/tricking the Breen to join way back then, too! Scary.
I really like the title of this episode. The obvious reference is to Sisko-Kasidy, but there's also Ezri-Worf. While their conflict isn't exactly the most compelling stuff DS9 has done (not terrible either, but... there) the undercurrent of Worf being unable to let go of his semi-reincarnated wife is... sad. The vow is being played out in sci-fi literalness here, a relationship severed by the death of a spouse. Worf is having some understandable difficulty realizing that the parting is and should be permanent.
Winn is also treated well in this one. Chalk up another supporting character storyline that I didn't know I wanted to see! It's nice to see Sisko's two rivals teaming up like this. It's wonderfully pathetic.
Nothing in this episode is *wonderful* but it's all entertaining and offers some nice payoffs. High end of 3 stars for me.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:57pm (USA Central)
Journey to Babel
I agree with William. This is probably the only episode of TOS or at least one of a few that focused on the Federation. This was a great politic episode. It's a shame that they weren't able to show more alien crewmember besides Spock. It was also great to see different alien races. This is truly TV ahead of it's time. The only thing Star Wars had on Trek is that they were able to do it on a better budget. Tough break the fans have to wait until Enterprise to see a good episodes featuring Andorians and Tellerites. The other trek shows did a good job of defining things introduce on TOS.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:53pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
Since I'm still reading and not sleeping I will just say that reading Andy's post he also seems to be giving preferential treatment to Data based on the fact that he is a hardware program.
If I look at an h t t p://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AND_gate in Data's head and compare it to a line of C++ that says A&&B I personally find no difference except for the fact that I can change the line of code more easily than I could rewire the chip. But I don't think we should judge a program's possible sentience on how easy it is to rewrite the program, should we? William mentions the Turing test and I think it's apt. If I could make a Data emulator it'd be able to pass or fail any sentience test that Data could pass fail. But it would be more easy to rewrite it.
I agree with William.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:52pm (USA Central)
Star Trek (2009)
I really enjoyed this film, but I kind of wish they stuck more with Kirk and Spock moving through Starfleet instead of adding the first mission of the enterprise. They should had ended the movie with Kirk and Spock being assigned to the enterprise. I also feel like the canon for TOS wouldn't make it to hard for them to do a movie to fit in the current timeline.
1. The only thing we really know about George Kirk was his name.
2. I can see the way Kirk met Uhura, Scotty, Spock, and McCoy happening in this film happen in the original timeline. Sulu and Checkov also had good introduction in the film.
3. We knew Kirk moved through the ranks on two ships before becoming Captain of the Enterprise.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:42pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
And I was stating this in response to "I think it's a little more than that. Doc can be rewritten at a whim. Data can not. When "Data" was dowloaded into B4, he reverted back to essentially a child. Doc on the other hand just pops himself into whatever computer or 29th century mobile emitter he can find."
The EMH can only be transferred more easily because he's a software program and Data is a hardware program. That's not as big a difference as you might think. Eventually hardware and an OS will come along that's powerful enough to run an emulator that Data could be uploaded into and become a software program.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:39pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
@Yanks - What I was saying in regards to hardware/software is that there is no hardware program that cannot be recreated in software. If Voyager's computer were powerful enough Data's neural net could be run on an emulator in the same way that you can run NES Roms without the original chip set. If Voyager's computer is powerful enough to run a positron net emulator is for each of you to decide, but if Data's brain can exist as hardware it can exist as software. This is not a debatable point in computing (to my knowledge).
You can feel free to debate if it can run on Voyager's hardware of course (and therefore if the Doctor could never be as complex as Data). But the Enterprise S will most likely run a Data emulator. This sounds like it has some synergy with what some of you are saying but like Yanks I'll need to come back later and digest, except for me it'll be after bedtime!
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 6:30pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
Holy crap. I'll come back when I have about an hour to digest :-)
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 4:31pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
Ooh, okay. Very interesting post, Andy's Friend, continuing the discussion in an interesting way.
I think that this is a tough topic, and so rather than respond directly, I'm going to expand a bit on what my assumptions are for the story.
I think there are two ways to consider the sci-fi elements in Trekdom (and in most SF works generally). They aren't mutually exclusive entirely, and there is some overlap, but they are still somewhat distinct. One is to use the future setting to consider aspects of our human present and past, of what it means to be human, animal, alive. The other is to consider the implications of the rapid technological progress and/or the potential implications of what we might find in space. *Most* alien species are basically about humans, full stop; a very select few aliens in Trek are something like an attempt to imagine what a truly alien creature might be like.
With the artificially intelligent characters, who may or may not be capable of sentience as we see them, we can read them a few ways. I think that the story does mostly come down on the side that Data is sentient. We cannot guarantee that he is, for the same reason that we cannot guarantee that other humans are sentient; about as far as we can get with absolute certainty is Descartes' "I think, therefore I am," because what I experience as my own consciousness and existence may not exist in other humans. Fortunately for everyone, the vast majority of humans have little difficulty in taking that extra leap in recognizing that other people, who are so similar to us in biology, behaviour, etc., probably have inner lives somewhat similar to our own.
With non-human animals, things become trickier. Elephants can recognize marks on themselves in mirrors, and so that's viewed as something of a mark of sentience. But we can easily program simple mechanical or electrical systems to self-regulate without any need to call them sentient. For the most part, with the animal kingdom, we are willing to extend certain aspects of consciousness to them insofar as they reflect human behaviour, brain activity, and the like.
There are some AI in TOS, with the various sentient computers, and V'Ger is a big deal in TMP, but Data is the first long-term examination of this question. In a sense, even Moriarty just starts as a reflection of Data (appearing in a Data-centric episode, and whose second appearance in "Ship in the Bottle" leads to him being foiled by Data) and Data's "family" of Lore, Lal, and Juliana are iterations of him. The Exocomps are the other major figure.
Now if we take this as a simple story about humans, Data's presumptive sentience becomes this: if we view the universe in purely deterministic terms, and believe that the soul is not some kind of divine, God-granted spark, how do we know it exists at all? Data is one way of looking at the mechanical nature of man, head-on; he is like a human who recognizes that everything that goes on in his brain is a series of electrical impulses, and *knows* it to a degree where he can do self-diagnostics, and the like. He is self-aware in a frightening way. (There is some similarity to Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan, here.) The faith required to view Data as sentient, even though he might "just be" a mechanical replica of a person, programmed to act as if he is human, who lacks some of the traits that we closely associate with humanity (like emotion), is a way of coming to terms with our own partly mechanical nature, and recognizing that even if we are physical beings we still have something like, as Captain Luvois says, a soul. I'm not speaking about the divine spirit or whatever; I'm trying to find a word for sentience, consciousness, an inner life, etc.
On a technological level, this also has the second implication: if humans have sentience which is not the result of a divine spark or even necessarily something special about our biology, why *couldn't* a purely artificial, manmade life form, exist, which has just as much inner life as we humans do? The two points here -- the way in which humans are like Data, and the possibility that a mechanical man like Data could be produced who is like humans -- are interrelated.
Now, I don't know what it is that produces this inner life in humans; I think that animals, especially ones close to humans biologically, have something similar, though maybe to a different degree, but they are not really able to communicate with us, so it's not exactly easy. It's actually quite easy to recognize Data as being like a human, because ultimately, while he's got a funky positronic net which functions in ways we can't understand (because, obviously, the writers don't know how it works because they're writers, not 24th century scientists), he still has several traits we do associate with humanness. He looks human, acts kind of human, can communicate with humans, has a discrete body with a brain, located in his head, and which is based, in certain respects, on the human brain. Andy's Friend points out that it's only members of the Soong Family who can exert real control over Data's programming -- that's Soong and Lore. The Borg Queen manages to hack into it in First Contact, but the Borg exert similar control over human bodies because of their scary ability to manipulate biology and technology. I agree that this is important for the story, and I think that's partly because, as we know from "Datalore" onward, Data's very emotionlessness is at least partly because Soong's attempt to make an android as close as possible to a real human led to creating a murderous, vindictive monster (Lore), and Data is hamstrung a little by limitations built into him, which Soong is still working on fixing. Well, there's more to say about that some other time, but yeah, I agree that it's an interesting exception in Data's case rather than the rule; Soong (and Lore, who acts in his stead) can manipulate fundamental aspects of Data in the way that only families/formative influences can.
So if consciousness is not actually dependent on having a carbon-based, DNA-based, brain-with-axons-and-neurons-etc. body, as is suggested by Data, what other requirements can be dropped? The Exocomps in "The Quality of Life" are designed (by the writers) to be as weird, robotic, NON-human looking as possible, beings that humans have no particular investment in empathizing with the way we do automatically, I think, empathize with Data, if for no reason than that he's played by a human actor. I think there are implications to real biological life form issues of the day, too, in that episode, where Data takes an extreme position that the fact that we can't fully communicate with these beings doesn't mean that they aren't alive, and possibly even intelligent life, possibly deserving of the same rights as anyone. This is a real issue when it comes to animal life today -- it's an uncommon position, to be sure, that animals are just as sentient and just as deserving of the right to live as humans, and it's a position a bit too extreme for me at the moment. Still, I think the episode is partly about how humans naturally empathize with people who set off alarms as being Like Us, and who can communicate with us, and that's not the sole metric that we should use to determine the rights of another. From a tech perspective, the episode is asking whether our willingness to accept Data is just because Data was *designed* to be sentient; what if sentience really just...happens, without it being intended? Or what if it happens in a creature created by humans (or humanoids generally) looks and behaves in a way totally different from humans, but nevertheless has something of consciousness?
The holograms, starting with Moriarty and then going through the EMH and then the holograms in season seven, don't have the same issue as the Exocomps, but they take a similar position in terms of expanding the parameters under which sentience, inner life, etc., can be achieved. The Exocomps look totally inhuman, but are still discrete objects -- which is part of the trick, is that they can only be observed from the outside, especially since they are not, it seems, designed to communicate directly. The holograms are definitely designed to communicate directly, and are indeed human-looking. Yay. But they have no discrete body (their body is just projections of light), and no "brain" -- their processor is distributed throughout the ship's computer. And that's weird and funky and does that really make sense?
I guess if I'm willing to accept Data as sentient, I'm not sure why the EMH would be different. In his case, the "human" elements of the story are something similar to Data's story, though the perspective is slightly different. There are some pieces of info about slavery, human rights, and the difficult process of coming to terms with what, generations hence, will seem obvious: that people who *seem* remarkably different are actually quite similar, internally. In tech, it's the movement from hardware to software. And really, I'm not sure why the difference between hardware and software would be what determines that Data is sentient and the Doctor isn't. That the Doctor's program can be more easily altered is partly because thinking about the human brain more as software than hardware enables us to think of the human brain as more malleable without having to do physical changes -- the modifications to the Doctor in some ways are closer to behavioural conditioning, whereas the modifications to Data are more like radically altering his thought processes with drugs. But it is also because the Doctor starts off as presumptively Starfleet/Voyager *property*, in a way that Luvois ruled that Data wasn't in "The Measure of a Man." Data was Soong's creation, and it's only Soong, Juliana and Lore who feel like Data is actually their *family*, their child/little brother; Soong and Lore manipulate Data, and Soong and Data deactivate Lore. The Doctor is actually the property of Voyager, on some level, and that makes Janeway (and briefly Ransom, when he's hijacked) more directly his "parent" than Picard is of Data. Some of the stories for both Data and the Doctor are about a coming of age, but though Data's initial *personality* is in some ways more naive than the Doctor's, since the Doctor's personality is based off Zimmerman, the Doctor is the one who effectively grows from infancy to adulthood over the course of the series, with Data entering the stage as something like an adolescent-orphan whose mostly-offscreen family still hold greater sway over him than one would expect. I think the difference between the Doctor being modifiable by the crew and Data's being modifiable mostly only by the Soong family is because the Voyager crew *are* in a sense the Doctor's family, if his adoptive family (with absentee father Zimmerman only making a few appearances, and only one in Voyager as himself rather than a hologram of himself).
All that said, the fact that the Doctor (and Data) state that they are sentient or alive is no proof that they are. Any C++ "Hello world" program that adds an extra line, "I am a sentient program!" *claims* to be sentient. Data and the Doctor, I think, pass the Turing test, but that is more a guarantee that their ability to mimic human (or sentient) behaviour is really exceptionally good than any guarantee that they are actually alive, or have internal life. The fact that Data and the Doc are compelling characters is no more an argument, either. I mean, the other big function of holodeck stories is to talk about fiction and what fiction does, in the shows; I think the Fair Haven storyarc, such as it is, is at least partly about the way fictional characters FIGURATIVELY come alive and become meaningful to us, RATHER THAN actually saying that fictional characters REALLY come alive. In our real-world frame, Data and the Doctor are fictional creations, and a smart enough, complex enough set of code could create characters that are more complex, and behave in a umber of different *fully determined* ways than fictional characters in games or choose-your-own-adventure stories or whatever can today, and it doesn't necessarily mean they're anything other than fictional creations.
So how do we determine if a being is really real, and has internal life, or is just really good at imitating it? Well, um...I don't know. I don't think that it's at all obvious that sentience or inner life is tied to biology, but it's not at all obvious that it's wholly separate from it, either. MAYBE at some point neurologists and physicists and biologists and so forth will be able to identify some kind of physical process that clearly demarcates consciousness from the lack of consciousness, not just by modeling and reproducing the functioning of the human brain but in some more fundamental way. Then we'll have an answer. For now, I think these stories have a certain amount of appeal both as a warning to take the rights of created life forms which may potentially have this inner life/sentience seriously, and to help us think critically about what it is about us that makes us special, which is probably not ultimately a matter of the exact type of hardware that we are running, though it may turn out that it's not entirely separate from it.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 4:22pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
Andy's Friend, good stuff. I think I can address much of what you say, in support of the idea that the Doctor (as I call him, distinct from his original EMH programming) as a sentient being. (I'm not deeply attached to the argument though, and have not seen all of Voyager, so I'm interested in counterarguments.)
For now I will just take one point, that of Data's BODY. Is this really a key aspect of his personhood, helping establish his sentience versus the Doctor? I say No:
Remember when Data's head was detached in "Time's Arrow." Suppose his body had been lost or destroyed. Then the head is found. Nobody in Starfleet has the ability to make another Soong-quality android body for him, at least not right away. So Geordi wires the head up to ship power, to whatever minimum support systems it needs to 'wake up' and talk to his Enterprise friends. If you like, we can even suppose that the head is mechanically damaged--his eyes, ears, and mouth don't work properly--so he needs external input/output devices hooked in too. But the positronic brain is intact.
Is Data no longer Data? Is he *no longer* sentient? Of course not! He's still alive, and everybody is glad... he's just suffered a kind of severely disabling injury, that he may eventually 'recover' from if a new body is built.
The PERSON = the MIND. If a mind fulfills the measure of a "man," it does not matter what kind of physical infrastructure is carrying it... if any.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 4:05pm (USA Central)
This is an outstanding episode. The humor and characterizations are good as others have noted. The story provides an interesting framework with which to view the strengths and weaknesses of human culture. The episode extols the compassion and kindness that people sometimes display. The episode also presents less admirable aspects of human society; for instance, the miners have to risk their lives in their jobs. However, to me, the episode shines brightest when it celebrates human potential. This depiction of our desire to accomplish greater things is a large part of what makes Star Trek appealing.
It's too bad Jammer didn't like the show, but he's entitled to hiw own opinion. I do disagree though with his appraisal of Blalock's acting range. I also think this character was clearly a different character than T'Pol. She was much more "Vulcan" in this episode; she was more emotionally restrained in her reactions and more oriented towards tradition than T'Pol typically is.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 1:29pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
@Elliott, Peremensoe, Robert, Skeptikal, William, and Yanks
Interesting debate, as usual, between some of the most able debaters in here. It would seem that I mostly tend to agree with Robert on this one. I’m not sure, though; my reading may be myopic.
For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion on this most interesting question of "sentience". For the record: Data and the EMH are of course some of my favourite characters of Trek, altough I consider Data to be a considerably more interesting and complex one; the EMH has many good episodes and is wonderfully entertaining ― Picardo does a great job ―, but doesn’t come close to Data otherwise.
I consider Data, but not the EMH, to be sentient.
This has to do with the physical aspect of what is an individual, and sentience. Data has a body. More importantly, Data has a brain. It’s not about how Data and the EMH behave and what they say, it’s a matter of how, or whether, they think.
Peremensoe wrote: ”This is a physiological difference between them, but not a philosophical one, as far as I can see.”
I cannot agree. I’m sure that someday we’ll see machines that can simulate intelligence ― general *artificial intelligence*, or strong AI. But I believe that if we are ever to also achieve true *artificial consciousness* ― what I gather we mean here by ”sentience” ― we need also to create an artificial brain. As Haikonen wrote a decade ago:
”The brain is definitely not a computer. Thinking is not an execution of programmed strings of commands. The brain is not a numerical calculator either. We do not think by numbers.”
This is the main difference between Data and the EMH, and why this physiological difference is so important. Data possesess an artificial brain ― artificial neural networks of sorts ―, the EMH does not.
Data’s positronic brain should thus allow him thought processes somehow similar to those of humans that are beyond the EMH’s capabilities. The EMH simply executes Haikonen’s ”programmed strings of commands”.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Soongs positronic brain (is anyone?), and I have no idea about the intricate differences and similarities between it and the human brain (again: does anyone?). But I believe that his artificial brain must somehow allow for some of the same, or similar, thought processes that cause *self-awareness* in humans. Data’s positronic brain is no mere CPU. In spite of his very slow learning curve in some aspects, Data consists of more than his programming.
This again is at the core of the debate. ”Sentience”, as in self-awareness, or *artificial consciousness*, must necessarily imply some sort of non-linear, cognititive processes. Simple *artificial intelligence* ― such as decision-making, adapting and improving, and even the simulation of human behaviour ― must not.
The EMH is a sophisticated program, especially regarding prioritizing and decision-making functions, and even possessing autoprogramming functions allowing him to alter his programming. As far as I remember (correct me if I’m wrong), he doesn’t posses the same self-monitoring and self-maintenance functions that Data ― and any sentient being ― does. Even those, however, might be programmed and simulated. The true matter is the awareness of self. One thing is to simulate autonomous thought; something quite different is actually possessing it. Does the fact that the EMH wonders what to call himself prove that he is sentient?
Data is essentially a child in his understanding of humanity. But he is, in all aspects, a sentient individual. He has a physical body, and a physical brain that processes his thoughts, and he lives with the awareness of being a unique being. Data cannot exist outside his body, or without his positronic brain. If there’s one thing that we learned from the film ”Nemesis”, it’s that it’s his brain, much superior to B-4’s, that makes him what he is. Thanks to his body, and his brain, Data is, in every aspect, an independent individual.
The EMH is not. He has no body, and no brain, but depends ― mainly, but not necessarily ― on the Voyager computer to process his program. But more fundamentally, he depends entirely on that program ― on strings of commands. Unlike Data, he consists of nothing more than the sum of his programming.
The EMH can be rewritten at will, in a manner that Data cannot. He can be relocated at will to any computer system with enough capacity to store and process his program. Data cannot ― when Data transfers his memories to B-4, the latter doesn’t become Data. He can be shaped and modelled and thrown about like a piece of clay. Data cannot. The EMH has, in fact, no true personality or existence.
Because he relies *entirely* on a string of commands, he is, in truth, nothing but that simple execution of commands. Even if his program compels him to mimic human behaviour with extreme precision, that precision merely depends on computational power and lines of programming, not thought process.
Of course, one could argue that the Voyager’s computer *is* the EMH’s brain, and that it is irrelevant that his memories, and his program, can be transferred to any other computer ― even as far as the Alpha Quadrant, as in ”Message in a Bottle” and ”Life Line”.
But that merely further annihilates his individuality. The EMH can, in theory, if the given hardware and power requirements are met, be duplicated at will at any given time, creating several others which might then develop in different ways. However ― unlike say, Will and Thomas Riker, or a copy of Data, or the clone of any true individual ―, these several other EMHs might even be merged again at a later time.
It is even perfectly possible to imagine that several EMHs could be merged, with perhaps the necessary adjustments to the program (deleting certain subroutines any of them might have added independently in the meanwhile, for example), but allowing for multiple memories for certain time periods to be retained. Such is the magic of software.
The EMH is thus not even a true individual, much less sentient. He’s software. Nothing more.
Furthermore, something else and rather important must also be mentioned. Unless our scope is the infinite, that is, God, or the Power Cosmic, to be sentient also means that you can lose that sentience. Humans, for a variety of reasons, can, all by themselves and to various degrees, become demented, or insane, or even vegetative. A computer program cannot.
I’m betting that Data, given his positronic brain, could, given enough time, devolve to something such as B-4 when his brain began to fail. Given enough time (as he clearly evolves much slower than humans, and his positronic brain would presumably last centuries or even millennia before suffering degradation), Data could actually risk losing his sanity, and perhaps his sentience, just like any human.
The EMH cannot. The various attempts in VOY to depict a somewhat deranged EMH, such as ”Darkling”, are all unconvincing, even if interesting or amusing: there should and would always be a set of primary directives and protocols that would override all other programming in cases of internal conflict. Call it the Three Laws, or what you will: such is the very nature of programming. ”Darkling”, and other such instances, is a fraud. It is not the reflex of sentience; it is, at best, the result of inept programming.
So is ”Latent Image”. But symptomatically, what do we see in that episode? Janeway conveniently rewrites the EMH, erasing part of his memory. This is consistent with what we see suggested several times, such as concerning his speech and musical subroutines in ”Virtuoso”. Again, symptomatically, what does Torres tell the EMH in ”Virtuoso”?
― TORRES: “Look, Doc, I don't know anything about this woman or why she doesn't appreciate you, and I may not be an expert on music, but I'm a pretty good engineer. I can expand your musical subroutines all you like. I can even reprogramme you to be a whistling teapot. But, if I do that, it won't be you anymore.”
This is at the core of the nature of the EMH. What is he? A computer program, the sum of lines of programming.
Compare again to Data. Our yellow-eyed android is also the product of incredibly advanced programming. He also is able to write subroutines to add to his nature and his experience; and he can delete those subroutines again. The important difference, however, is that only Soong and Lore can seriously manipulate his behaviour, and then only by triggering Soongs purpose-made devices: the homing device in ”Brothers”, and the emotion chip in ”Descent”. There’s a reason, after all, why Maddox would like to study Data further in ”Measure of a Man”. And this is the difference: Soong is Soong, and Data is Data. But any apt computer programmer could rewrite the EMH as he or she pleased.
(Of course, one could claim than any apt surgeon might be able to lobotomise any human, but that would be equivalent to saying that anyone with a baseball bat might alter the personality of an human. I trust you can see the difference.)
I believe that the EMH, because of this lack of a brain, is incapable of brain activity and complex thought, and thus artificial consciousness. The EMH is by design able to operate from any computer system that meets the minimum requirements, but the program can never be more than the sum of his string of commands. Sentience may be simulated ― it may even be perfectly simulated. But simulated sentience is still a simulation.
I thus believe that the EMH is nothing but an incredibly sophisticated piece of software that mimics sentience, and pretends to wish to grow, and pretends to... and pretends to.... He is, in a way, The Great Pretender. He has no real body, and he has no real mind. As his programming evolves, and the subroutines become ever more complex, the illusion seems increasingly real. But does it ever become more than a simulacrum of sentience?
All this is of course theory; in practical terms, I have no problem admitting that a sufficiently advanced program would be virtually indistinguishable, for most practical purposes, from actual sentience. And therefore, *for most practical purposes*, I would treat the impressive Voyager EMH as an individual. But as much as I am fond of the Doctor, I have a very hard time seeing him as anything but a piece of software, no matter how sophisticated.
So, as you can gather by now, I am not a fan of such thoughts on artificial consciousness that imply that it is all simply a matter of which computations the AI is capable of. A string of commands, however complex, is still nothing but a string of commands. So to conclude: even in a sci-fi context, I side with the ones who believe that artificial consciousness requires some sort of non-linear thought process and brain activity. It requires a physical body and brain of sorts, be it a biological humanoid, a positronic android, the Great Link, the ocean of Solaris, or whatever (I am prepared to discuss non-corporeal entities, but elsewhere).
Finally, I would say that the bio gel idea, as mentioned by Robert, could have been interesting in making the EMH somehow more unique. That could have the further implication that he could not be transferred to a computer without bio gel circuitry, thus further emphasizing some sort of uniqueness, and perhaps providing a plausible explanation for the proverbial ”spark” of consciousness ― which of course would then, as in Data’s case, have been present from the beginning. This would transform the EMH from a piece of software into... perhaps something more, that was interwoven with the ship itself somehow. It could have been interesting ― but then again, it would also have limited the writing for the EMH very severely. Could it have provided enough alternate possibilities to make it worthwhile? I don’t know; but I can understand why the writers chose otherwise
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 1:10pm (USA Central)
Trials and Tribble-ations
Gordon's observation is well taken, but it is hardly a "gaping plot hole." As Peremensoe says, it's a joke -- a setup and punchline that has nothing to do with the plot. It is, perhaps, a gaping flaw in series continuity that should've been evident at the time (i.e. before Enterprise revisited the issue). Notice the crew weren't surprised to learn that Darvin (and we never did learn his Klingon name) was a surgically-altered spy. At least, the fact that such spies existed was not surprising.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 12:59pm (USA Central)
Trials and Tribble-ations
Yeah, that's exactly what we Trekkers need, our own Hayden Christiansen shoehorned into in Jedi moment. We should probably redub all the lines about Eugenics to have taken place in the 2030s instead of 1900s. Oh and we could go Abrams and digitally graft on little Nokia logos onto the communicators, and hell, throw in a scene where we actually see Trobbles mating (in CGI of course)!
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 12:05pm (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
Not sure what you're saying Robert.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 11:51am (USA Central)
Trials and Tribble-ations
"If Sisko wasn't in the original timeline then who dropped the tribble on Kirk?"
Heh. I'll call that a joke too.
Or, if fanwank we must: the tribble that Sisko drops takes the place of another (or the same) tribble that was originally dislodged onto Kirk's head without a person's presence in the bin. The trajectories of all the falling tribbles are necessarily created differently when Sisko is up there, but the appearance to those below works out to be the same. Sisko's toss is the final lucky piece of timeline conservation. ;)
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 11:43am (USA Central)
Yep. She mentions it in this interview, www.startrek.com/article/grace-lee-whitney-on-trek-life-part-i
For more, see her book The Longest Trek.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 11:38am (USA Central)
Trials and Tribble-ations
"The original version is clearly a timeline in which Darvin never returned. "
I disagree. If Sisko wasn't in the original timeline then who dropped the tribble on Kirk?
I don't know that I would have monkeyed with the episode, but it might have been funny to have it as an alternate version on the TOS blu ray discs.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 11:25am (USA Central)
Trials and Tribble-ations
The thing about Klingon appearance was a JOKE.
The sensible way to understand Klingons is that they have *always* had the ridges and so forth. If the scene was serious, Bashir and the others simply wouldn't have noticed anything different about the Klingons in the bar. But it was a winking, fourth-wall-crossing joke, from the writers to the audience.
It's the later-made Enterprise episodes that fail, catastrophically, by not getting the joke.
navamske: "When they remastered "The Trouble with Tribbles," they should have put some of the DS9 characters in the background"
What for? We *have* the version with DS9 characters right here. It's even on the remastered TOS DVD! The original version is clearly a timeline in which Darvin never returned.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:59am (USA Central)
Trials and Tribble-ations
I love this episode as much as most people above but for me there's still a gaping plot hole with the Klingons in the bar - namely why don't Bashir and the others recognise them for what they are? Sure, they don't look anything like the Klingons that they've known all their lives but surely there are pictorial records from Kirk's time, showing what they were like back then?
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 9:55am (USA Central)
Watched this yesterday on the 'horror channel' of all things here in the UK. I quite enjoyed it. Not really sure of the sexist overtones but considering when it was made ill let that pass.
Greatest moment? Early on when they get back to the ship and Bones is talking to a seated Kirk. Note how Kirk is doing his nails! Subtle but brilliant.
Shatner i thought played the part really well, he stammers and 'ers..' his way through his rants, the crews faces as he/she gets more desperate towards the end are excellent.
Id give it 4 stars! Throughly enjoyed it.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 9:17am (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
@Yanks - Well Data is more of a hardware program and Doc is more software. That said, you can probably make Mario entirely on a circuit board or a software exe and have it play exactly the same.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 9:03am (USA Central)
Heroes and Demons
"So Doc's mind runs on the ship computer, while Data's runs on his personal computer in his head. This is a physiological difference between them, but not a philosophical one, as far as I can see. The *location* of a being's mind says nothing about its capacity for thought and experience."
I think it's a little more than that. Doc can be rewritten at a whim. Data can not. When "Data" was dowloaded into B4, he reverted back to essentially a child. Doc on the other hand just pops himself into whatever computer or 29th century mobile emitter he can find.
- Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 8:25am (USA Central)
@Norvo - Why? Kes was jumping backwards through her own life. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap jumps around during his own. Time travel in Trek near Earth never accidentally beams the crew to before Earth existed. When Sisko was bouncing around in time he was tied to Jake. I'm not telling you the science makes perfect sense, but as far as time travel is established in Trek the idea that this thing could be tied to Voyager isn't that weird.
The phenomenon happened to Voyager, why couldn't it have been tied to Voyager's existence? Sure you might have been able to walk into the cargo bay and find a bunch of Utopia Planetia technicians building the thing (and that might have been pretty funny) but the idea isn't that out there. I like this episode, Beltran looked like he was having a lot of fun (nice to see for a change in the later seasons) and I loved all the little continuity tie ins from past episodes. This was a Voyager episode for Voyager fans. Not a classic 4 star, but I'll give it 3.5. It was fun.
Page 1 of 891