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Suicide Q
Sun, Jun 26, 2016, 1:56am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Inner Light

I saw it a few times when younger and yes I cried. Now I find it very BORING.
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Sun, Jun 26, 2016, 1:22am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Arena

"Can you manufacture some sort of rudimentary gun?!"

Considering a great scene from Galaxy Quest owes itself to this episode, I think it deserves a higher rating. Agree with the others this was in my top 3 as a youngster.
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Sun, Jun 26, 2016, 12:15am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S1: Two Days and Two Nights

After watching this episode the only memorable plot points for me is Reed and Catfish Tucker get robbed by transvestites. and Hoshi gets some action. completely forgettable episode for me.
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Sun, Jun 26, 2016, 12:07am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Stigma

Wow just wow this one was even less subtle than TNG's "The Outcast" I mean there literally referred to as the minority and "melders" who are just born that way and the "normal" Vu;cans irrationally think that they want to trick others into melding with them.

Enterprise continues to make me hate who ever it is who writes Vulcan's Except a select few guest stars. I can't even begin to say how stupid the final conversation is between archer and T'pol.

The Innuendo's between Phlox's wife and Trip where juvenile.
1 Star only because I at least think its funny how obvious they are with there AIDS homosexuality message. There's a reason Iv'e only seen 7 episodes from the first 2 seasons of this show.

Travis finally gets some dialogue even if its for something stupid.
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William B
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

The second "Heroes and Demons" comment you quoted was much more focused on nonlinearity as opposed to the physical enclosure of the brain. So I didn't address that in my comment, which I had started writing before you posted your second comment :) I guess one question is whether nonlinearity would actually be necessary to convincingly simulate human-level intelligence/insight. If it was not, then there is less of a problem; AI which would give the appearance of consciousness would not come up. If it was, then Picard's argument would still largely stand, and then either nonlinearity would need to be eliminated as a requirement for probable sentience or a different argument than the one Picard offers would be required -- unless there is something else in the episode that you think would preclude a more linear computer from gaining some rights in this episode if it displayed the same external traits as Data.
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William B
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

@Andy's Friend:

First of all, I was thinking about your post at times when I was writing the above.

I do think that the meaning of Data's positronic net has some of the connotations you indicate. I do think that there is a very important distinction between Data and the Doctor on this level. And I agree quite strongly that it is important that it is *only* members of Data's "family" who can manipulate him with impunity. In fact it is not just Soong and Lore, but also Dr. Graves from "The Schizoid Man," but even there he is clearly identified as Data's "grandfather." Within this very episode, it is emphasized several times, as you point out, that it has been impossible for Maddox to recreate the feat of Data, and that he hopes that he will recreate it by disassembling Data...which may in fact do nothing to further his abilities along. Further, we know from, e.g., The Schizoid Man, that Data's physical brain can support Graves' personality in a way that the Enterprise computer cannot (the memories are still "there" but the spark is gone). Data can, of course, be manipulated by random events of the week, but we are talking about beings with unknown power, like Q giving him laughter, or the civilization in "Masks" taking him over, or events which affect Data the same as biological beings (like the polywater intoxication in "The Naked Now" or the memory alteration thing in "Conundrum"). I think that a lot of the reason it is important that only members of Data's "family" can affect him to this degree (beyond beings who are shown to have the power to do broader manipulations on all sentient beings, like the Q) is that, as you say, in some respects Data is a child, and the series has (very cleverly) managed to split apart different aspects of Data's growth so that they take place in the series; by holding the keys to Data's growth, Graves, Soong, Tainer and Lore literalize the awesome power that family has to shape us in fundamental ways, which is important metaphorically.

And yet --

I think that the difference here between hardware and software is important, but it does not necessarily mean everything. I do not understand the claim, and the certainty behind it, that sentience requires a body to be "real" rather than a simulation. I presume that you do not require the body to be humanoid, but certainly you seem to indicate that the EMH cannot be sentient because he is simulated by the computer, rather than because he is located inside a body the way Data is. Your claim also that anyone can modify the EMH by changing codes indicates that he is not sentient, again, does not convince me. Certainly it means that the EMH is easier to change, is more dependent on external stimulus. However to some extent this represents simply a different perspective on what it means to be self-aware. The ease with which external pressures can change the EMH matches up with his mercurial, "borderline" personality, constantly being reshaped by environment rather than having a more solid core. Data, despite his ability to modify himself, has a more solid core of identity, but in the time between Data and the EMH's creation (both in-universe, and in our world) the ability of medicine to alter personality, through electrical stimulation or drugs, has increased. You are fond of quoting that we mostly need mirrors, and I think that in most respects, Data and the EMH are there to hold mirrors up to humanity; in both cases, we are looking at aspects of what it means to be human in a technological age, and without recourse to theology to define the "soul," but Data seems to me to reflect the question of what it means to be a person who exists in the physical world, whose selfhood is housed in and dependent on a physical organ, whereas the EMH is something more of the creature of the internet age, where people's sense of self is a little less consciously tied to their *bodies* so much as their online avatars, and some people have become aware of how easily they can be shaped (manipulated?) by information.

What that means, in universe, for the relative sentience of the two is a complicated question. But it does not seem to me that sentience need necessarily be a matter of physical location. I believe that at the time of Data, within the universe, the best computers in Starfleet were just starting to catch up to the ability to simulate human-level intelligences; Minuet is still far ahead of the Enterprise computer *without* the Bynar enhancement, for example, and Moriarty appears sentient but remains something of a curiosity. The EMH is at the vanguard of a new movement, and, particularly when his code is allowed to grow in complexity, he comes to be indistinguishable in complexity from a human. If consciousness is an emergent property -- something which necessarily follows from a sufficiently complex system -- then what would make the EMH not conscious?

The relevance of "artificial intelligence" for Data is that, in this episode, intelligence is one of the three qualities that Maddox gives. Self-awareness is the other. Consciousness is the third, and this is what cannot be identified by an outside party. Perhaps some theory of consciousness could be finalized by the real 24th century which would aid in this, but within Trek it seems as if there is nothing to do but speculate. And so I believe that Picard would make the same argument for the EMH that he makes for Data, and, indeed, for other artificial entities which display the intelligence necessary to be able to more or less function at a humanoid level as well as self-awareness of being able to accurately communicate one's situation. That does not, of course, mean Picard would be correct. But while Picard absolutely argues that Data should have rights because he is conscious (or, rather, *might* be conscious, and the consequences are grave if he does not), he does not attempt to prove that Data is conscious, at all, but rather implicitly demonstrates, using himself as an example, the impossibility of proving consciousness. (This is not *quite* what he does; rather, he demonstrates that Maddox cannot easily prove Picard sentient, and Maddox manages to get out that Picard is self-aware, and we can presume that Maddox would believe Picard to be intelligent, so that still leaves consciousness.)

The question is then whether, according to your model, the episode fails to argue its case -- because no one does strenuously argue that Data's positronic brain is the true distinction between him and the Enterprise computer. This is one of the points that Peter G. argued earlier, that this is the only thing really at issue in this episode, and by extension the episode failed by not properly addressing it. I would argue that this is still not really true, because it is still valuable to come at the problem from the side Picard eventually takes: if Data meets all the requirements for sentience that Maddox can prove apply to Picard, it would be discriminatory and dangerous to deny him the same rights. The arguments presented still hold -- Riker's case that Data remains a machine, created by a man, designed to resemble a man, a collection of heuristic algorithms, etc., remains true, and Picard's case that humans are also machines, that Data has formed connections which could not have been directly anticipated in his original programming (though Soong could have made some sort of "keep a memento from the person you're intimate with" code, even still), and that Data's sentience matches his own remain true. Unless the form of Data's intelligence and heuristic algorithms really do exclude the EMH in some way, it still just seems to me that Picard has not really excluded the EMH in his argument. Since I don't think that Data's artificial brain vs. the complex code which runs the EMH is necessarily a fundamental difference, I don't think this gap in the episode is a problem. But even there I am not certain that the Enterprise computer would not fit some of Picard's argument, except that it is perhaps not as able to learn and adapt and thus would not meet the intelligence requirement.

It is possible that I simply like this episode enough that I'm more interesting in defending it than in getting at the truth -- part of the problem with this sort of, ahem, "adversarial process." But the episode is of course not suddenly worthless if the characters within it make wrong or incomplete arguments. Some of the reason that Picard makes the argument he does is that Data is similar enough to a human that analogies to incidents in human history can be, and are, made, in which differences which seem to be crucial but are later decided were actually superficial are used as a pretext for discrimination and slavery. If artificial consciousness (or artificial intelligence) never gets to the point where an android can be created of the level of sophistication of Data, then the episode still remains relevant as a metaphor for intra-human social issues, which in the end is mostly its primary purpose anyway.

It is worth noting that most forms of intelligence in TNG end up taking on physical form rather than existing in code. The emergent life form in "Emergence" actually gets formed in the holodeck as a physical entity, and that physical entity is then reproduced in the ship and then flown out. The Exocomps which Data goes to save are a little like little brains on wheels, and the connections that they form are, again, *physical* in nature -- they actually replicate the pathways. These along with the positronic brains of Data, Lore, Lal and Julianna suggest that TNG's take does largely match up with yours. However, I am not that certain that the brain being a physical entity is what is important for consciousness. Of the major holographic characters in the show, Minuet is revealed to be a ploy by the Bynars, and whether she is actually conscious or not remains something of a mystery, but even if she is, it is specifically because of the Bynars' extremely advanced and mysterious computer tech, which is gone at the end of the episode. The holographic Leah actually is made to be self-aware, and here we might have to rely, following Picard's argument in the episode, on her not being sufficiently intelligent -- while she can carry on a conversation, she is not actually able to solve the problem (Geordi comes up with the solution), though this is hardly conclusive. Moriarty is the bizarre, exceptional case which "Elementary Dear Data" regards with optimism and "Ship in a Bottle" a more jaded pragmatism, living out his life in a simulation which can be as real as he is, whatever that is. Moriarty really is the most miraculous of these, and the one that most prefigures the Doctor, and really "E,DD" and "Ship in the Bottle" do not so much rule out that Moriarty could genuinely be conscious as supply a one-off solution to a one-off freak occurrence, giving him a happy life, if not exactly the full life he (apparently) wanted in exchange for him not killing them.
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Joseph B
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 10:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

This movie was just released in the new 4K UHD Blu-ray format!!
According to reviewers they used the IMAX format (1.78:1) aspect ratio for many of the scenes and they say it looks phenomenal! The package also includes the regular 2K Blu-ray releases for both Star Trek (2009) and "Into Darkness" as well as $8.00 off on a movie ticket to see "Beyond".

So if Jammer was waiting on the 4K iteration of the movie before writing his review, he has now run out of excuses!
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man


Sat, Nov 1, 2014, 1:43pm (UTC -5)

"@William B, thanks for your reply, and especially for making me see things in my argumentation I hadn’t thought of myself! :D

@Robert, thanks for the emulator theory. I’m not quite sure that I agree with you: I believe you fail to see an important difference. But we’ll get there :)

This is of course one huge question to try and begin to consider. It is also a very obvious one; there’s a reason ”The Measure of a Man” was written as early as Season 2.

First of all, a note on the Turing test several of you have mentioned: I agree with William, and would be more categorical than him: it is utterly irrelevant for our purposes, most importantly because simulation really is just that. We must let Turing alone with the answers to the questions he asked, and search deeper for answers to our own questions.

Second, a clarification: I’m discussing this mostly as sci-fi, and not as hard science. But it is impossible for me to ignore at least some hard science. The problem with this is that while any Trek writer can simply write that the Doctor is sentient, and explain it with a minimum of ludicrous technobabble, it is quite simply inconsistent with what the majority of experts on artifical consciousness today believes. But...

...on the other hand, the positronic brain I use to argue Data’s artificial consciousness is, in itself, in a way also a piece of that same technobabble. None of us knows what it does; nobody does. However, it is not as implausible a piece of technobabble as say, warp speed, or transporter technology. It may very well be possible one day to create an artificial brain of sorts. And in fact, it is a fundamental piece in what most believe to be necessary to answer our question. I therefore would like to state these fundamental First and Second Sentences:

1. ― DATA HAS AN ARTIFICIAL BRAIN. We know that Data has a ”positronic brain”. It is consistently called a ”brain” throughout the series. But is it an *artificial brain*? I believe it is.

2. ― THE EMH IS A COMPUTER PROGRAM. I don’t belive I need to elaborate on that.

This is of the highest order of importance, because ― unlike what I now see Robert seems to believe ― I think the question of ”sentience”, or artificial consciousness, has little to do with hardware vs software as he puts it, as we shall see.

Now, I’d like to clarify nomenclature and definitions. Feel free to disagree or elaborate:

― By *brain* I mean any actual (human) or fictional (say, the Great Link) living species’ brain, or thought process mechanism(s) that perform functions analogous to those of the human brain, and allow for *non-linear*, cognitive processes. I’m perfectly prepared to accept intelligent, sentient, extra-terrestrial life that is non-humanoid; in fact, I would be very surprised if most were humanoid, and in that respect I am inclined to agree with Stanilaw Łem in “Solaris”. I am perfectly ready to accept radial symmetric lifeforms, or asymmetric, with all the implications to their nervous systems, or even more bizarre and exotic lifeforms, such as the Great Link or Solaris’ ocean. I believe, though, that all self-conscious lifeforms must have some sort of brain, nervous system ― not necessarily a central nervous system ―, or analogues (some highly sophisticated nerve net, for instance) that in some manner or other allows for non-linear cognitive processes. Because non-linearity is what thought, and consciousness ― sentience as we talk about it ― is about.

― By *artificial brain* I don’t mean a brain that faithfully reproduces human neuroanatomy, or human thought processes. I merely mean any artificially created brain of sorts or brain analogue which somehow (insert your favourite Treknobabble here ― although serious, actual research is being conducted in this field) can produce *non-linear* cognitive processes.

― By *non-linear* cognitive process I mean not the strict sense of non-linear computational mechanics, but rather, that ineffable quality of abstract human thought process which is the opposite of *linear* computational process ― which in turn is the simple execution of strings of command, which necessarily must follow as specified by any specific program or subroutine. Non-linear processes are both the amazing strength and the weakness of the human mind. Unlike linear, slavish processes of computers and programs, the incredible wonder of the brain as defined is its capacity to perform that proverbial “quantum leap”, the inexplicable abstractions, non-linear processes that result in our thoughts, both conscious and subconscious ― and in fact, in us having a mind at all, unlike computers and computer programs. Sadly, it is also that non-linear, erratic and unpredictable nature of brain processes that can cause serious psychological disturbances, madness, or even loss of consciousness of self.

These differences are at the core of the issue, and here I would perhaps seem to agree with William, when he writes: ”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.”

I agree and again, I would go a bit further: I am actually willing to go so far as to admit the possibility of us one day being able to create an *artificial brain* which can reproduce, to a certain degree, some or many of those processes ― and perhaps even others our own human brains are incapable of. Likewise, I am prepared to admit the possibility of sentient life in other forms than carbon-based humanoid. It is as reflections of those possibilities that I see the Founders, and any number of other such outlandish species in Star Trek. And it is as such that I view Data’s positronic brain ― something that somehow allows him many of the same possibilities of conscious thought that we have, and perhaps even others, as yet undiscovered by him. Again, I would even go so far as not only to admit, but to suppose the very real possibility of two identical artificial brains ― say, two copies of Data’s positronic brain ― *not* behaving exactly alike in spite of being exact copies of each other, in a manner similar to (but of course not identical to) how identical twins’ brains will function differently. This analogy is far from perfect, but it is perhaps the easiest one to understand: thoughts and consciousness are more than the sum of the physical, biological brain and DNA. Artificial consciousness must also be more than the sum of a artificial brain and the programming. As such, I, like the researchers whose views I am merely reflecting, not only expect, but require an artificial brain that in this aspect truly equals the fundamental behaviour of sentient biological brains.

It is here, I believe, that Robert’s last thoughts and mine seem to diverge. Robert seems to believe that Data’s positronic brain is merely a highly advanced computer. If this is the case, I wholly agree with his final assessment.

If not, however, if Data’s brain is a true *artificial brain* as defined, what Robert proposes is wholly unacceptable.


Data’s brain is never established as a true artificial brain. But it is never established a merely highly advanced computer, either. It is once stated, for instance, that his brain is “rated at...” But this means nothing. This is a mere attempt at assessing certain faculties of his capacities, while wholly ignoring others that may as yet be underdeveloped or unexplored. It is in a way similar to saying of a chess player that he is rated at 2450 ELO: it tells you precious little about the man’s capacities outside the realm of chess.

We must therefore clearly understand that brains, including artificial brains, and computers are not the same and don’t work the same way. It is not a matter of orders of magnitude. It is not a matter of speed, or capacity. It is not even a matter of apples and oranges.

I therefore would like to state my Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Sentences:

3. ― A BRAIN IS NOT A COMPUTER, and vice-versa.


6. ― A PROGRAM IS INCAPABLE OF THOUGHT PROCESSES. It merely consists of linear strings of commands.

Here is finally the matter explained: a computer is merely a toaster, a vacuum-cleaner, a dish-washer: it always performs the same routine function. That function is to run various computer programs. And the computer programs ― any program ― will always be incapable of exceeding themselves. And the combination computer+program is incapable of non-linear, abstract thought process.

To simplify: a computer program must *always* obey its programming, EVEN IN SUCH CASES WHEN THE PROGRAMMING FORCES RANDOMIZATION. In such cases, random events ― actions and decisions, for instance ― are still merely a part of that program, within the chosen parametres. They are therefore only apparently random, and only within the specifications of the program or subroutine. An extremely simplified example:

Imagine that in a given situation involving Subroutine 47 and a A/B Action choice, the programming requires that the EMH must:

― 35% of the cases: wait 3-6 seconds as if considering Actions A and B, then choose the action with the HIGHEST probability of success according to Subroutine 47
― 20% of the cases: wait 10-15 seconds as if considering Actions A and B, then choose the action with the HIGHEST probability of success according to Subroutine 47
― 20% of the cases: wait 20-60 seconds as if considering Actions A and B, then choose the action with the HIGHEST probability of success according to Subroutine 47
― 10% of the cases: wait 20-60 seconds as if considering Actions A and B, then choose RANDOMLY.
― 5% of the cases: wait 60-90 seconds as if considering Actions A and B, then choose RANDOMLY.
― 6% of the cases: wait 20-60 seconds as if considering Actions A and B, then choose the action with the LOWEST probability of success according to Subroutine 47
― 2% of the cases: wait 10-15 seconds, then choose the action with the LOWEST probability of success according to Subroutine 47
― 2% of the cases: wait 3-6 seconds, then choose the action with the LOWEST probability of success according to Subroutine 47

In a situation such as this simple one, any casual long term observer would conclude that the faster the subject/EMH took a decision, the more likely it would be the right one ― something observed in most good professionals. Every now and then, however, even a quick decision might prove to be wrong. Inversely, sometimes the subject might exhibit extreme indecision, considering his options for up to a minute and a half, and then having even chances of success.

A professional observer with the proper means at his disposal, however, and enough time to run a few hundred tests, would notice that this subject never, ever spent 7-9 seconds, or 16-19 seconds before reaching a decision. A careful analysis of the response times given here would show results that could not possibly be random coincidences. If it were “Blade Runner”, Deckard would have no trouble whatsoever in identifying this subject as a Replicant.

We may of course modify the random permutations of sequences, and adjust probabilities and the response times as we wish, in order to give the most accurate impression of realism compared to the specific subroutine: for a doctor, one would expect medical subroutines to be much faster and much more successful than poker and chess subroutines, for example. Someone with no experience in cooking might injure himself in the kitchen; but even professional chefs cut themselves rather often. And of course, no one is an expert at everything. A sufficiently sophisticated program would reflect all such variables, and perfectly mimic the chosen human behaviour. But again, the Turing test is irrelevant:

All this is varying degrees of randomization. None of this is conscious thought: it is merely strings of command to give the impression of doubt, hesitation, failure and success ― in short, to give the impression of humanity.

But it’s all fake. It’s all programmed responses to stimuli.

Now make this model a zillion times more sophisticated, and you have the EMH’s “sentience”: a simple simulation, a computer program unable to exceed its subroutines, run slavishly by a computer unable of any thought processes.

The only way to partially bypass this problem is to introduce FORCED CHAOS: TO RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZATION altogether.

It is highly unlikely, however, that any computer program could long survive operating a true forced chaos generator at the macro-level, as opposed to limited forced chaos to certain, very specific subroutines. One could have forced chaos make the subject hesitate for forty minutes, or two hours, or forever and forfeit the game in a simple position in a game of chess, for example; but a forced chaos decision prompting the doctor to kill his patient with a scalpel would have more serious consequences. And many, many simpler forced chaos outcomes might also have very serious consequences. And what if the forced chaos generator had power over the autoprogramming function? How long would it take before catastrophic failure and cascading systems failure would occur?

And finally, but also importantly: even if the program could somehow survive operating a true forced chaos generator, thus operating extremely erraticly ― which is to say, extremely dangerously, to itself and any systems and people that might depend on it ―, it would still merely be obeying its forced chaos generator ― that is, another piece of strings of command.

So we’re back where we started.

So, to repeat one of my first phrases from a previous comment: “It’s not about how Data and the EMH behave and what they say, it’s a matter of how, or whether, they think.” And the matter is, that the EMH simply *does not think*. The program simulates realistic responses, based on programmed responses to stimuli. That’s all. This is not thought process. This is not having a mind.

So it follows that I don’t agree when Peremensoe writes what Yanks also previously has commented on: "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."

The point is that “Doc” doesn’t have a “mind”. There is therefore a deep philosophical divide here. The kind of “mind” the EMH has is one you can simply print on paper ― line by line of programming. That’s all it is. You could, quite literally, print every single line of the EMH programming, and thus literally read everything that it is, and learn and be able to calculate its exact probabilities of response in any given, imaginable situation. You can, quite literally, read the EMH like a book.

Not so with any human. And not so, I argue, with Data. And this is where I see that Robert, in my opinion, misunderstands the question. Robert writes: “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”. This only makes sense if you disregard his artificial brain, and the relationship between his original programming and the way it has interacted with, and continues to interact with that brain, ever expanding what Data is ― albeit rather slowly, perhaps as a result of his positronic brain requiring much longer timeframes, but also being able to last much longer than biological brains.

So I’ll say it again: I believe that Data is more than his programming, and his brain. His brain is not just some very advanced computer. Somehow, his data ― sensations and memories ― must be stored and processed in ways we don’t fully understand in that positronic brain of his ― much like the Great Link’s thoughts and memories are stored and processed in ways unknown to us, in that gelatinous state of theirs.

I therefore doubt that Data’s program and brain as such can be extracted and emulated with any satisfactory results, any more than any human’s can. Robert would like to convert Data’s positronic brain into software. But who knows if that is any more possible than converting a human brain into software? Who knows whether Data’s brain, much like our own, can generate thought processes that are inscrutable and inexplicable that surpass its construction?

So while the EMH *program* runs on some *computer*, Data’s *thoughts* somehow flow in his *artificial brain*. This is thus not a matter of location: it’s a matter of essence. We are discussing wholly different things: a program in a computer, and thoughts in a brain. It just doesn’t get much more different. In my opinion, we are qualitatively worlds apart. "
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man


You have to go much further. You have to stop talking about artificial intelligence, which is irrelevant, and begin discussing artificial consciousness.

Allow me to copy-paste a couple of my older posts on "Heroes and Demons" (VOY). I recommend the whole discussion there, even Elliott's usual attempts to contadict me (and everyone else; he was the rather contrarian fellow). Do note that "body & brain," as I later explain on that thread, is a stylistic device: it is of course Data's positronic brain that matters.

Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 1:29pm (UTC -5)

"@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"
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Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

When Sisko and Laan are discussing settling who the real emissary is, I laughed to myself and said they should've played a game of darts to determine it. All kidding aside though this was a damn great episode. O'Brien trying to adjust to being a family man and leaving his bachelor life behind. Usually the Bajoran episodes can be a bit dull but this one was really good.
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Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 6:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Tsunkatse

What bugged me in this episode is that a Kradin is seen for a short period of time. I always assumed that the beastly appearance was as a result of the mental manipulation that Chakotay suffered, but apparently, this is what they look like. Shame.
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Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 5:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Time's Arrow, Part II

I hate this 2-parter for one single reason: CLEMENS! His only reason for being there is to be a bonehead, and his snarly, nasal voice feel like shards of glass being driven into my ears. Take him out of it, and it could have been a decently funny 2-parter, but as it stands: NO! Just NO!
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John C. Worsley
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Renaissance Man

Agree with the dissenters. Lousy episode; some entertaining elements in a vacuum but the core is infuriatingly stupid. They really couldn't come up with a good excuse for the action? A being this powerful and this easily manipulated should not have security clearance of any kind.
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Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

After watching DS9 all the way through several times, it was very disconcerting to hear Picard say "What you leave behind..."
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Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 7:00am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Man Trap

All right! Been a long-time lurker on this site and am impressed with your reviews on Trek, of which I am perhaps one of the biggest fans. You should expect many of my comments on some reviews if only to voice how much I enjoy it.
As for The Man Trap, this review is spot-on. I admit I overrate it a bit but 2.5 is about right.
All the best- Peter.
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Joey Lock
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Second Skin

Great episode overall, I'm glad you only realise the true plot as to why this all happened toward the end of the episode.

I loved the last scene, brilliant acting, Lawrence Pressman's facial response when Kira calls him an honourable man and that his daughter must have loved him very much is spot on point, it's a mix of near to tears realisation his daughter is still missing and at the same time surprise and thankfullness.
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Toph in Blacksburg
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: United

I'm surprised no one has brought it up yet, but that zoom-out shot near the end from the Enterprise conference room to showing the assembled unified fleet was really something. You can just tell that this was the true birthplace of the Federation.
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Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Paradise Syndrome

I agree with most of the criticisms Jammer and the other commenters have made about this episode. So many things in it that are nonsensical. But that didn't really bother me that much. I found myself really enjoying Kirk with amnesia. I though Shatner brought a subtle performance to those early scenes; you can see him trying to figure out if he really is the God the natives think he is. As others mentioned, it reminds me of The Inner Light which is a classic. In the end I agree with the 2.5 stars, given the flaws, but I did quite enjoy it.
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Brett Heitkam
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Realm of Fear

One strange thing I noticed in this episode was in the first scene in the conference room when Beverly is speaking to everyone about her findings. Picard is standing so awkwardly close to her (practically on top of her) and when she is speaking he is staring at her with this goofy look on his face. For a minute I thought I was watching the gag reel and they were about to bust out in laughter at any second.
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Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Q2

This really has nothing to do with this episode except that I am rewatching some of Voyager and this episode reminded me of my story. . .

I got to meet John deLancie! AND I made him chuckle.

He's VERY tall, AND very handsome, which actually surprised me, because I have never found Q attractive in the least. His wife is BEAUTIFUL, and I seriously kicked myself for not googling before the event so I would have known that she is the actress who played the female voice of Reva in "Loud as a Whisper." Just like in that episode, her voice is lovely. She was also very nice--I was chatting with her for a while without realizing until later who she was.

So anyway, this was at a dinner during the Reason Rally, and John deLancie was seated right behind me. After dinner, people got up and began mixing and chatting, and the organizer requested over the microphone that all the "main stage speakers come to the annex room for a group photo." John apparently didn't hear, because he turned to me and asked what they had said. I repeated it, then said, "I thought you were supposed to be omniscient!"

He chuckled and replied, "Oh, I've NEVER heard that one before!" But he said it with a smile and wink, so I think it was okay. I at least refrained from falling at his feet in admiration, so it worked out well. :-)
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William B
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 11:08am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

One thing I will still add is that the comparison to animal life still holds in some ways, especially given that certain animals were selectively bred (over millennia) for both intelligence and ability to interact with humans. Putting human intervention aside, if you need a more intelligent animal, ie for a service animal for the blind, you have to have a dog rather than a spider and you have to treat it better. If you want a pet you can pull the legs off with relative impunity, get a spider not a dog. It may end up being that a scale for defining intelligence on computers will be introduced in terms of adaptability etc and that it will be necessary to have less adaptable computers to be able to treat it ethically. Since intelligence (and, really, intelligence as defined by ability to do human-like tasks) is the main measurement for animal life value, I expect it is likely to be one for AI if a sufficiently rigorous theory of consciousness is not forthcoming.

I am troubled, in the end, by the human-centricity of the arguments about Data and the lack of extension to other computers. That said, there are still two directions: if Data is mostly indistinguishable from a humanoid except in the kind of machine he is, Picard's case stands and it is chauvinism to assume that only biology could produce consciousness; if Data is mostly indistinguishable from other machines except in his similarity to humans, then Peter G.'s point stands and it is chauvinism to only grant rights to the most cuddly and human of machines. Both can be true, in which case the failure of imagination on the part of the characters and likely writers is failing to use Data as a launching point to all AI. Even the exocomps, the emergent thing in Emergence, and various holodeck characters are still identified as independent beings whereas the computer itself is not, which reveals a significant bias toward things which resemble human or animal life.

For what it's worth, I continue to have no doubt Data was programmed to value things, have existential crises etc., in conjunction with inputs from his environment, but I continue to believe that this does not necessarily distinguish him from humans, who are created with a DNA blueprint which creates a brain which interacts with said blueprint and the environment. Soong programmed Data in a way to make him likely to continue existing, and humans' observable behaviours are generally consistent with what will lead to the survival of the individual and species. To tie into the first scene in the episode, Data may be an elaborate bluff, but so might we be. Of course that still leaves open the possibility that things very far from human, whether biological, technological, or something else entirely, can also possess this trait. And again it seems like cognitive ability and distance from humans are the things we use now; probably given the similarity of humanoids, cognitive ability and distance from humanoids will be the norm. I would like to believe there is something else that could make the application fairer and less egocentric. But it seems even identifying the root of human consciousness more precisely (in the physical world) would just move the problem one step back, identifying "this particular trait we have" as the thing of value, rather than these *other* traits we have.
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Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 10:06am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

@Peter G.

"This is kind of my problem. The things described in the episode don't show Data to be life-like, but rather Human-like, which is a significant distinction."

True, and this goes back to what William B mentioned about the writers being limited in describing Starfleet generally because they only have the human experience to draw from. Incidentally, that vanity thing I mentioned is actually a line from this episode when Data curiously decides to pack him medals when he leaves Starfleet.

But you're right, the episode doesn't really describe what criteria Data has which qualifies him as sentient and the computer as non-sentient. I suppose Data seems more self-aware than a computer, but it's hard to tell if he's acting on incredibly complex programming or something greater.
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Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 7:14am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

Blah, blah, blah, blah, Troi loses her powers and then get them back... yawn! This episode is for the easily amused ST and Troi fans. It's hard to be moved and touched by an insufferable Mary Sue bitch who did nothing but whine throughout the whole episode and didn't care what's going to happen to everyone else on the ship. Although, Marina Sirtis is an insufferable bitch in real life, so it probably wasn't hard her to act like this. I know that no one is perfect... but damn...

This episode could have been about a real disablement, like Wolf in episode Ethics, that was being disabled, even in the far future. Losing your "know it all abilities" comes across more as a dumb joke, "I lose my powers, I hate everyone! I got my powers back, now I love everyone!"

One and half Star
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captain bangbang
Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 1:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Identity Crisis

I like the character of Susannah, however I wish that the Data-Geordi relationship had been better utilized. We are often told that those two are best buddies but rarely do we see scenes where their friendship grows or is beneficial to either of them. I feel like Data should have been the one to talk Geordi into returning to the ship rather than Leitjen. It would have strengthened their relationship on screen and better illustrated that Data and Geordi are indeed friends and not an engineer and his pet robot. Sometimes seeing them interact, I'm reminded of the Doctor and K-9. I know there are some good scenes of character development between the two, but they almost never correspond to episodes that are character-centric. In fact I can't think of a single episode that played that friendship as a central theme, which is my big beef with the show. The writer's say, "They are best friends", but rarely show it in anymore than the most superficial manner.
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Fri, Jun 24, 2016, 12:19am (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S3: Occupation/Precipice

Watching this years later and reading the review makes me laugh. of COURSE it's about the Iraq occupation - it was doing what good SF does... holds up a mirror!
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