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David
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Naked Now

A fun, amusing episode but nothing more. I'd give it 2 stars. I found the whole premise a bit ridiculous - such as climate controls that go so low as to freeze people to death? When the "infection" spreads to Enterprise, why are some people walking around the ship, going about their duty normally, while others are making out in the corridor? The best scene for me was the Asian engineer sitting there playing with the chips like a 3 year old - hilarious, but at the same time, totally ridiculous. Which I guess sums up this episode.
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David
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Code of Honor

Half a star is very harsh, Jammal. I've been rewatching this show from the beginning on Blu-ray (I have not watched these episodes since 2002, when the DVDs came out). With only a vague memory of how these early episodes play out, I'm finding them quite a lot more enjoyable than I thought I would. I'd give this episode 2 stars (or 2 out of 5 on my preferred 5 star scale). It's ordinary, sure, but not terrible. Simply put, I was entertained. One thing - I found it odd that Yar admitted to finding the leader attractive, though. I didn't think there was anything that stood out about him. Perhaps once I get around to watching the later seasons of the show again, I'll have to re-assess my ratings here. I'm still debating whether this is a 1.5 or 2 star episode....
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David
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

I have to disagree with the rating here - I give it a 2.5 out of 4 (or on a 5 star scale, 3 out of 5). 2 stars implies it's nothing more than average. I consider it above average. I just re-watched this episode for the first time in 14 years (remastered on Blu-ray) and found it enjoyable. For one, it introduces an amazing, and seemingly invulnerable new villain - Q. The scene in the primitive earth court was also well done - I only wish it was longer. Farpoint station itself was vaguely interesting - it kept us guessing as to what was actually going on, and Zorn was a decent character. On this basis alone, I think it deserves more than 2 stars.
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William B
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

Lol. Maybe it will be revealed that ST: Nemesis was all a weird black ops simulation, in the style of "Inquisition," headed by Admiral Janeway to, um...gosh, I dunno. See how Troi responds to her dozenth telepathic violation maybe. Adm. Janeway is not as good at Sloan at running the simulations, I guess, in this scenario.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

Hey, let's not discount the possibility that the show will track a black ops outfit instead of a starship doing exploration. I think Admiral Janeway would be far better suited to overseeing that kind of dirty work than Admiral Picard would.
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William B
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

Maybe Ambassador Picard -- I thought that potential path for him (in AGT) made a lot of sense.
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Robert
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 2:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

True! I think Picard would make the best cameo though. DS9 appearing would be awesome for me, but I think it'd make the world feel smaller.

And Admiral Picard would really give the cameo the right weight and note. In many ways he is the lead of the Berman/Braga era of Trek, and that is the right person to do it.

Unless the time it takes place prevents that from making sense.
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Bravestarr
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Elaan of Troyius

You guys are nuts, this episode was one my favorites from TNG. Espionage, intrigue, and a love story that doesn't feel forced. I'd say that Elaan was generally one of the few women that Kirk genuinely felt love for, with of course the help of her tears.

I was thinking about it and the tears make sense on a planet like Elas. People there are hard and war like, with tears being a rarity. I'd imagine that women on Elas use their tears as a way of choosing a mate, the mate being someone they trust enough to cry around.

When said I love you on the turbolift, it felt genuine. And Kirk does everything in his power to stay himself despite his emotions. Powerful stuff.
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Skywalker
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Bar Association

@Luke, lol! I agree with every word. You said it perfectly. Quoting the Communist Manifesto with Irishman Miles O'Brien grinning his approval? Jesus! I felt like I was watching Tom Branson from Downton Abbey rail against the excesses of the British nobility.

What I think is interesting is that the writers both allow you and me to see Quark as the victim in all this, while at the same time insist we interpret capitalism as bad and unions as good. I guess that's their idea of balance. What did Armin Shimmerman's character Hebert say in "Far Beyond The Stars"? Wasn't it you freaking "pinko"?

Yeah.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 11:38am (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

"@Robert, Ent had a First Contact cameo (Cochrane), which is not Voyager but still keeps the cameo tradition alive."

Hey, the finale had a couple of cameos too. Let's not forget those ;)
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William B
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

@Robert, Ent had a First Contact cameo (Cochrane), which is not Voyager but still keeps the cameo tradition alive.
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Yanks
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Re: Trailer: Star Trek Beyond

I like it!! I'm officially stoked...
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Robert
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 9:13am (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

"Would be good to see some familiarity to the previous shows, little easter eggs and name drops"

There had better be an episode 1 cameo! TNG (Bones), DS9 (Picard) and VOY (Quark) all did it (sadly ENT really couldn't really have a VOY cameo). I don't care if it's an ENT cameo (depending on the time period setting) or a TNG-era cameo but I really want a passing of the torch moment.

In order of preference (for me)
1. Admiral Picard would issue their first mission orders
2. The ship takes off from DS9 and Captain Kira wishes them well
3. Anything else would do
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Latex Zebra
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 6:59am (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

Sounds good. A little disappointed they're not going down the anthology route as I think there are, obviously, many more places to go and you can keep each season fresh. More expensive from a production standpoint though. Also hope that with the episodic style they don't start leaving cliff hangers at the end of a season. That doesn't mean one seasons actions shouldn't effect another though.

Wouldn't surprised if we get a very big name actor/actress to try and push it out to the masses.
Would be good to see some familiarity to the previous shows, little easter eggs and name drops

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Rikko
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 6:35am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Transfigurations

For me it is like most people said: boring and nondescript.

"John Doe" comes and goes without changing anything in particular.

On the other hand, it is notable how O'Brien is becoming more and more relevant as the third season develops, until he becomes the center of attention in "The Wounded" (next season) and, eventually, a protagonist of Deep Space 9, if my childhood's memory is right.

O'Brien is the second character to stand out after starting from very small acting parts. And, of course, the first was Worf. Both guys spent most of their early episodes just saying one or two words like "Yes, Captain".

And then, they become protagonist, or at least supporting cast and the show is all the better for it.
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Nolan
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 2:13am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Threshold

@Skywalker

One of the main issues people have with this episode is that the Voyager crew invents a way to get home by going Warp 10, however it has horrendous side-effects. Which the Doctor then cures. So why aren't they home next week? Sure the crew'll turn into lizards (because of evolution that shouldn't work that way) but then the Doctor could just cure the crew once in the Alpha Quadrant.
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NCC-1701-Z
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 12:51am (UTC -5)
Re: New Trek Series Coming in 2017

New updates from Fuller himself:

-13 episode season, tied up in a story arc. Sounds like he's trying to move away from self contained episodic stories.
-Not an anthology series.
-Not set between Undiscovered Country and TNG.

trekmovie.com/2016/06/23/fuller-clarifies-star-trek-2017-not-anthology-series-reveals-more-details/

Separately, Brent Spiner told IGN that he would be open to playing a role on the new series, much like how he played Arik Soong on Enterprise.

Thoughts, anyone?
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Skywalker
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Prototype

Heh, a lot of the annoying stuff Jammer notes about the episode — the excessive technobabble, the idiotic refrains of the same bridge battle scenes — this stuff didn't bother me as a kid. And I was wondering why the little kid version of me didn't mind.

Then I remembered: that's exactly the kind of stuff I made up when I played and used my imagination as a little kid and pretended I was a starship captain or whatever. If you have seen the Pixar movie Up, you'll remember that little Carl in the beginning plays with his toy airship in the exact same way.

So basically, my conclusion is that the VOY writers have the creative skills of preadolescents.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

@ Andy's Friend, I still don't know why you're hung up on whether or not Data has an artificial "brain". You have yet to define what that means. Are you quite sure you're really talking about something, as opposed to issuing phrases that sound like something but have no content? If there's content then why not just say what it is instead of using placeholders? You haven't even provided an explanation for why the Human brain isn't just a sophisticated computer. Until you can answer my very clear point-blank question in any way (about what non-linear processing is) I'll assume you're not really interested in talking about this. I also assume from your lack of confirmation that you are not an expert in the field of robotics, information theory, etc etc.

Incidentally, I find this particular line somewhat accursed:

"...by saying that that sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking. By that I mean that this is a little bit like discussing religion. If you strongly believe that (I’m not saying that William does), nothing I can say will change your mind."

If positing a theory about robotics makes someone a 'religious believer' that you can't communicate with, then I find it hard to believe you are making such absolute declarate statements with a straight face. If you know something special about this then own it and lay it down for us. The condescension needs real creds to back it up, my man.

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Andy's Friend
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 6:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

@William B & Peter G.

I was writing to Peter, but I'll answer William's last comment first because it can be done very quickly: I basically agree with everything you wrote.

I think you're quite right about the episode being robbed of its power without uncertainty. It dares ask great questions. It follows it should not provide certain answers. And you are right: knowingly believing in something uncertain is a very powerful thing. It is what makes faith, true faith, indestructible.

I also think you're very, very right regarding Data's multiple roles, as in a mascot of the autist & Asperger's communities. What makes Data so fantastic is that he is so many people in one: the Child, the Good Brother, the Autist... The Android is actually pretty far down the list in importance. This is undoubtedly why he is so beloved: most of us can find a part of ourselves in him. Mirrors, was it, William?

I have a little more difficulty in seeing the Doctor in quite the same multi-faceted fashion. Every Star Trek fan I know likes the Doctor a lot, but for very different reasons that they like Data: they do not receive the same kind of love.

I particularly like your reference to Q, because, as you'll remember, that is my recurring theme: the humanoid & the truly alien. And you're of course right: any truly alien might question our human consciousness; and, if we widen our scope, what I have called the "artificial brain" is merely a word for some sort of cognitive architecture which may be very different from our own. The Great Link seem to have one, and I'm pretty sure it's quite different from Data's brain.

Also, and this is answering both of you now, it is true that we cannot know with absolute certainty that Data's "positronic" brain is an artificial brain. There are strong indications that it is, but we cannot know for sure; and it is true that Data, too, could simply be another Great Pretender.

This leads me to that most interesting aspect: faith. I was going to answer William earlier:

WILLIAM B―"I think that a system sufficiently sophisticated to simulate "human-level" (for lack of a better term) sentience may have developed sentience as a consequence of that process."

...by saying that that sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking. By that I mean that this is a little bit like discussing religion. If you strongly believe that (I’m not saying that William does), nothing I can say will change your mind. There are still highly intelligent scientists who share that belief, in spite of all the advances we've made in the past decades in both neuroscience and computer science. It is, quite simply, a belief, akin to a spiritual one. Some people *want to believe* that strings of code, like lead, can turn into gold.

But that of course is a bit like my belief that Data's positronic brain is an artificial brain, i.e., some sort of cognitive architecture affording him consciousness. I, too, *want to believe* that he has that artificial brain. Because to me, Data would lose his magic, and all his beauty, were it not so. As I wrote, there are very strong indications that this interpretation is a correct one; but as in religion, I have no proof, and I must admit that it is, ultimately, also an act of faith of sorts. I want Data to be alive. To me, Data wouldn't make much sense otherwise. And I know full well that this is, deep down, a religious feeling.


I'm sorry, guys, it's getting late here in Europe... Until next time :)
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KB
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Similitude

TV rarely makes me cry. When it does, I honor the work of those who created it.

The DNA doesn't include memories argument has an answer--epigenetics. Relatively new data show that PTSD can be transmitted from parents. Our DNA and bodies are far more plastic and adaptable than our current science dreams of...

Our current cloning technology doesn't do this but his do we know it can't?

In addition to honoring stories that spontaneously cause me to laugh or cry, I also honor those that invite vigorous debate. Therefore, this one is 4.
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Skywalker
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Threshold

Yeah, I'm kind of torn here. Really, the pseudo science involved with writing warp drive isn't really any more contrived here than how it was in TNG "Force of Nature;" I like it when Trek has plausible science, but that doesn't mean it will make a good story.

I guess it's really a death by a thousand stings situation. The evolutionary nonsense, the ease of getting to warp 10 (which can be explained away with the special dilithium crystals they found), and also the fact that Federation scientists has never managed it either (which might also be explained away if Starfleet's secret Skunk Works equivalent team actually did achieve warp 10, but after the debilitating mutations never attempted it again and never published the data). Even with my hand-wavy explanations, which in any case went in the show, it's just a little too much.

But zero stars? MacNeil's acting is great! So is everyone else's. The pacing and direction are good.

If we did indeed do as we all would like, and excise Threshold from the ST cannon, then we have a less horrible continuity, but we also have a single sci-fi show called "Threshold," which stands on its own as being passable. Then we might judge it as a modern 2001 meets The Fly. High concept and bizarre, but not all together terrible.

The only truly damning aspect of this episode is in one of the first scenes, they don't list the most obvious aviation/space hero of all time! Chuck freaking Yeager! How could they miss that one?!
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William B
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

Here is a somewhat off-topic comment expanding on my point (4). Notably, I do not expect this to be answered within the thread, necessarily, but I think it's important for me to say a bit more of what I think this episode is about, and why it is important, as well as what I think Data (and the EMH) are about, as characters, and why they are important, in addition to being about artificial consciousness/intelligence/life etc. issues.

As far as the charge of us talking Trek speak rather than real life speak: well, certainly real life issues are the most important. However, I think it's fair to say that all Trek is commenting on the real world, it is just that some of it is commenting more directly than others. Data, the EMH etc. are obviously representations of real-world ideas, to some degree or another, but it's a question of how we interpret them. That Data is definitely a representation of a potential being with an "artificial brain" is by no means certain. It is also very possible that the (limited, contradictory) take on artificial consciousness within Trek is primarily there to talk about other aspects of human life -- how humans treat each other, how we treat other (biological) life forms on the planet, etc. -- and so for those purposes, the differences between Data and the EMH might not be important at all -- they might just be different views on the human condition.

There are autistic and Asperger's communities which have used Data as a sort of mascot. Data's experience of difficulty understanding "human," i.e. normative, emotions, his alienation, and other traits like that have been taken on as representative of some humans who find this "artificial life form" a good representation of their experience. This was not exactly the intent of the character, but I think that part of the mythical basis for artificial beings is to talk about difficult aspects of our plight as humans -- of being physical, material beings whose worth is often decided collectively by our ability or inability to fit in with larger conceptions of humanity. Again, Louvois' ruling in this episode includes: "Does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have." There is no reason that the EMH is necessarily precluded from being a particular kind of representation of person, in which case I think it may be missing the point to declare him as non-conscious. You can say that this should *not* be the point of Voyager, that in its portrayal of computer coding it should hew more closely to what experts believe is the ultimate signifiers of consciousness, and you may be correct, but I think that in order to talk about what Trek means we have to suss out what it is trying to say and how that relates to our world.

As I see it, part of the problem with indicating that an "artificial brain" is the key difference between Data and the EMH, and one which would simply destroy Maddox, is that it is to some degree divorced from human experience up to this point. That does not mean that it won't be proven in the future, and that moment might fundamentally change human existence. But the majority of human existence has been a matter of taking blind stabs in the dark, trying to reason outward from ourselves to beings sufficiently similar to ourselves and to extend to them the things we would like extended to us. And that comes with it a level of uncertainty about ourselves. *I do not know that I have a soul.* The fact that the "code" that runs in our brains is sufficiently different from that in a computer does not guarantee that we are not simply an advanced computer or that we are not a mere set of physical processes designed for self-replication, with our experience of consciousness being some sort of nearly irrelevant by-product of a self-sustaining system, ultimately no more intrinsically meaningful than a process like fire. One of the key things that TNG does is introduce, from the very first episode, the idea that it is also not merely a matter of humanity deciding which other entities should have rights, but that we have a responsibility to prove that we as a species demonstrate qualities that make us more than children groping about. The Q could easily, and do, look at us and declare, how could a lump of matter with a bunch of electrical processes controlling a bit of organic machinery be conscious in any meaningful sense? That there is no absolute certainty that Data is the same as humans is important, because this is partly a way of looking, anew, at things we take for granted about *humans*, of stripping away which traits are ultimately irrelevant in defining our place in the universe. Granting that Data has value is a way of granting that we have value, through an act of faith. If the whole process is genuinely reduced to a matter of a binary switch wherein some given object either is or is not a brain, *and that this can be verified with certainty*, robs the story of much of its power and also removes the uncertainty that is near the heart of the human condition.

As Picard asks Maddox, I would say: "Are you sure?" Are you sure that the artificial brain correctly distills the essence of what is important about humanity, consciousness, and rights-having beings? Now, of course, I may be misinterpreting your claims. But I think that it is not merely a matter of Snodgrass hedging her bets for the sake of drama that an episode entitled "The Measure of a Man" avoids some sort of ultimate determiner of worth in consciousness. I think that the uncertainty is a fundamental part of human existence, and important to every person who has ever wondered, in real life, if they do not matter, and had to take a leap of faith to believe that they did, as individuals and as a species. If there is some sort of "magic bullet" to the consciousness debate wherein the, or a, physical mechanism of *all* consciousness is identified, then probably the debate over which beings qualify as life forms will shift away from "consciousness" and into another trait which is, once again, mysterious. Once the physical mechanisms of consciousness are sufficiently identified, after all, then we might well understand it enough to be able to do away with discussing human behaviour in terms of a "spark" instead of the result of eminently comprehensible physical processes, albeit very complex ("nonlinear") ones, which may again require us to take a leap of faith to believe ourselves more than just the physical process that governs us.
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KB
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: North Star

I enjoyed this episode a lot. Some points:

Archer, despite being on mission to save earth, is doing intensive scanning looking for Xindi. Therefore, I imagine he felt that he could afford two days to investigate humans in the Expanse!

Given the time frame and cultures he found, it is unsurprising he encountered "routine" western experiences. And the cultures are explicable because of the whole slave/slave revolt/burn everything that enslaved us events that occurred. A key comment was "they abducted the wrong people." I would imagine that just surviving on this particular planet would be very challenging and we have to remember that life expectancy has a lot to do with technological and social innovation.

It would have been nice to have discussed the slave/indigenous issues that existed in mid 19th century US but that pulls the plot away from the basic conflict that exists in this planet today.

I thought the horse thing was funny.

I liked not having edges tied up and that Archer makes no promises because he knows that if he fails his larger mission, no ships will come for these people. What he does do is to leave materials and ideas that can help these cultures move forward constructively.

It would have been nice to find other Skagorans later on their home world or on colonies to learn more about them.

And, I imagine that given how isolated some parts of West were, that some alien abductions could happen without a pattern being evident.

Another episode that allows me to think about possible sequels--this always moves it to 3 stars
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William B
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

@Andy's Friend:

In addition to what Peter G. said, I want to clarify my position a bit. I appreciate your comments very much and I think you may be onto something with regards to what Data is and represents. However:

1) I think it's still by no means made absolutely clear that Data has an "artificial brain" which meets the specifications that you state it does. Don't get me wrong. I am happy to believe that Data does. And with Graves, as we discussed, there is an indication that Data's brain can support a human identity better than the ship's computer can. However, we are still left with the possibility that Data's positronic brain is simply better at processing and reproducing human-like behaviours. We do not know for sure that Data actually is housing Graves, rather than simulating him in a way that is indistinguishable from the real thing. Nor do we know that Data is not generally simulating consciousness rather than actually doing so. Similarly, that Data's positronic brain is very hard to reproduce, and causes cascade failures in the case of Lal, etc., is no guarantee.

The references to Data's positronic brain are many and this supports your contention that there is something about Data's brain that is capable of consciousness in a way that traditional computers lack. However, there are other explanations. They may simply call Data's positronic brain a brain because, well, he is an android, designed in the shape of a human. The control centre of the automaton "body" made to resemble a human is located in the part which is made to resemble a head, and performs a function which is at least superficially similar to a humanoid brain, and thus it can be called a brain.

You said in an earlier comment that it is the fault of the show that it fails to establish what Data's artificial brain does. This still assumes that it is a settled issue that Data *has* an artificial brain, rather than something which people, for convenience, call an artificial brain. It may not be. Even if we accept your premises as definitely true -- which, perhaps you have more expertise in this area than we do -- it is still a leap that Data fits this definition you are stating. Maybe he doesn't *really* have a "nonlinear" brain, and according to the proposal you have put forward, Data only simulates consciousness.

And even then, even if he definitely has an artificial brain, I don't think it's absolutely true that if Data does have something which was *designed to be an artificial brain*, that this would tank Maddox' argument. What you are stating, essentially, is that it will at some point be possible to distinguish between what is actually conscious and what isn't not based on behaviour or anything, but based on the physical make of the object itself. This may turn out to be true, and maybe several experts in the field believe it to be true. But I don't think that it is that settled. I mean, what if a "nonlinear brain" is simply much better at producing external signs indicative of consciousness, and, in fact, some of those external signs include the *physical makeup* itself, which is more similar to (humanoid) brains than traditional computers?

And you know, I basically agree that Data probably has an "artificial brain," as you say it, but I don't know how you make this claim with certainty. Soong could also have simply called Data's brain an artificial brain for PR purposes. This is why the issue of simulation is important. It is my contention that one has to look at the outcomes produced by the "brain" or "computer" rather than the form that the "brain" or "computer" takes.

2) And even if Data definitely has an artificial brain which meets these criteria, I think it's still, as Peter G. says, not at all a settled issue that a sufficiently complex program (recursive, he emphasizes, but I will be a little more general) would not be conscious. The reason I emphasize whether or not it is important that a "nonlinear computer" could *simulate* consciousness is that I am going under the assumption that it is impossible to conclusively prove consciousness, UNLESS one is the conscious entity.

Line up a human, Data, the Doctor, and, say, Odo; some sufficiently non-humanoid, non-"artificial" life form which displays the *external* traits of sentience -- ability to learn and adapt, an ability to change and exhibit new bheaviours, and perhaps the ability to state that it is, indeed, alive. Which is conscious? You would argue that the human, Data and Odo are and the EMH is not. I would argue that it is impossible to be sure; EVEN THE HUMAN can only be verified to be conscious because he is sufficiently similar to me. I am not making this egocentric idly; what I mean is that it is impossible for me to be sure that the human is not a sufficiently advanced automaton, perhaps created by nature, perhaps otherwise. I don't actually know that I have free will, even; I know with certainty that I experience the thing which I define as "consciousness," and because of the extreme level of similarity of other human beings to me, I must reasonably assume that they have the same trait. This assumption then can reasonably be carried out to other humanoid life forms, which in terms of modern biological classification would even be the same *species* (since interbreeding between humans and Klingons, Romulans, Vulcans, Betazoids, Ocampa etc. are possible and in most of those cases we also see that their offspring can reproduce, as are interbreeding between Cardassians and Bajorans, though I can't think of Cardassian-human or Bajoran-human offhand). But then with Data, the EMH and Odo we are left with beings which are completely different in construction and origin. How would we conclude that they are conscious? Or *not* conscious?

Maybe we could identify some physical system which "explains" our consciousness. But even then we would be left with uncertainty whether other systems which are physically similar are actually conscious as well, but are simply reproducing the machinery but missing some unknown spark. We could, I suppose, claim that we know that Odo is (probably) conscious because there is no evidence that any conscious beings set out to create him, and to argue that it is unlikely for a being which displays traits consistent with consciousness to develop "by accident" without consciousness being there as well. However, of course, with Odo and other changelings, they are of course imitative; it is baked into their very nature that they imitate and recreate other beings. The changelings might simply be some sort of inorganic matter which for whatever reason imitates other, actually-alive beings, and then displayed external signs of being alive.

The reason I bring this all up is that my claim is that it is still anthrocentric to make the claim that the "nonlinear" versus "linear" distinction is all that matters, because it just moves the trait that defines consciousness from external signs of consciousness to the sort of physical, observable mechanisms that produce it. It is still making an argument based on what looks human, but instead of arguing about actions it is arguing about hardware.

So my claim is that it may be that consciousness develops when there is a sufficiently advanced system to reproduce all the external signs of consciousness; that the act of simulation is itself an act of synthesis. Understand me: I am not saying that, e.g., someone writing "I am alive" on a piece of paper is sufficient to reproduce life. But to be able to reproduce the full breadth of human behaviours (or, indeed, sufficiently complex animal, perhaps) may not be possible without producing consciousness along the way. This is perhaps an idiotic notion. It gets rid of some of the problems of anthrocentrism -- decentering away from the physical form and makeup of the thing which produces "apparent consciousness" -- but introduces another, in that the only way to define consciousnessmeans to define something which acts sufficiently *human* to be able to appear conscious. I have little to say to that charge except that I'm thinking about it.

3) Just as a small point, the Exocomps and the "Emergence" life form did not take humanoid form. The Exocomps are very close to the hypothetical "box on wheels" Maddox insisted would not be granted any rights, which is why I think that episode is (despite some significant flaws) an important follow-up to TMoaM. The "Emergence" life form does use human forms on the holodeck, but its eventual form is a funky-looking replicated series of tubes and connections.

4) As far as the suggestion that Peter and I were talking about Trek and you were talking about the real world, there is a lot to say, but I don't think it's so clear-cut. You have decided that what is being portrayed, in-universe, is that Data has an artificial brain and that the Voyager's computer is definitely not an artificial brain (and thus that the EMH, run on this and other similar computers, cannot be conscious). This still relies on evidence provided in universe and, *where evidence is lacking*, filling in the gaps with your own impressions of the intent. If it is not utterly conclusive that Data's brain is different from the ship's computer, you rely on the idea that the computer must be equivalent to modern "linear" computers, which is still an assumption about intent. There is nothing wrong with this, but I think that it just means that you are also "down in the muck" with the rest us of trying to interpret what Trek is actually saying, rather than purely talking about the real world. ;)
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