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Andy's Friend
Mon, May 25, 2020, 11:55am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


“STP by its own merits has plenty to discuss. I loathed it but did watch it because I wanted to be as informed as I can about it. I think there was plenty wrong to discuss whether it was Star Trek or not. Problems in storytelling, poor characterization, etc.”

I never watched it, and everything I read here convinces me that I would have loathed it, too. But after the first half season of Discovery, I simply couldn’t care less about what passes as Trek these days.

This is what I find interesting, though:

First, I don’t think that the discussion of *whether* present Trek is Star Trek or not is relevant. It clearly isn’t. And (to be blunt) I don’t even care to argue why. If my interlocutor can’t see it, there is little point in debating it.

The discussion of *why* present ‘Trek’ is no longer Star Trek however I find interesting. But that must necessarily be part of a much vaster discussion on our current society. And perhaps the most appropriate venue for such a discussion (provided anyone else is even interested) isn’t Jammer’s Reviews.

Second, and more important: I think Omicron is right. I think it is more important that we vote with our wallets if we want things to change. I think that it is better to stop watching what we dislike, than it is to support such productions out of a wish to ‘be as informed’ as possible, as you put it.

The bottom line is, you were right. You loathed Picard. It was not for you. And you likely knew that after the first two or three episodes already. Then why on earth keep watching, and thereby keep supporting it? I know that you perhaps may have done so without paying for it, but the question is directed at all viewers/readers: some of them paid for watching something they disliked.

I think this is the main question that Omicron wants us to consider. Yes, he is repetitive. Yes, he is predictable. But I feel that his question is genuinely valid, intriguing, and important. Why do so many people keep watching what they, by their own admission, do not like?
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Andy's Friend
Mon, May 25, 2020, 6:45am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


"Can we get back to having a healthy debate about ideas, not each other?"

While I agree, I actually think this is an important debate about ideas.

Sadly, there seem to be no ideas worth discussing in either Discovery or Picard. But ironically, both have seen much debate on the matter of whether it is legitimate to comment something you have not experienced yourself.

Much of that debate has consisted of responses to Omicron's commenting without having seen those shows. Sometimes Omicron becomes repetitive, yes, but so do we all. And he usually makes reasonable arguments, commenting on general issues which he can possess perfectly valid if second-hand knowledge of, and not too particular details of which he *cannot* have any knowledge at all, say, the music score, or the CGI in a specific scene.

I find it fascinating how some criticise others for expressing opinions, and even making perfectly valid claims based on the exchanges of ideas, or opinions, to be found for example here on Jammer's. This would negate the entire idea of the exchange of ideas in the first place.

Yet here we are, with a blend of old commenters like Mertov and recent arrivals arriving by parachute out of nowhere like this fellow Ouitzul, alias ouiztul. If comments are supposed to be meaningful, and if readers are supposed to learn anything from them, are readers then not to be allowed to comment on the comments?

I mean, why are people commenting here to begin with? Are we really all just shouting into a vacuum?

I find these questions interesting. And since Picard seems to offer no intriguing ideas otherwise (the quality of comments on the STP threads is frankly atrocious), I for one certainly don't mind debating them instead.

It would be nice if we once and for all were to acknowledge that Omicron's criticism is as valid as anyone's. As long as he avoids commenting on those things he can know nothing of—say, the acting in a particular scene—and sticks to commenting what can be easily grasped by anyone with half a brain, I see no problem in his commenting. And it would be nice if people like, in this case, Mertov would stop a criticism of him that is (to be blunt) sheer nonsense.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, May 25, 2020, 5:07am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


1. Only the imbecile fails to grasp the essence of a thing when enough sensible people express enough sensible opinions about that thing in general debate, as here on Jammer’s.

Enough sensible people have expressed enough sensible thoughts here about STP.

And Omicron is not an imbecile.

2. It is indeed impossible to grasp all the particulars of any complex thing in general debate.

It is unnecessary, however, to grasp all the particulars of a thing when simply wishing to engage in a general debate about that thing.

Omicron is simply wishing to engage in a general debate about STP.

3. Only the pedant demands of others complete knowledge of the particulars when wishing to engage in general debate.

Omicron, I repeat, is simply wishing to engage in a general debate about STP.

4. Only an imbecile would fail to notice the qualitative difference in the general debate on STP when compared to say, TNG. Commenters are commenting qualitatively different things. They are making qualitatively different questions.

This qualitative difference informs the reader. See point 1.

And Omicron, I repeat, is not an imbecile.

5. I, a Catholic with vast knowledge of (Christian) theology, have read thousands of pages of sacred Hindu texts, and only secondary literature on Buddhism.

I admit that I am far more informed on Hinduism than I am on Buddhism. But I should think I am sufficiently informed on Buddhism to engage in any general debate.

Would you suggest that I am unable to participate in a general, informal debate on Buddhism simply because I have not read the actual Buddhist texts themselves?

6. Omicron, a Star Trek fan with perhaps vast knowledge of science fiction, has watched hundreds of Star Trek TOS-ENT episodes, and only read secondary literature on STP.

Now you complete the line of reasoning. You’re not an imbecile, either.
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Andy's Friend
Sun, May 24, 2020, 9:18am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: The Ensigns of Command


“They were settlers, not colonists, and there's a difference, which is why I used the term.”

Both Picard and the colonists themselves beg to differ:

PICARD: We need more time. Mister Data, prepare the colonists for an evacuation.

GOSHEVEN: Hyperonic radiation took the lives of a third of the colonists before they learned they could adapt to it. (…) This colony exists because generations gave their lives for it.

More fundamentally, however, you are arguing that there is a difference between ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’. ‘Colonist’ is the Latin, ‘settler’ the Germanic word for the same. In Romance languages and scholarship there is only the former word.

“Moving the location of a settlement is a very different thing from what was involved here.”

No, we are speaking of a resettlement, with all the means available:

KENTOR: And once the Federation resettles us, we'll be left alone?

DATA: The Federation will offer as little or as much help as you dictate.

See also my example below.

“And I had in mind such settler states as South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (…) In all of these I believe that the die-in-a-ditch stance of the settlers here would have be familiar enough.”

Indeed it would, but that is not the correct analogy. The white colonists in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia had been the masters of the Africans for generations. They were not offered help by the United Kingdom or the United Nations to continue elsewhere the life they were used to: they were told to abandon that life, to share their power. And they were sanctioned with embargoes when they failed to comply. This is in fact the opposite of what we see in this episode.

The correct analogy would be if the United Nations in 1965 had offered the white colonists of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia another, correspondingly large territory—say, Madagascar, independent from France in 1960—for them to rule supreme and lord over the natives as they wished, without any interference or sanctions from the outside world.

Try imagining that, with the United Nations even offering help with the relocation of those white colonists, and the building of their first settlements to the standards they were accustomed to, in order for them to continue their way of life in a segregated, 'Whites Only' society.

Contrast now the actual international response to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia in the 1960s to that of the Spanish and Portuguese empires three and four hundred years ago, offering their colonists in more precarious settlements help with relocation. Consider one example: Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Today a city of almost two million inhabitants, less than twenty-four hours away from anywhere, when founded in 1561 Santa Cruz de la Sierra was one of the most remote settlements in the world. It was more than six hundred miles from the sea across the Andes as the crow flies; a couple of weeks from other European settlements in the middle of a huge expanse of wilderness; surrounded by aggressive natives everywhere.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra was originally founded 137 miles east of its present location. After a precarious existence, frequent native attacks, and under the threat of continued attacks, the entire settlement was proposed relocated by the regional governor thirty years later in 1590. Not quite as long as the colony in this episode has existed, but long enough for many of the original settlers to have died, and a new generation to have been born and raised there in the meantime. The settlers accepted.

This is perhaps the closest historical analogy to what the Federation offers the colonists on this planet, only without the aid of warp power, transporters, and terraforming technology. How is being offered such a resettlement in the year 1590, across almost 140 miles in the middle of nowhere, after you have invested thirty years of your life there against all odds, very different from being offered relocation from one planet to another by the Federation as here, you think?
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Andy's Friend
Mon, May 4, 2020, 4:31am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: The Ensigns of Command


While I agree with you on everything else about this episode—Data's dilemmas, Picard 'moment of triumph', and O'Brien's cello playing—this that you write is incorrect:

“As for the reaction of Goshevan to the demand for uprooting his community, I can't agree with those who think that kind of suicidal obstinacy is improbable. In fact it's very typical of the settler mentality.”

No, it isn’t. It may be that such is an American myth fuelled by literature, the western films of the 1930s-1950s (which I am a big fan of, by the way) and western television series of the 1950s-1960s, but it has little basis in reality.

I am a historian of European empires in the age of sail, in every aspect: royal and local governance, Crown and Church relations, colonist and native relations, etc. The English empire was different from the Spanish and Portuguese in that it was much, much less centralised: it was a laissez-faire empire, best expressed by the euphemistic term of its ‘salutary neglect’ policies. That notwithstanding:

Many settlements in the New World were relocated as colonists and/or local or central authorities grew aware of the poor choice of the original site. In the overwhelming majority of cases this was welcomed by the colonists, as they were the ones most aware of the problems offered by that site. Problems might include communications (e.g., a settlement built on the ‘wrong’ side of a series of waterfalls, or a mountain, initially thought sound but later realised to be a mistake), health risks (e.g., too close to marshlands the breeding ground of hideous disease; in one famous case those marshlands only appeared later as the colonists dammed up a river), and most obviously, native attacks.

Colonists might be unsympathetic to such relocation plans—especially in English America—for entirely practical reasons only. Naturally, the relocation of a settlement was only considered for such settlements as were struggling, not prosperous ones. And in struggling settlements the colonists usually lacked the resources for a resettlement. A vicious circle had been created.

In the Spanish and Portuguese empires this was much less of a problem as the Crown was much more active in directing the affairs of the empire and was much more generous in providing economic and military support for such relocations. We therefore find a very great number of such relocations in especially the huge Spanish empire, and virtually always to the colonists’ satisfaction.

In English America, where colonists were more left to their own devices, communities received much less central support and relocation therefore represented a much greater challenge for the community. This is the main reason why settler communities there would sometimes balk at the prospect of a costly and uncertain relocation. This was the result of the policies of the English Crown, not of human psyche.

It follows that in Star Trek, with the unlimited support of the Federation, one would expect colonists to behave like the Spanish and Portuguese colonists in the New World and gladly accept the support of the Crown/Federation in order to relocate to a safer location/world.

The bottom line is: Gosheven’s reaction is absurd indeed. As is, by the way, that of the Maquis, and for the same reason.
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Andy's Friend
Thu, Apr 30, 2020, 6:00am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Attached

@Booming, Peter G., Picard Maneuver

Interesting talk. I have to agree with Booming here, without the indignant tone and final exclamation.

Granted, Peter says that he would have to watch it again to be sure; and so would I. But I certainly don't remember this as 'coquettish' behaviour by Crusher, in the way I understand the term, anyway.

The way I remember it, Crusher has arrived at that stage in which one is flirting with the very tought of perhaps beginning to flirt with someone while entertaining the thought of building a lasting relationship with that someone. There is no 'teasing' whatsoever in entertaining such thoughts.

Furthermore, in this particular case that someone is a man she has known for decades and has the utmost respect for. There is no way Crusher would ever 'tease' Picard, in the way I understand the term anyway, period.

This reminds me of an online discussion I had years ago, one of the very best I have ever had, on the nature of Rick's and Ilsa's relationship in 'Casablanca' (1942). What really transpired between the two, that final last night in Casablanca? 'Against' me were some who believed the two had slept together. They failed to realise that this goes against everything that both characters stand for at that point in the film: they entertain the thought of it, yes, they greatly desire it, even; but the nobility in their sacrifice is refraining from doing what they both desire. Rick not only respects Ilsa, but importantly, he also respects Laszlo—and he is finally beginning to respect himself, also.

Respect is paramount when we are dealing with more than two strangers who barely know each other and some passing infatuation or mere physical attraction. Crusher has profound respect for Picard, whereas the notion of 'teasing' almost by definition presupposes a lack of respect by the teaser for the teased.

Flirting with the thought of perhaps letting an old friendship evolve to more than that is daunting. It may prove to be awkward, or otherwise difficult to carry out, and it is certainly dangerous, putting a friendship that may have existed for many years at risk. There is no shame in entertaining such thoughts and yet ultimately choose to back down. This may be considered timid, perhaps, but it can never be considered 'teasing'. As I remember it, that is the emotion that Gates McFadden quite convincingly portrays.
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Andy's Friend
Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 6:44am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


Sen-sors said: “I'm 31, my favorite Trek is TOS and I think Kurtzman Trek is trash but feel free to lay the blame for Nu-Trek on my generation.”

Oh no, don’t worry, I don’t. I think the main target audience for NuTrek is people younger than you are. But see below.

“Considering how Kurtzman Trek is roughly 50% violence, mystery boxes and cuss words and 50% schmaltzy nostgalgia pandering to older fans who weep openly after Picard says "engage", don't you think your generation is at least partly responsible for the current state of Trek?”

If I may use another generalisation, I think it fair to presume that the older you are, the more likely are you to dislike NuTrek. I personally have never watched this latest offering. Kurtzman Trek wasn’t primarily made for my generation, and I think its use of said nostalgia elements is mostly to legitimise the Star Trek brand name. Having said that, you certainly have a point.

Here, I must entirely agree with OmicronThetaDeltaPhi. I don’t understand why so many people keep watching what they admit they would stop watching were it not for the Star Trek name. This is insane, and Omicron is quite right in saying that people should vote with their wallets and cancel their subscriptions instead of hoping for that improvement in quality that will never come. So you are partly right, Sen-Sors. I guess all generations are indeed partly responsible for this miserable state of affairs.

Otherwise, I agree with you. I watched the first half of ‘Into Darkness’, and stopped. I later reluctantly saw the first half of 'Discovery', and stopped. It was some of the worst television I have ever watched.

I also saw ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ in the cinema, and never cared for any continuation. Later I saw ‘Prometheus’ in the cinema, and have seen no further. Most recently I saw ‘The Force Awakens’ in the cinema, and didn’t come back for more. Franchise upon franchise: the creative power is entirely gone. And frankly, so is my desire to see continuations of stories of beloved characters. I have never watched ‘Blade Runner 2049’, and never will. And so forth.

So I also haven’t watched 'Picard', and never will. The consensus seems to be that it is better than 'Discovery' and I accept that, but that says precious little. After ten episodes and thousands of comments here, the kind of debates it inspires—or rather, fails to inspire—tells me everything I need to know of its qualities, or lack thereof.

Ah well, we still have all those seasons of TOS and TNG and whatever classic Trek one happens to prefer. I am currently re-watching all TOS-VOY with my better half for the Nth time after a hiatus of a few years and we're having a ball. Curiously, we now both prefer VOY to DS9. Back when they aired, it was the opposite. But TNG remains our favourite, followed by your TOS.

I'm curious, Omicron, as I don't remember: what is your personal favourite Trek?
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Andy's Friend
Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 4:15am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


You wrote: ‘That is a very smart analysis considering that the most dominant genre right now is superheros.’

The superhero genre as played out at present is but vacuous fantasy entertainment for teenagers. The mythical foundations that some of the superheroes possess are mostly completely obliterated by the pure fantasy elements. Many superheroes possess no archetypal foundations at all, and serve no archetypal function.

Compare. In 1950s-1960s American television there were westerns. ‘Gunsmoke’. ‘Wagon Train’. ‘Rawhide’, and so forth. Episodes focused sometimes on entertainment, and sometimes dealt with realistic social issues in their respective settings in a moralistic way. But always solidly anchored in myth. Solidly anchored in archetypes. I trust you can see the difference.

How do you punish a horse thief who stole to feed his children? How do you treat the good doctor who just happens to beat his wife and children every now and then? How can you help the poor Chinamen being exploited by the railroad company? These are the kinds of realistic, down to earth issues that such series often dealt with. And any young boy or man, and any young girl or woman in the audience could identify with the diverse male and female leads. For they were symbols, archetypes not burdened down by too complex psychological profiles.

How can anyone identify with Colossus, or Cyclops? With the Hulk, the Human Torch, or the Thing? Only in escapist fantasies. More importantly, they serve no moral, archetypal function. But you *could* identify with Matt Dillon. Or, if you were of a different personality, you could identify with Rowdy Yates, who served another, different archetypal function. And so forth.

Here we see an important distinction: archetypal function vs. ‘cool superpower’. Characters as in those older series seldom had special skills. What set them apart was, above all, their personality. As with ‘Angry Achilles’, ‘Cunning Odysseus’, and so forth in the Iliad: archetypes as old as the ages. Characters in such series all served an archetypal function each. Put together, they all represented the human race.

Modern superheroes, however, are distinguished above all by their ‘cool superpowers’, not their archetypal function, which they often don’t serve at all. They do not represent the human race. Again, I trust you can see the difference.

I’ll grant you that we find one very popular character who is an exception, very clearly modelled after the archetype of the angry, lone outsider—Angry Achilles. That is Wolverine. And his clear-cut archetypal function likely explains his popularity.

Moving on. You wrote:

‘TOS isn't super smart, for example. It's for the most part: crew approaches planet, something horrible happens, get out of something horrible, laugh. the end.’
You also wrote: ‘Black Mirror is a smarter show, for example (…)’

And what did I write? ‘At their most simple, the best TOS episodes are reducible to fables.’
And ‘I would say TOS (…) and Black Mirror.’

You really should read before you write, Booming.

But no, Black Mirror is not a smarter show than TOS. The themes explored in Black Mirror are more a product of its age than those of TOS were. They are more immediate to our own times and may therefore feel more relevant at present. But don't be duped into thinking that contemporaneity is 'smarter'. In the future, Black Mirror may very well hold historical interest only: ‘What were people concerned with in the early twenty-first century?’ Whereas TOS is likely to be more interesting to future generations for its own sake, because the themes explored in TOS, if you’ll forgive a generalisation, are more timeless.

Finally, and most importantly, I wrote:

‘to use a necessary simplification (…)’
‘I am exaggerating for the sake of argument, of course.’

Yes, this is called generalisation. Generalisation is a form of abstraction. Abstraction is necessary in any intelligent discourse—say, wishing to speak of sufficiently large populations. And you should know this, with that background in sociology you claim to have. What are many of your precious sociological models, if not statistical abstractions? What are your theories, if not generalisations, Booming?
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Andy's Friend
Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Sorry about the typo, Nothing but the Tears
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Andy's Friend
Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Bothing But the Tears

“young people today are much more aware of diversity and equality. These are things that have always been important to me but I'm still shocked looking back at how tone deaf I was by comparison, just like many of my peers.”

Very few of us cared back then. We simply tried to treat each other politely, most of us anyway, with no fear of calling people what they were. It is not the word spoken, it is the intent that matters. One may be scathingly offensive using the politest language, or the opposite using the most offensive language: it is all about intent. If you ask me, it was a much healthier society back then, when people didn’t let themselves be offended and their world torn apart every other minute by what is not offensive in itself, but (some) people insist on perceiving as such due to acute myopia. Which leads me to...

“I don't think it matters how many stories you tell. They have to be worth telling, well told, and the amount of time devoted to them needs to be appropriate. Plus, no matter how good the story, things still hinge on the characters.”

And you’re entirely right. The thing is, very often, in older series the characters weren’t really characters. They were more akin archetypes, or symbols: mouthpieces for a particular worldview, a particular philosophy, a particular age group, social class, and so forth. And the individual episodes therefore tended to be more akin myths: individual, primordial stories about right and wrong in the guise of foundation myths, coming of age myths, and so on.

That was their power. That is why they resonate still: all good stories are primordial myths. And all myths are necessarily introspective. They are reflections of our (possible) selves and our (possible) fate. Moralistic in nature, they attempt to teach us a lesson: they are moral tales. TOS in particular excelled at telling this kind of stories. At their most simple, the best TOS episodes are reducible to fables.

Stories, to use a necessary simplification, used to be more simply about Man, or Woman; about Father, or Mother; Son, or Daughter. They were about being Young, and being Old. About being Rich, and being Poor. And so on, and so forth. The challenge, to writers, was to find new ways to tell old stories. The challenge to viewers—of science-fiction in particular—was to recognise those innovate iterations of old tales. For the tales themselves were about every single one of us.

What are they about now? They increasingly are but escapism, true escapism in its ugliest shape: in the form of voyeurism. They increasingly are about the lives of *others*. Very detailed lives of very detailed people that could not be you and I but can only exist as their very specific, fictional selves.

That is what we have lost, as we increasingly focus on the micro-level of multiple strands of individual psychology instead of the macro-level of archetype and myth.

“TV, in particular, is a lot more complex and demanding than it used to be back in the 80's or 70's, for that matter. Most shows back then had one story per episode. That's really all you needed to keep track of. And while there are shows today just stretching things out, there are also those that are ambitious, complex and challenging.”

I am exaggerating for the sake of argument, of course. But tell me, do you think we are presented more these days? Or can it be that paradoxically, we are presented less in the more ‘complex’ stories of today? Can it be that the stories of old, focusing on just one story, presented us a proverbial forest, while the episodes of today can’t even see the proverbial tree for the branches?
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Andy's Friend
Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 8:52am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


"And then what do we have to show for scifi TV from the 70's??? Pretty much only the Tom Baker era of jelly babie Doctor Who."

It would seem that you were writing while I was posting, and just missed my post :)

The two series from the 1970s I recommended are at the extreme opposites of the Fun--------Serious spectrum. As such, I consider them the finest in each category, which is why I would recommend them as essential to children and adults, respectively.

But there were many other science-fiction series being made in the 1970s; don't forget that both the fictional TOS and the real moon landings sparked off immense interest in the space genre. The original Battlestar Galactica is from 1978, for example, and in my opinion the first season was no worse than modern BSG.

The problem is twofold. Young people today don't remember/never knew the old series; and more importantly, young people today are more impressed by appearance than by substance.

Take The Expanse. It tells but three stories in thirty-odd episodes (S1-3). The original Battlestar Galactica managed to tell more stories in one season than The Expanse has done so far in three. And in my opinion, despite its family-friendly nature it managed to tell mostly better stories, too. But try telling that to people today who can't see past production values, and demand a GrimDark! tone before they can take anything seriously.

I think the latter is truly the problem today. Many younger people apparently can't look past the superficial in our present day. My guess is, they are probably not used to having to search for meanings in narratives, as everything is made so blatantly obvious and explicit these days. So they can't see past the family-friendly tone to see the seriousness of the story and the themes being told: they seem to simply lack in imagination. It's that same old story: a train entering a tunnel in a 1950s Hitchcock film you can watch with your children isn't just a train entering a tunnel...
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Andy's Friend
Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 7:22am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


“Here's a question: What would people consider "essential" sci-fi TV?”

I am sad to say, but I agree with Peter G. There just isn’t that much science-fiction I would re-watch.

I agree with James White and wolfstar in that the Black Mirror is—in my opinion by a very wide margin—the best and most relevant science-fiction produced in our present century. Even if, because of its very nature, the episodes are of uneven quality.

I also though that of a handful episodes of BSG. Those are the only episodes of BSG I ever re-watch, though.

For all the praise The Expanse receives, I found it to be binge-worthy only, with no profound ideas. It's much better than Discovery, yes, but everything is.

I have grown considerably fonder of VOY over time. As it aired, I had a hard time with the unimaginative stories of many episodes; with the lack of world building in the Delta quadrant; with the Kazon, Neelix, and so on, and so forth. It was indeed, in many ways, a missed opportunity. Now, I appreciate that some episodes are indeed outstanding. But I appreciate especially how so many episodes have some few lines of dialogue, some small gesture towards the Other that is in the very best spirit of Star Trek. Keeping an open mind. Attempting to dialogue. Seeking cooperation. Daring to trust. It may be just a single scene, a single minute, a single line. And then I find it all worthwhile.

One series I like is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979). It's the kind of sci-fi that is 'essential' to children. For behind all the harmless, campy fun, there lies a reality full of stars.

One series I find interesting that no-one has mentioned is Space: 1999 (1975). There is a world of difference between the first and the second season. The second was more a failed Buck Rogers in the 25th Century than anything, very erratic in tone, badly blending fun à la Buck Rogers with the dark themes often explored in the first season. The first season, once you accept the inane premise (a nuclear explosion causes the colonised moon to break orbit and be whirled across the galaxy at Ludicrous Speed, exposing the crew of Moonbase Alpha to the adventure/mystery of the week) is worthwhile to any serious science-fiction enthusiast. It is a much darker, slower, more serious—British—TOS, with a much eerier tone overall. Some episodes, today, feel almost like sci-fi horror, in a good way, but definitely not family-friendly. It has some very good ideas in the mix. One of them, in my opinion, is among the best episodes of science-fiction ever made.

So I would say TOS-VOY, Buck Rogers (for children), Space: 1999 (first season only), and Black Mirror.


You asked me some time ago what series I might recommend, but I never got back to you. It just occurred to me, one in an entirely different genre: Brideshead Revisited (1981). The first episode of which, incidentally, is also (but much more appropriately than here) titled ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Apr 6, 2020, 3:48am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Peter G.

No, Peter, I mean artificial intelligence in the strict sense. What you seem to be thinking of is precisely that which I always talk of, Artificial Consciousness. As research has improved we find that we already have plenty of artificial intelligence in the world today: the question now is, what of artificial 'sentience'? Therefore, scientists and scholars, depending on affiliation, devised the concepts of 'Weak/Strong AI' and AC (which again can be divided in various kinds). What the 'roboticist' side in the debate call 'strong AI' is usually what the 'philosopher' side calls 'AC'. A chess computer is 'weak AI', an artificial intelligence devoid of sentience.

I'm off now to enjoy a beautiful day where I am. Have a nice day, everyone.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Apr 6, 2020, 2:46am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


"I wasn't really part of the debate or had any real interest in it. I didn't read, for example, Andy's friends walls of text. I just wanted them to stop making longer and longer posts about stuff that had less and less to do with STP”

So you commented on things you didn’t even read, just because you wanted me to stop posting scholarship. Think for a moment, Booming. This is Star Trek. It’s supposed to inspire us to grander thoughts and larger debates. Tell me, just what do you want us to debate? The colours of the uniforms? Is red lovelier than blue? Is that your preferred level of discussion, and the kind of talk you will graciously allow us to engage in?

“While doing that I noticed "the review on Metaphysics" which peaked my interest. That made me look into the other sources and then I made the fatal mistake of calling them not good for making an argument in the field of computer science.”

But it was not about computer science, Booming: it was about consciousness, biological and artificial. It was the first of my three quotes and by far the oldest: as I specified, it was from 1990.

I first mentioned 1988 and IBM’s Deep Thought, which, as I have mentioned elsewhere, beat International Grandmaster Bent Larsen in chess in Copenhagen that year, with me watching it.

In 1989 Deep Thought also took on Kasparov, and lost. But it was becoming obvious that it was only a matter of time before an artificial intelligence would beat the best human minds.

All this sparked off huge debate. In 1989, ‘The Measure of a Man’ aired.

The first quote I offered was part of this debate. It is important in that context: it is the contemporary of Deep Blue, Deep Thought, and ‘The Measure of a Man.’ I find that at least a little bit relevant when discussing the nature of Data. This was unfortunately lost on you.

As for ‘The Review on Metaphysics’, just what do you think metaphysics is, Booming? Do you believe it to be about ‘religion’, or the ‘supernatural’ in common parlance? Or is it fair to presume that a scholarly magazine chooses the scholarly, not any popular definitions for its very title? Metaphysics is about *reality*, Booming. Metaphysics asks: what is real? In this context, what is real life, real sentience, real consciousness?

That was the context of that quote. How you manage to find that not relevant is beyond me.

Look, Booming, if you don’t want to participate in any given debate, don’t. It's easy. Just scroll past the post. But it’s not up to you to decide what other commenters may wish to debate, and contribute.

And please stop that silly ‘I am a sociologist’ persona of yours, and all that posturing of yours that ‘in sociology and political science we follow the science approach of the natural sciences which means empirical research’, which is the only thing you can ever say of academia. It’s frankly tiresome, and I increasingly suspect you keep repeating it because it is the only thing you ever learned. In any case, in every other post of yours you provide examples of just how little you understand the academic world.

Take your “empirical study of laws, philosophy, literature, history??? These fields are by their very nature not empirical”. Sheer nonsense. Read Pierre Chaunu’s ‘Séville et l’Atlantique (1504-1650)’ (Paris, 12 vols., 1955-1960) and tell me that it isn’t as empirical as any study in sociology, and more empirical than most. Or read any piece of histoire serielle inspired by it, which you obviously are unaware of. And so on, and so forth. It’s amazing. You constantly find new ways to talk nonsense whenever you presume to lecture on academia.

So please stop pretending, and please stop presuming to decide what others may or may not write. Try being a little humbler, and a little more charitable. And I shall then gladly hear your opinions, and read any input, scholarly or otherwise, you may wish to contribute.
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Andy's Friend
Sun, Apr 5, 2020, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Jason R.

"Booming this is a casual internet forum about Star Trek. In a debate about AI where you asked for some expert sources, you really thought it necessary to piss on Andy's citations because the universities weren't top notch? "

Thanks Jason, but Booming isn’t pissing on anything but himself. There is nothing wrong with the universities.

I already explained twice, including in the original message, why I quoted an Indian scholar with a classic Indian philosophy perspective. Had Booming been smart, he might have asked me: I would have told him that I don’t agree with Pandey on everything he writes. But I find that perspective interesting.

The inclusion of a former Soviet bloc scholar should be obvious to anyone with genuine wish to debate. The former Soviet bloc has an extremely rich heritage of anything from science-fiction to serious scholarship on robotics, artificial intelligence, and so forth—hardly surprising for a polity that was once leading in the space race.

The former Soviet bloc, however, is influenced also by that Russian tradition of introspective, philosophical questioning present in the great literary classics of their culture, and even in much Soviet science-fiction, more concerned with ethical and existential questions than with technological marvel. It is a cultural phenomenon that affects science also, and Piletsky is a good example of that existentialist query: what is consciousness (think 'Solaris', written by a Polish doctor, transported to film by a Russian), and can it be created artificially?

Also this interests me, even if Piletsky’s paper is much too brief to allow for that cultural heritage to shine through. But I hope this clarifies that Booming’s charges are entirely unfounded. Some people may read only what comes out of Oxford, and Cambridge. I chose to offer two different, non-Anglosphere perspectives as food for thought. As some may remember, I have always made it a point here on Jammer's to avoid groupthink, and to consider other perspectives than our traditional ones in the West—and the Federation.
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Andy's Friend
Sun, Apr 5, 2020, 4:28am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


You could have debated the points made by the scholars I quoted.
You could have quoted other scholars more to your liking.
You preferred to simply question if not ridicule the scholars I quoted. This you did based on their philosophical leaning and their academic affiliation.

I shouldn’t have to tell a pedant like yourself what kind of logical fallacy that is. But there is more.

It is curious to say the least that you should question my selection of sources because they lean towards the philosophical or metaphysical side. As one of them states, that is precisely because the ‘roboticist’ side, more preoccupied with purely mechanical aspects, leave it to them to raise such questions.

Moreover, Pandey’s ‘backwater Indian university’ to use your sorry expression is part of the point. As I stated, he specifically bases his argument not on Western, but on Indian philosophy. As I wrote, ‘There are other schools of thought than ours, and it is always good to be reminded of that lest we become too convinced of our own moral superiority in the West or the Federation.’

This was apparently entirely lost on you. How ironic. What does that say of your cognitive capabilities?

As for academic affiliation, I cannot emphasise enough how inadmissible your pitiful attitude is in our early twenty-first century. And I thought that I was the ‘arrogant’, ‘elitist’, ‘condescending’ prick around here.

I’ll be blunt: you’re a sorry excuse for a scholar, Booming, and most likely an impostor. This especially that you write merits a comment, as it is indicative of your whole pitiful reasoning:

“That is a university that does not make it into the first 1000 places in the THE (Times Higher Education). it is certainly a fine institution but nothing to brag about.”

Academic rankings are a contradiction in terms. If you were a scholar, you would know that.

How do you compare research in wildly different fields? How do you evaluate performance? How do you quantify innovation? Citations? Awards? Cost/benefit analysis? And so on, and so forth. Regardless of ranking methodology, ranking systems attempt to quantify the qualitative. They are more misleading than meaningful, other than to those bureaucratic minds who prefer deceptive statistics in order to possess an arsenal of numbers to throw at someone as argument.

Statistics as rankings are the sort of tool used by bureaucratic administrations of universities to extort funds from politicians and magnates, in other words, financiers, public or private. This is the main reason they are conducted, and if you were a scholar you would know that.

It is therefore highly ironic that you should refer to such rankings and use them as argument. That is the mentality of the bureaucrat, Booming. Not that of the scholar.

Scholars know who and where their peers—friends and/or rivals—are, and usually also why. We are perfectly capable of evaluating the quality of scholarly output by a given individual, or the main universities in our field. We know how useless rankings are, and how outright misleading they can be.

And we know better than to let the reputation or lack thereof of some higher learning institution affect our appreciation of scholarship. We read the scholarship, we make up our own minds. They call us scholars for a reason.

If for whatever reason, professional or personal, some scholar chooses to accept a position in some obscure university in say, Mongolia, that’s his business. Nowadays, depending on his field of course, it mostly won't greatly affect the quality of his output anyway.

You seem to have little idea of what globalisation has meant for academia, Booming. We don’t live in the Victorian or Edwardian era any longer. The differences between the traditional great powers and the many lesser powers is rapidly diminishing. This includes the academic world. Do you have any idea of how many universities have been established in the world in the past fifty years alone? The middle class of universities in the world today is huge.

As is the number of outstanding academics working in departments in middle-class universities. Plenty of universities around the world today boast one or two outstanding scholars in their specific fields. Not everybody is working at Oxford and Cambridge. There are more outstanding scholars in the world than that, and recently created departments around the world often make it a point to hire one. If you were a scholar, you would know that.

How many universities in the world today don’t enjoy powerful individual or corporate sponsorship (look at the Tatas in India), attempting sustained, long-term academic growth, perhaps by attracting foreign scholars in order to raise a single elite department to world-class excellence? Where along this long-term process is any given university? Do you think you can just look at a ranking and know these and other things?

Five years ago, I wrote the following here, while discussing the character of Darren in ‘Lessons’:

“I work at a major European university, and we see the exact same thing going on. Faculties competing for resources. And within each faculty―Humanities, in my case―various departments competing ferociously over the allocation of resources.

This is what Darren basically represents. In the case of universities, and except for the very, very top universities, which will have very good departments across the board, most universities tend to specialize and have one elite department, so to speak. A typical case in the US―I presume you’re American―is Texas A&M University, a somewhat undistinguished university, which however has one of the best nautical archaeology departments in the world.

(…) Darren is that department head who, in my world, will tell the faculty dean that her department has a good shot at entering the “Top5 in the World” with the allocation of a few more resources that will allow say, snatching two great scholars she’s been having talks with from other universities, and that strengthening her department further surely is worth more for the university than investing in some obscure other department.”
(TNG 'Lessons', 25 Aug 2015)

Note that I wrote of attempting to enter the “Top5 in the World”. Anything below the very top is irrelevant today, Booming: there may be very little difference between number 100 and number 800, depending on department, and only slightly more below that.

My university ‘outranks’ Texas A&M by a wide margin overall in such rankings. That means *nothing* in real life. Rankings are a function of massive bias, sheer size, and economies of scale. Little else. Don’t let the fancy algorithms ranking methodologies purport to use to negate bias fool you. Bias exists. You are living proof.

Nautical archaeology is not my field but I sometimes make use of their findings. Texas A&M outclasses most universities in that specific field, including your examples of Oxford and MIT. For my specific purposes, only two universities in the world rival them. I just checked: one is in the 400s, the other in the 1100s according to your precious rankings.

You, with that sorry attitude of yours, would of course dismiss both those other little-known universities as you probably would Texas A&M, and you would be reading output by Oxford and MIT scholars inadequate for your purposes and making necessarily flawed adaptations to suit your purposes, instead of reading the relevant output from those 'backwater' universities. That is not how the scholar goes about his work, Booming.

Summarising: would you rank Texas A&M lower than Oxford? Overall, perhaps. But for specific purposes, that may very well not be the case. It isn’t in nautical archaeology, for example.

I can only be thankful for that as I have often found their output profitable for specific purposes in my own research. This is what matters to actual scholars, not silly rankings. And if you weren’t a fraud, you would know that.

How often have you not benefitted from scholarship from some ‘obscure’ university in your own research? How many outstanding scholars don’t you know to be found in otherwise nondescript universities? If you haven't, and you don't, you are either not a very a good scholar, or not a scholar at all.

What do you know of the strengths of university departments in the world? You don’t, because you are an impostor, Booming, likely a failed scholar or a bureaucrat at best. No scholar of merit would write what you write.

"Give me Oxford or MIT, I would even accept the barely first rate losers of the ETH Zurich."

I have no words for the idiocy of this comment. Stay well, Booming.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 4:42am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Peter G.

I see, thanks for the clarification. An interesting proposition. If I understand it correctly, you believe that Quincy’s argument is that Soong’s original programming of Data wasn’t enough. In other words, that he was indeed a glorified toaster in TNG. I can see how the argument can be made to defend such a hypothesis based on TNG alone. And as you know I haven’t watched ‘Picard’, so I am naturally at a disadvantage discussing future events in that parallel reality that may involve TNG.

Should that be Quincy’s proposition, it is of course a valid one. As I wrote here years ago, I defend the opposite view not only because I find that the TNG scripts make it more plausible, but also because of personal bias: *I want him to be alive*.

Incidentally, I wrote that in a post to you and William B years ago which I may as well quote:

“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.

(…) 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.”
(‘The Measure of a Man’, 27 Jun 2016)

It's funny, isn’t it? We adapt so many scientific terms, use such scholarly style, attempt to make so ‘objective’ arguments. Sometimes we should just state our own biases and our personal preferences, for they guide our utterances much more than most of us are ready to admit. It would make conversations a lot easier, wouldn’t it?

What do you think of 'Picard', now that it's over? The sort of debate it seems to inspire doesn't strike me as a recommendation of it, but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 2:30am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


I didn’t respond to your conversation with Jason R. because that is uninteresting to me: I never defended the primacy of wetware. But surely men are allowed to take strands of conversations to initiate other conversations or return to old ones, don’t you think?

But you must understand that if you subscribe to your own example, Sardeshkar, then we are actually in agreement, you and I.

There have long existed two different and opposed views on the future of artificial consciousness:
— i) It is all a matter of software. With sufficiently complex, sophisticated, adaptive, etc., etc. programming, we can endow artificial beings with consciousness. This faction traditionally has spoken of artificial ‘sentience’ as ‘strong Artificial Intelligence’;
— ii) No amount of software will ever suffice. It is a matter of hardware. For beings to possess consciousness, they must possess cognitive architecture that replicates (‘duplicates’, ‘simulates’, ‘emulates’, ‘recreates’, let’s for a moment not delve on semantics) actual, natural, biological cognitive architecture. This growing faction, which Sardeshkar and my previous examples represent, speaks of artificial sentience as ‘Artificial Consciousness’;

I have maintained position ii) here for the past six or seven years . The posts are all there and are quite lengthy at that.

Note therefore that I have never defended the primacy of wetware over general hardware. I do *not* adhere to biological chauvinism. Or, to use Pandey’s euphemism, ‘ontologically conservative hetero-phenomenology’.

Ten days ago, you wrote to Peter G.:

“I just gave numerous examples of TNG demonstrating that androids can spontaneously start broadcasting emotions to Counselor Troi with no change in physical hardware. How is this possible? Shouldn't they lack the wetware to broadcast emotions? Unless... no such wetware is required. And *a mere software change in a sapient machine does the trick.*

Data is a *learning computer*. For Data and his progeny *"learning" is most likely synonymous with upgrading or updating their software* (…).”
('Et In Arcadia Ego, Pt I', 21 Mar 2020, emphasis added.)

Granted, you were talking about Star Trek, which as we know can be vague and inconsistent. And here and there, you also talk about hardware. But per quotes as the one above, I thought that you firmly adhered to position i) above. My mistake, it seems.

For now you give us Sardeshkar, who is arguing for the opposite side in the debate. Sardeshkar insists that it is not the software that matters, ‘the ones and zeroes that we think are so great’. As he so well puts it and I quoted, we must understand how the wet and the dry are very deeply connected, and we must therefore 'learn to be amphibians'. This is why he advocates for us to abandon modern digital computers and binary code and return to analogue computers. Sentience, consciousness, awareness: it would seem that the artificial mind must evolve organically (for lack of a better word) thanks to artificial, cognitive architecture that emulates nature; he outright calls it ‘synthetic biology’.

Ten days ago you were arguing that a mere software change in a machine does the trick, and that ‘learning’ for a machine is most likely synonymous with upgrading or updating the software. Now, you bring us Sardeshkar, who argues, as I have always maintained, the necessity of ‘synthetic biology’, those ‘analogue computers like nature does’, and imply that you agree with him. So you may perhaps understand my bewilderment.

I hope you agree with the scientist you referred. For in that case, we would seem to be in agreement, too.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 4:28am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


Thanks for the video, Quincy. It is indeed worthwhile, presenting nothing fundamentally new at this point but presenting what it does well. I recommend it.

I am however not sure that you have understood its implications, as you have systematically argued against its propositions, as late as this week. Have you changed your mind? What is Sarpeshkar arguing?

Sarpeshkar here is doing precisely what my examples above speak of. He is talking of emulating the human body. He is talking about perfecting the artificial, analogue computers of yesteryear—not the digital computers of today—so that they can match the human, natural, biological analogue 'computer' at the quantum level. He is not talking about software at all: he is talking about a fusion of hardware and wetware. He is being the proverbial Dr Soong, talking about the attempt to build an artificial cognitive architecture. He is talking about the proverbial ‘positronic brain’.

He gives numerous examples of this, from the micro to the macro-scale, as in:

SARPESHKAR: ‘(…) but if I copied the clever exponentially tapered architecture of the cochlea, I could build a quantum cochlea (…)’ (19:30)

SARPESHKAR: ‘(…) because of that we can do synthetic biology, which is the top piece where chemistry goes into biology with molecular reaction circuits; we can also build computers to emulate cells (…).’ (20:55)

All this culminates in:

SARPESHKAR: ‘(…) you can also be inspired by biology: you can take an architecture in the biology to do something in computer science you would never have imagined before (…) so what I’m telling you is that the wet and the dry are very deeply connected; we have to learn to be amphibians (…) so my paradigm shift is actually a very, very simple one: we need to go ‘back’ to the future, collective analogue computers like nature does, in physics, chemistry, and biology, and not be so mesmerised by the ones and zeroes that we think are so great (…).’ (21:15-22:15)

This walks hand in hand with the views of the scientists in the field of artificial consciousness I have just quoted, and everything I have ever stated on the matter in this forum.

A problem may be posed by an overly materialistic perspective. The challenge is to combine a physicalist ontology with metaphysics: not simply emulating, but indeed creating life. My proposition is and has always been that Soong's ‘positronic brain’/Sarpeshkar's ‘quantum analogue computer’ indeed manages this.

So, in Star Trek terms, yes, Data is truly alive. The EMH, of course, is not. Sarpeshkar would surely agree.

[Rahul Sarpeshkar, "Analog Supercomputers: From Quantum Atom to Living Body". By courtesy of Quincy].
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 3:55am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Yes, I remember those days, chatting with you and a few other regulars. Better days, with better discussions inspired by better series. I hope you are well.

Thanks for the ‘synopsis’ of those episodes. So, Data’s memory engrams can be recreated from a single neuron of his, can they? To quote Lycan:

“A neuron is just a simple little piece of insensate stuff that does nothing but let electrical current pass through it from one point in space to another; by merely stuffing an empty brainpan with neurons, you couldn’t produce qualia-immediate phenomenal feels!” (“Form, function, and feel”. The Journal of Philosophy, 78 (1981))

Lycan may be slightly outdated. Still, I’m truly happy I never watched this.



“If the discussion regarding artificial intelligence were nothing more than a dispute over the ways in which language is or might be used, it would not be very interesting, since it would refer to nothing more than the way the word “intelligence” might be commonly employed. If, instead, we are interested in knowing whether or not computers actually think, or clocks really tell time, and mean that they have the kind of consciousness, inferential powers, imagination, sensitivity, responsibility, memory, and expectations that humans have, we must turn away from linguistic usage to ask whether it will ever be possible for machines, no matter how quick and adroit, to be conscious, to infer, imagine, be responsible, and so forth.”

—Paul Weiss, “On the Impossibility of Artificial intelligence”. Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 44, No. 2 (1990), first page. (Presented at the 8th International Congress of Cybernetics and Systems, New York, 1990).


“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. (…).’ ”

—Andy’s Friend, ‘Heroes and Demons’, here on Jammer’s, Oct 31, 2014. Haikonen was speaking of modern digital computers.


“This divide, of intelligence vs consciousness, is extremely important. Today, we have researchers in artificial intelligence, and we have researchers in artificial consciousness. The divide promises―if it hasn’t already―to become as great as that between archaeologists and historians, or anthropologists and psychologists: slightly related fields, and yet, fundamentally different. The problem is, that most people aren't aware of this. Most people, unknowingly, are still in 1988. They conflate the terms, and still speak of irrelevant AI (see this thread!). They still, unknowingly, speak of Deep Thought only.”

—Andy’s Friend, ‘The Measure of a Man’, here on Jammer’s, Jun 27, 2016.


(…) one of the main objectives of AI is to design a system that can be considered as a “machine with minds” in the full and literal sense. Further, it is obvious that if an entity consists of the mind in true sense then it must inevitably pose the attributes of consciousness. Indeed, the domain of AI reflects substantial interest towards consciousness. (…) The term “intelligence” is closely related to “consciousness” and in the last ten years there has been a growing interest towards the field of Artificial Consciousness (AC). Several researchers from traditional AI addressed the hypothesis of designing and implementing models for AC. It is sometimes referred to as machine consciousness or synthetic consciousness. (…) Indeed, the goal of AI is to enable the artificial agent to display the characteristics of mental properties or exhibit characteristic aspects of systems that have such properties. It is obvious that intelligence is not the only characteristic of mental property. (…) mental property also encompasses many other characteristics, e.g., action, creativity, perception, emotion and consciousness. The term “consciousness” has persistently been a matter of great interest at the philosophical level of human being but it is not formidably addressed within the purview of AI. (…).”

2.2 AC
(…) Generally, researchers consider three strands pertaining to AC. They are interactive empiricism, synthetic phenomenology, and ontologically conservative hetero-phenomenology. At first glance it seems easy to distinguish the AI and AC. In general, AI endeavours to create an intelligent machine whereas AC attempts to create machines that are conscious. However, the subject matter of consciousness and intelligence is quite complicated and distinction between these two aspects requires philosophical foundation.
(…) ‘‘Most roboticists are more than happy to leave these debates on consciousness to those with more philosophical leanings’’. Contrary to this, many researchers give sound consideration on the possibility that human beings’ consciousness is more than the epiphenomenal by-product. These researchers have hypothesized that consciousness may be the expression of some fundamental architectural principle exploited by our brain. (…)

Body, mind, intelligence and consciousness are mutually interrelated entities. However, consciousness is subtler than intelligence, mind, senses and body. AC is mainly concerned with the consciousness possessed by an artificial agent (…). AC attempts to explain different phenomena pertaining to it, including limitations of consciousness. There are two sub-domains of AC. They are the “weak AC” and “strong AC”. It is difficult to categorize these two subdomains due to the fact that they are not related with the dichotomy of true conscious agent and “seems to be” conscious agents. Further, researchers have given few computational models of consciousness. However, it is not possible to replicate the consciousness by computations, algorithms, processing and functions of AI method. In fact, however vehemently we say that the computer is conscious, it is ridiculous to imbibe that sensor data can create consciousness in a true sense. Indeed, consciousness is not a substance and is independent of sense object contact and cannot be produced by the element. (…) Furthermore, consciousness cannot depend on what function a machine computes. (…)”

—Subhash Pandey, “Can Artificially Intelligent Agents Really be Conscious?”. Sādhanā (2018), first and last page.

Last year, 2019:

One of the most painful issues of creating Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the problem of creating a hardware or software analogue of the phenomenal consciousness and/or a system of global access to cognitive information (…).
Wherein, presumable consciousness of so-called “strong” Artificial Intelligence is often regarded as a kind of analogue of human consciousness, albeit more quantitatively developed. In this case, artificial intelligence has a wider “phenomenal field”, has richer content (qualae) and a much larger amount of RAM (necessary for the reconstruction of conscious experience), etc.

The “spotlight” of a conscious mind does not always work in the mode of voluntary attention. Certain processes independently “breakthrough” into consciousness without permission. They penetrate the global access space as if “demanding” our conscious attention. Most often, these are emotional-volitional impulses, intuitive insights and the like. Desires, emotions, and complicated cognitive phenomena come as if “from the outside” without arbitrary participation of the actor. (…)
It seems that despite our common sense and familiar intuition, some aspects of our mental life are evolutionarily “programmed”. Therefore, for example, we have motivation and emotions, regardless of choice. We do not consciously choose our own desires or preferences. Needs and affects are given to us “as is”, in finished form. This, of course, does not prevent from making reflecting about them a posteriori (for example, in rationalization) or to influence them through awareness (in psychotherapy). The very intentionality of consciousness (or at least the potential possibility of intentionality) is predetermined.
(…) To ensure our smooth functioning in both the physical and the social world, nature has dictated that many processes of perception, memory, attention, learning, and judgment are delegated to brain structures outside conscious awareness” (…) Now we understand that human memory management, automatic motion control, affective-volitional functions, attention management, mechanisms of associative thinking, mechanisms for forming judgments and logical consequences, operations with the sensory flow, creating a complete picture of the world, and the like are primarily unconscious.
Thus, a significant part of our activity consists of mental facts that are transcendent in relation to consciousness. This feature is evolutionary due. However, hypothetical Artificial Intelligence can be free of the “dictate of the unconscious”, unlike human beings. The machine can have total global access to any “internal” processes. Thus, all information processes can be simultaneously “illuminated” (or accessible, as far as the hardware substrate allows), completely depriving the AI of the unconscious.

This leads to paradoxical conclusions. Awareness and self-awareness do not automatically lead to the emergence of motivation, desires or emotions. A conscious machine can be completely devoid of these processes, natural to humans. The intentionality of consciousness of Homo sapiens is due to evolution and is not obligatory for the machine.
There is a good reason to believe that the field of unconscious processes (within human psyche) is much larger than the field of phenomenal consciousness. (…) scientists have developed a hypothesis according to which even conscious and free will actions are nothing but fixation of unconscious processes a posteriori. This raises the difficult question: is the field of the unconscious nothing but the absolute basis for conscious processes? Is consciousness only an emergent feature of the unconscious (that is, a second-level process after neurophysiological processes)?
Thus, we come to the “traditional” division into “strong” and “weak” Artificial Intelligence. According to modern theoretical concepts, “strong” Artificial Intelligence should have at least several distinctive characteristics, among which the most essential is an intelligent agent’s behavior from the “first person” perspective. Theoretically, this should be a “goal setting machine”. In this case, “strong” human-like AI is impossible without the synchronous work of the conscious and unconscious “minds”.
When we argue about the human psyche, many of these questions have moved into the plane of the philosophy of consciousness or pure neuroscience. In the philosophy of consciousness, we are primarily interested in the ontological status of mental phenomena. Therefore, it is important for us to know whether the psyche is “something” or it is an “illusion” of the brain; whether there is an intentional agent or whether it is also an illusion. That is why it is also important for a person to determine what the ratio of conscious life to unconscious processes “in darkness” is.

In essence, the “weak” Artificial Intelligence is a kind of functional neural networks of various types (convolutional, spiking, deep stacking, etc.). They are the systems with multiple inputs, analytical subsystems, and one or n-number of outputs. Their widely known applying is pattern or speech recognition (what is called “machine perception”).
Here we can use the neural-network metaphor of Alan Turing’s “probabilistic machine”, which evaluates information based on big data. For example, I recognize a face in dynamics, because I have a huge amount of incoming data that is interpreted in the same way as it happens in modern neural networks. In the end, I have a certain result. Based on big data, it is already possible to build predictive models, etc. However, for such a machine, an external interpreter is still needed. For the time being, he plays the role of an “external consciousness” for the “unconscious” neural networks.
(…) All of the above features of the natural unconscious, such as automaticity, inaccessibility and uncontrollability, can be fully accessible to Artificial Intelligence systems. Moreover, here there are several development scenarios of the machine “psyche.”
1. A machine can arbitrarily form its conscious affective-volitional functions. In this case, a paradox arises: what exactly will induce the AI to choose motives and emotions? After all, the “second level unconscious” for the machine does not exist. (…)
2. The unconscious of Artificial Intelligence may also develop evolutionarily. For example, modern evolutionary algorithms allow the machine to learn how to “walk” independently without the rules of walking prepared in advance. By analogy, nothing prevents the possibility of evolution of both the higher mental functions of Artificial Intelligence and its unconscious automatic processes. However, there is a danger that such an AI can develop in a completely unpredictable direction. This will lead us later to scenario 5.
3. The unconscious AI may also be deliberately programmed. Thus, installation of the criteria for possible aesthetic, ethical and volitional prerequisites for the activities of the machine will be determined by its creators. In fact, this can become a psychic “insuperable force” for a conscious AI, transcendental to its “phenomenal field.” Therefore, the very intentionality of the consciousness of the machine will have to be artificially created.
4. The consciousness of AI can be a program analogue of human consciousness. Probably, in the future, the disclosure of the mechanisms of formation of consciousness and cognitions may lead to the creation of their exact program model, including the model of the unconscious. In such a case, Artificial Intelligence essentially becomes a perfect copy of a human person. At the same time the problem of qualae, of course, does not go anywhere. Nevertheless, technically we can “remove it from the equation” as irrelevant in a practical sense [NOTE: THIS IS WHAT SOONG ATTEMPTED WITH DATA’S PROGRAMMING, INCLUDING HIS ‘POSITRONIC BRAIN’ AS A PHYSICAL COGNITIVE ARCHITECHTURE FOR FURTHER GROWTH OR ‘MECHANISMS OF FORMATION’].
5. It may also happen that the consciousness of Artificial Intelligence as a kind of analogue of human consciousness is impossible in principle. Perhaps such phenomena as “consciousness” and “unconscious” will be absolutely inapplicable to AI. In this case, the machine “phenomena” (or lack thereof) will be absolutely incomprehensible to humans, and communication between man and machine will be questionable. (…)

Probably, a machine (as we saw above) will be able to effectively imitate natural behavior, for example, to conduct a fully meaningful conversation. However, will this mean that Artificial Intelligence will have a phenomenal experience, or at least something remotely resembling it? In addition, is there a fundamental difference between the imitation of rational behavior and the rational behavior itself? This raises an interesting question. If the machine says that it has qualae, that it feels something, that it is conscious, etc., then can we doubt it? Will Artificial Intelligence be a “philosophical zombie” according to Chalmers? What if this AI does not have a phenomenal consciousness that we call “the inner world”? However, if at the same time this particular AI will fully pass all versions of the Turing test and we will not be able to distinguish the conversation with it and with a reasonable person? Will we consider such an AI reasonable?
Let us try to look for answers from the other side. It is worth noting that such examples rather indicate that at this stage we are slowly creating an analog of the unconscious for Artificial Intelligence. BASED ON EXISTING TRENDS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF AI, IT CAN BE NOTED THAT WE ARE MOVING ALONG THE PATH OF “QUANTITY TO QUALITY” [emphasis added]: i.e. improving the systems of “weak” AI (neural networks) and their further integration INTO THE META-SYSTEM OF NEURAL NETWORKS INTEGRATED LIKE HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS [emphasis added]. For example, according to the theory of Jerry Alan Fodor, the whole human psyche (both conscious and unconscious) operates on the basis of the so-called “modules” (“modular mind” theory) [Fodor, 1983]. IF IN THE FUTURE WE CREATE SUCH A NEURAL NETWORK CONFIGURATION THAT WILL AT LEAST MIMIC “SYNCHRONOUS OSCILLATION OF GROUPS OF NEURONS”, OR SOME OTHER SYSTEM THAT COMBINES INDIVIDUAL NEURAL NETWORKS THAT REPRESENT SCATTERED FUNCTIONAL “MODULES” INTO A HIGHER-LEVEL NEURAL NETWORK, THEN PERHAPS WE WILL GET “STRONG” ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE [emphasis added. NOTE: IN OTHER WORDS, AN ‘ARTIFICIAL BRAIN’ LEADING TO ARTIFICIAL CONSCIOUSNESS: A ‘POSITRONIC BRAIN’ LEADING TO DATA]. Therefore, it seems that the development of AI proceeds simultaneously under scenarios 2, 4 and 5.

— Eugene Piletsky, “Consciousness and Unconsciousness of Artificial Intelligence”. Future Human Image, Vol. 11, 2019.

I hope these few examples clarify the significance of cognitive architecture. I find Pandey’s contribution for the Indian Academy of Sciences particularly interesting. As some will recall I have lived and worked in India; and in Chapter 4.1, which I have omitted here, Pandey explores the question of consciousness based not on Plato or Aristotle or later Western philosophers, but on classic Indian philosophy: the Upanishads, the Vedanta, and so forth. This explains his definition of 'ontologically conservative hetero-phenomenology', a nomenclature that is nothing but a euphemism for biological chauvinism, which Pandey himself is dangerously close to, based on said classic Indian philosophy. There are other schools of thought than ours, and it is always good to be reminded of that lest we become too convinced of our own moral superiority in the West or the Federation.

I hope Piletsky's remarks on the necessity of the unconscious for consciousness isn't lost on readers.

Leading scientists in the fields of AI and AC diverge. The former, the ‘roboticists’ necessarily care for software. As Pandey puts it elsewhere, “The main task of AI is to discover the optimum computational models to solve a given problem”, and this necessarily involves the programming also. The latter hardly speak of software, for software may accomplish the most basic only: it processes, it does not think. If we wish to go farther and speak not of computations, but of thoughts and emotions—if we wish to ask questions such as ‘Does the robot *think*?’ or ‘Does the android *dream*?’—it’s the hardware that matters.

In Star Trek terms, this means that our good doctor on the Voyager, the EMH does not possess true consciousness. He (or more properly, it) is but a program: he mimics, or emulates, if perfectly, human behaviour only. Whereas Data is an artificial lifeform, endowed with neural networks that can emulate, or recreate, if imperfectly, genuine thought processes. He possesses artificial consciousness. He is truly alive.

I have fortunately all but forgotten ‘Nemesis’, and I have never watched ‘Picard’, so I can’t talk about the ‘synths’.
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Andy's Friend
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 6:59am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2


"Data is NOT his body. He is an artificial intelligence which can be preserved and downloaded to any body, and is only "dead" when his core consciousness is erased or destroyed, similar to the "stacks" in Altered Carbon (only in that universe it's digitized human consciousness)."

I have not watched 'Picard'. If 'Picard' has attempted a 'retcon' of sorts of Data's nature, I am unaware of it. Otherwise, Data is very much a function of his unique 'body' in TNG: more exactly, of his 'positronic brain'.

The details of just what constitutes that positronic brain were deliberately kept vague in TNG. But there is no question that Soong's unique achievement was what made Data's *artificial consciousness* possible.

(You speak of "artificial intelligence". That is a category mistake).

This is what separates Data from the EMH in Voyager. Despite what the majority of fans (and I think even the writers of VOY) want to believe, the EMH possesses no artificial consciousness even if he is able to perfectly mimic it. He is but code, which, unlike that of Data, can be uploaded, downloaded, and changed at will, by multiple individuals to multiple platforms. Consider for example the following:

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.

Yes, Torres is a pretty good engineer. But she is no Soong, not even a Maddox as far as artificial consciousness is concerned. Yet even a regular, 'pretty good' engineer can shape the EMH at will. Could she do the same to Data?

Data is a combination of unique software adapted to unique hardware, if not biological 'wetware' proper. It is that combination of programming and the medium that processes it—his positronic brain—that allows Data to function and grow independently and (for lack of a better word) organically:

RIKER: The positronic brain. He promised it would do so much. When it failed completely, Doctor Soong disappeared. Now we know he went off somewhere to try a second time.

DATA: You have constructed a positronic brain?
DATA: Have you determined how the [technobabble] is to be resolved?
MADDOX: Not precisely.
DATA: That would seem to be a necessary first step.
('The Measure of a Man')

DATA: Lal has a positronic brain, one very similar to my own.
('The Offspring')

DATA: The positronic matrix I designed for her was unstable. She only lived a short time.

Indeed, Soong's positronic brain is what makes both Data and Lore unique:

DATA: My brother's positronic brain had [technobabble]. Mine is [different technobabble].
('Time's Arrow, Pt I')

… and so on, and so forth. Don't mistake the positronic brain for a mere computer, and forget about "artificial intelligence". Data's positronic brain is a true *artificial brain*. It is what gives him sentience, or properly *artificial consciousness*. And it seems to be that which Soong's entire programming—a fundamental part of Data's neural processes—depends on to work. Consider the following:

Are we sure that Soong's specific programming could work on another platform? Do we even know what programming language Soong used? Could he not be using a programming language entirely sui generis? Indeed, is it not likely?

We know that Lore can manipulate Data and the latter's programming, and that admittedly makes sense.

We also know that Dr Graves was able to upload himself into Data's framework. This he did using Starfleet technology, which Soong of course knew of, and evidently made Data reciprocally adaptive to. But is it not possible that Soong's programming will allow for no further reciprocal control in otherwise adaptive environments?

In any case, it seems certain that Data's positronic brain is that which he—as Lal—cannot exist without.

Please tell me, as I haven't been paying much attention: has 'Picard' attempted to change the nature of Data?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

Correction: Maddox was a Starfleet officer, of course, but still a scientist. The argument stands.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

All good points, Chrome.

You wrote: "It’s unclear, and also unlikely they’d agree to Garak’s assassination plan."

I agree. For what it's worth, I agree with Elliott: Sisko is the outlier, not Picard.

You wrote: "What’s interesting is this breaks TNG/DS9 into a couple schools of thought about the norm for Federation values."

One interesting fact about TNG is that the morally ambiguous Federation characters are all extremely driven individuals. They fall into two categories:

i) either slightly unhinged or decidedly deranged: the likes of Dr Graves, Admiral Jameson, Captain Maxwell, Dr Marr, or Admiral Satie.

ii) simply driven by personal and/or professional, intellectual and/or scientific ambition and pride: the likes of Director Mandl, Dr Farallon, Dr Kingsley, Dr Maddox, Dr Russell, or Dr Stubbs.

Note, however, how all characters in ii) above are scientists, not Starfleet officers; and that all of them but Russell change their stance over the course of the episode as part of the moral lesson of the story, in the best tradition of Star Trek.

In other words, the morally ambiguous Federation characters in TNG were either deranged individuals beyond hope, clinical if not criminal cases; or honest if overzealous scientists who suffer a change of heart as result of a moral lesson learnt: in other words, necessary and temporary evils only, in order for the Federation ethics of the 24th century to shine through in the end.

The only Starfleet officer I can think of who was *not* somehow deranged or possessed and was clearly in violation of Starfleet and Federation ethics was Admiral Pressman—who appears halfway into the last season (after the launching of DS9), and of course in an episode written by Ronald D. Moore.

Granted, Pressman was acting in collusion with top echelons in Starfleet. Yet although other Starfleet admirals might come off as slightly antagonistic—indeed, often even too much so—I find the claim so often made that there were plenty of shady characters in Starfleet to be false as far as TNG is concerned. Please correct me if I am wrong, someone. Am I forgetting anyone?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 8:57am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

@Captain Jon

"And Maddox was mostly noteworthy for the episode he was in and his life’s work of seeking to create more androids. But characteristically I viewed him as lacking any real depth/dimension."

I would contest that, as he develops over the course of the episode and is no longer an antagonist at the end of it. As such, he represents the on-screen alter ego of the sceptical viewer, hopefully enlightened by the ethics for which the episode is a vehicle, and all sceptics, everywhere. You might say that the episode reminds Maddox, the sceptic, of what he had once visited in his dreams.

More fundamentally, however, Maddox doesn't need "any real depth/dimension". Archetypes and myths are just that: a symbol. What powers archetypes is their function in their given story. And that of Bruce Maddox is as powerful as they come.

Think of it: Maddox isn't exactly Director Mandl, Dr. Kingsley, or Dr. Barron, is he? Perhaps you will need to remind yourself of who one of them is: but we all know who Maddox is. His character is as classic Star Trek as it gets, such is the power of 'The Measure of a Man'.

Finally, Maddox is classic Star Trek also in another way: precisely because he goes from being antagonistic at first to being friendly in the end, all brought about by negotiation (litigation, discussion, mediation) with Picard and the Enterprise crew. It doesn't get more Star Trek than that.

In any case, I'm not bothered, I'm not watching this and Bruce Maddox is alive and well. :)
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Andy's Friend
Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 8:46am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


'That's what Kurtzman and Co have been doing ever since they took the helm.

Discovery was about destroying the TOS era . Picard is doing the same thing to both the TNG era and the character of Picard.

None of this is an accident. The Trek franchise is not "evolving" in a natural way to reflect the times. What we have here is a deliberate destruction of a decades-old cultural icon, piece by piece.

THIS is why I'm so adamant about the "It's not Star Trek" thing. Because these guys are butchering Star Trek on purpose. It boggles my mind how the vast majority of Classic Trek fans are just sitting by and letting this happen. Worse: they are opening their wallets and actively supporting this fiasco with their hard-earned cash.

Simply unbelievable.'

Incredibly well-put. This is about relativising Star Trek, for it to become everything and nothing.

Now, I can't even say that 'I like Picard' with risking being asked—and quite legitimately at that, which is actually the worst—'What do you mean, the character Picard or the series STP?'

A year ago, we all knew who Picard was, and what he stood for. All of a sudden, now even 'Picard' is a relative notion. Talk about post-modernism.
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