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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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Andy's Friend
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 6:15am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


Thanks for the video. The question is of course one of the most profound of our times. The immediate challenge is to avoid conflating artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness as most do.

Several years ago I wrote of this at some length here. A synopsis: I consider Data sentient, but the EMH a program only. I believe that Data’s ‘positronic brain’, though kept deliberately vague in-universe, is the equivalent of the real-life concept of the artificial brain, capable of fully emulating thought and consciousness. The EMH is a program only. I believe—and here I am echoing one side of the science community on the matter only—that no programming, regardless of how unfathomably sophisticated it may be, equates consciousness. Even the perfect ability to mimic human behaviour is but mimicry: Turing’s imitation game is fatally flawed at the root.

How we will deal with the matter of artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness will define humanity. I am glad to be living today and not three hundred years hence. I believe that in just a few centuries, future humanity will be able to understand us as poorly as we understand the caveman of ten thousand years ago: that's how fast things are changing. But I know this: at least the caveman was fully human.

You wrote: ‘This argument reminds me of a few I've had on this forum. One in particular was a disagreement over what science fiction is all about. I said it was about far reaching ideas, where the implications of those ideas mattered as much as the characters themselves. Where in fact, the science fiction is just one more main character in the cast, as important as any other. Others disagreed. It's just all about the characters (…)’

I completely agree with you. When I was speaking of the tragic character before, I was speaking of a symbol only, a vehicle to deliver the morality of the story. Very well then, I shall attempt to be as unpretentious and straightforward as possible.

The best stories of Star Trek, particularly in TOS but also in TNG and in much of VOY (despite execution) have always had the format of fables.

When we read (say) La Fontaine’s ‘The Fox and the Sick Lion’, we have a fox, a lion, and a cave. Similarly, when we watch any episode of TOS, we have the Enterprise crew, the Alien, and (say) the Nebula, or the Alien Planet.

Now, when we read (say) La Fontaine’s ‘The Fox and the Stork’, we don’t ask whether a fox and a stork would be able to communicate. We don’t ask whether they would be able to use utensils as bowls. We understand the fables for what they are. They are about ideas, perhaps not always ‘far reaching ideas’ in your futuristic sense (but see below), but certainly far reaching ideas in the ethical sense. And when we read La Fontaine’s fables in succession, we don’t complain of the ‘reset button’, or the lack of ‘character growth’ from one fable to the next.

TOS in particular, as well as most of TNG, are essentially fables. Necessarily lengthier and therefore more complex, the episodes are typically structured as Greek plays. This does not change their essence. They are moral tales.

The psychological growth of the characters is therefore essentially irrelevant as they are mouthpieces for more abstract concepts. Kirk, Picard, the Ox, the Eagle: it doesn’t really matter, the Enterprises are essentially zoos providing the animals—the archetypes—to people the episodes according to their characteristics, to tell the episode—the fable—of the week. And then, reset. Tune in next week, turn the page: watch the next episode, read the next fable.

This is a time-honoured format, resting solidly on archetypes to explore ourselves and the Other, and in so doing also ‘far reaching ideas’ both of greater morality and, here and there, the occasional futuristic idea. My favourite example is TOS’ ‘A Taste of Armageddon’, in which an entirely novel type of war—a surrogate war—is invented. ‘A Taste of Armageddon’ is as fine a depiction of provocative, terrifying futuristic warfare as any. Within the limitations of TOS, it’s science-fiction at its best.

This is how Star Trek works best: telling myriad self-contained stories, week after week, necessarily of uneven quality as La Fontaine’s fables but always with an ethical core and a resolution in the end. Because fables—myths, archetypes, and moral tales—is what ‘Star Trek’ the original series was all about.

The character growth of our heroes? Who on earth cares about character growth in fables? Character growth is not what fables and archetypes are about. Nor is it what ‘Star Trek’, the original series is about. Does Kirk change? Does ‘the Captain’ need to change in order to keep exploring ‘strange new worlds’ to stimulate our imagination, and our ethics?

‘Star Trek’ had thus an amazing model to tell stories, and that model was the fable. This was continued, by and large, in TNG with better production values. Serialisation compromises this: one risks it becoming more about the characters than about ideas. Which is why TOS and TNG are still the benchmark of Star Trek: they told stories about ideas, week after week.

Sadly, some fans fail to recognise this. They ridicule the ‘anomaly of the week’ as unimaginative, they demand ‘realism!’ and ‘story arcs!’ and ‘character growth!’, and they scream ‘plot hole!’ at anything. They essentially complain that the fox and the stork can understand each other, and that they can use utensils, and that the events of last week seem to have no repercussions this week. They have understood nothing at all. They seem to essentially want soap opera in space. They seem to want the form—ray guns and spaceships—but not the function.

This is why I defend the idea—the intent—over production, or execution, even if I often do it poorly. I hope this clarifies my perspective on Star Trek.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 6:01am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


Thanks for your well-written reply. First, a note on terms. You wrote:

‘Quincy seems to be taking a holistic view of the work for the purposes of assessing its quality as a piece of television, and you seem to be analyzing the script entirely in isolation to determine how well it fits into some "canon" of storytelling.’

In aesthetics, what you here call ‘holism’ is called isolationism. Quincy is looking at the episode, as you write, as a piece of television, in your own words ‘assessing the quality of the episode itself’. And he is doing so, in his own words, caring not for author intent but only for what is on the screen. This is as clear isolationism as it gets: looking at the work itself, and nothing but the work.

And what you here call ‘in isolation’ is, in aesthetics, called contextualism. What I am asking is: what is the context of a given work? What artistic or philosophical current can it be said to be a part of? How does it function at various levels (in casu, as a script, as an episode, as acting, as directing, etc.), and why? What factors influenced the specific execution, and what other executions could be imagined? How would it work as a novel, or a poem? As a theatre play, or an opera? As a bedtime story for children? Is it reducible to, say, a sculpture, or a painting? To an aphorism, or an axiom?

Very fundamentally, I tend to look beyond the episodes as such to ask: what story is the author trying to tell us? What ideas does he wish us to explore? What lessons does he offer us to consider? And in which context—cultural, professional, and perhaps personal—must we see the work, its strengths, and its flaws? This is called contextualism.

Second, I do agree with you (and Quincy) on a number of things.

You wrote: ‘I'd argue execution is more important than intent in storytelling’, and I agree with your examples of the Pinochio story, or a lesser actor playing Data as you presented them.

You wrote: ‘However, if a production of Hamlet kept the script verbatim but decided to stage the climax (…)’, and so forth; and again, I agree with that example as you presented it.

You wrote: ‘If the laziness, incompetence, or simple bad decisions of an actor, director, editor, etc. diminish the quality of an overall episode, it is impossible to escape that fact (…)’, and I tend to agree; see below.

You wrote: ‘any script that gets brought up as being one of "the best" of its medium is almost always matched by an equally high effort in nearly every other department (think Empire Strikes Back, think Groundhog Day, think The Graduate). Directing, acting, editing, etc. will always affect a person's judgment of a work's ideas (…)’, and I most certainly agree; yet see my example below of ‘The Measure of a Man’.

The question of course is how much it takes before a scene becomes an ‘absurd and immersion-shattering moment’ as you wrote. What is a slight mistake we may easily dismiss, and what is truly immersion-shattering?

But when considering this, we must also look inward, and ask ourselves, how forgiving, how generous are we, and can we be more charitable? How much do we attempt to look beyond mere failures of execution to focus on the story, the ideas being told? How great is our power of abstraction?

Finally, the important matters. You wrote:

‘Would that diminish the quality of Hamlet's script? No, but you'd still look foolish trying to make that case to a friend whose only exposure to Hamlet was that disastrous production; bad form would completely supersede good authorial intent in his and most peoples' estimation. Now, imagine if that was the ONLY production of Hamlet that ever existed, and there would NEVER be another one, and suddenly you see the issue with the argument that execution is irrelevant to television and film.’

This is where I disagree. I want to believe that most people are capable of discerning between story and execution, between the abstract and the specific. But more importantly, I cannot accept the premise of ‘the ONLY production (…)’. This is a purely philosophical stance, open to debate, and you are fully entitled to think otherwise. I am a so-called realist: I consider the idea the real thing, not the physical phenomenon. For our present purposes, this roughly translates as the story, not the episode. Which leads us to this that you wrote:

‘A good script is a good script, but a good *episode* is far, far, far more than just a good script.’

And you are quite right, but I am not talking about the script, or the episode, and I never was: I am talking about the *story*, in other words the themes, the ethics, the ideas, and our ability to appreciate this independently of the episode as such. Which is why I initially focused on classical dramaturgy and the correct structure and devices of *story*telling.

Other factors matter, of course. In opera, the music is crucial. In television, both audio and visual aspects may play a part. But in most cases, the most fundamental aspect of a narrative is, quite naturally, the story. This, the fundamental story—the underlying idea, the aesthetical narrative, the philosophical tale, not the teleplay—is what I mean by intent. What is the author trying to say?

Is it a noble story? ‘The Measure of a Man’, regardless of execution, will always be a nobler story than ‘The Vengeance Factor’. Therein lies its greatness, and I believe, to borrow your words to a different effect, that most of the audience will innately understand this: that they can sense that beyond the merely superficial—Patrick Stewart’s powerful portrayal, Brent Spiner’s subtle performance, and so on—there stands a core of ideas that are noble and true.

This is therefore what I think we should attempt: to remember to include the greater—the ideas—while talking fondly about the lesser, the episodes; and to remember to be charitable, and to look past the superficial layer of execution to focus on the nobility, the wisdom, or the wonder at the heart of the stories. Because to me at least, that is really what Star Trek is all about.
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Andy's Friend
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


Quincy wrote: "If the author or director wants her to die, shoot the scene so that there's no other way to stop her, but to kill her. Otherwise, we're left with what we're left with ON SCREEN, something that doesn't make sense, despite fans yelling "classic storytelling" in the background."

Thank you for mentioning it. Yes, classic storytelling, meaning, as I wrote, 'fundamentally, correctly constructed, with protasis, epitasis (…)', in this case, concerning the tragic figure. Where shall we begin?

There are a thousand ways Hector can avoid being killed by Achilles, and there are a thousand ways Achilles can avoid being killed by Paris. There are a thousand ways Macbeth can avoid being killed by Macduff. Now, is the Iliad bad storytelling? Is 'Macbeth' poorly constructed?

Again: there are many ways Hamlet, and Othello can avoid death. Is 'Hamlet' bad storytelling? Is 'Othello'?

A few posts back I spoke of post-modernism. One of the central aspects of post-modernism is Gadamer's reader-response theory. I tend to disagree with most propositions of post-modernism, but in this Gadamer was of course right: we all, to a certain point, bring ourselves to the appreciation of discourse.

Now, in the realm of aesthetics two schools exist, contextualism and isolationism. What you are suggesting is isolationism so radical that you are transforming yourself into an automaton, Quincy: a machine that can only see what is on the page, on the stage, or on the screen.

I can only say that should you maintain such a stance, your perspective, and your appreciation, only becomes all the poorer for it.

What ever happened to using not only our intellect in the appreciation of aesthetics, but our sentiments? And our imagination? I imagine that a problem is modern, post-Enlightenment analytical thought. It is mechanistic, and linear: we proceed from point A) to point B) to point C)… Classic storytelling, as classic thought, is circular: at the end of the three-act play, you are reminded that point A) is also point C).

You write: "I don't care about the author or director's intentions, because those intentions either were poorly executed or never made it to the screen at all."

An isolationist would indeed dismiss author intent. But let me ask you: do you remember when your father or your grandmother told you stories as a little boy? Do you remember that once you were slightly older, you could detect little inconsistencies ('plot holes') in the stories they told you? Perhaps the brave Knight might have escaped because... Perhaps the fair Princess might have been saved because... Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps... But did any of it matter? Was it not the intention of your grandmother in telling you those stories that mattered most?

Intent is paramount to the appreciation of any deed. It is so in a court of law, and it is so in the realm of aesthetics, regardless of execution: you may even be convicted simply for the intent to commit a heinous act, for example. It is also a fundamental part of any analysis of discourse: i) By whom was it written? ii) For whom was it written? and finally, iii) Why was it written? Intent matters. The fundamental question in life is 'Why?'

Take craftsmanship, say, carpentry. Some carpenters are highly skilled and deliver their clients outstanding craftsmanship, worthy of their salary. Some are not, even if they try their very best to do a good job. And some are not but are only out to swindle you and move on. The end result of the work of the latter two may be the same. But don't you judge them slightly differently?

Now take art. There exist thousands of statues of the Pietà, which, from a strictly atheist, literary perspective, is simply a moment in the story of a tragic figure: a death foretold to fulfil ancient prophecy. Now, not all pietàs are as outstanding as Michelangelo's in Rome. Yet even the poor, simple sculpture by an unknown artist in a small town may be as aesthetically impacting when you stand before it. Why is it so? Is it not because it is the *story* it tells, and that intent to tell it of the poor artist that made it that matters most—and not the execution?

Michelangelo's Pietà is a good example of modern viewers seeing form and not function, which again is a fine example of the modern desacralisation of sacred art. The *function* of that statue is the *story* it tells: the *form* is essentially irrelevant. How many modern viewers truly understand this, you think? As in my previous post: how many do you think comment only the form, and not the function?

Appreciation of author intent is important concerning aesthetics in modern television for another reason. Quite often—as in 'The Vengeance Factor'—specific execution may be lacking due to a number of factors over which the author has no power. The production may have been rushed, for example. And to continue my metaphor, not all sculptors have the finest marble at their disposal.

@Daniel mentioned some interesting production aspects concerning 'The Vengeance Factor' that I didn't know of (thanks for sharing) which affected the way in which that final scene had to be shot, for example. This is important for the episode as seen *on screen*. But it is entirely irrelevant for the episode *as written*. In other words, that specific *execution* does not affect the *story*: imagine, for example, a stage production of the same script.

It strikes me that you are conflating storytelling with medium and execution. The medium chosen in TNG’s ‘The Vengeance Factor’ is a modern one, television; and the execution is not the best. The storytelling, however, is classic: it’s a play, a tragedy in three acts, extended to five for commercial reasons. It is in fact independent of the medium, and of course independent of the execution.

You wrote: "I only care about what I CAN SEE ON SCREEN."

I can certainly understand emphasis being given to execution. But read what you wrote, Quincy: doesn’t it strike you as frightfully limited? Don’t you think that your perspective, as your appreciation—of the episodes, the stories, the actors, the authors, of art itself—might become richer if you considered context as well?

@Gerontius wrote: ‘It's never been a question of old was better or new is better. And never will be.’

I could not agree more.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Feb 29, 2020, 4:58am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


"One thing that I find increasingly irritating doesn't relate to the series, but to the forum, and that is the way people stick in rows of letters to refer to stuff, instead if taking the minuscule effort required to write out the names."

I agree. Sometimes it takes me half a minute to grasp what people are referring to. Every now and then I give up entirely. And it is a miniscule effort indeed.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Feb 29, 2020, 4:38am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


"I see several people complaining about Elnor killing the guards. (…)

Contrast that with what Riker did in TNG's "The Vengeance Factor." Rewatch that scene and see how many different options Riker had to NOT kill Yuta. 1) (…) 2) (…) (…) 3) (…) 4) (…). What Riker CHOOSES to do instead is beam down by himself and kill her. Most people actually defend this scene vigorously when this is pointed out. So much for the Rainbows and Butterflies Trekkian outlook."

You seem to have missed the point entirely.

Yuta is a tragic character. Her tragedy is to die in the end as she cannot escape the fate her 'gods' (her makers, or bioengineers) have designed for her. She *must* do her murderous attempt, for a murderer is what she essentially is *by design of the gods*.

Contrast this to Remata'Klan in DS9's 'Rocks and Shoals', another entirely tragic figure and exactly for the same reasons: he too is, quite literally, a product of his gods.

Remata'Klan works better dramatically than Yuta as he (and the entire episode) is better written and is provided with truly Homeric lines by the writer (that episode is easily one of Ronald D. Moore's most powerful efforts). This does not change the essence of either Yuta or Remata'Klan: also some of the tragic figures in classical Greek plays were better written than others.

That is at the core of the 'Star Trek vs modern dreck' question. Star Trek, even in DS9's most subversive moments, is usually sound from a dramaturgical perspective. Unlike what seems to be the case now (I'm not watching), the episodes not only draw extensively from classical storytelling devices but are, very fundamentally, correctly constructed, with protasis, epitasis, and catastasis, the latter often including catastrophe (in the dramatic sense: the change or revolution of events) that leads to catharsis.

Allow me to quote myself from 'Q Who':

'You have to look at it from the perspective of classic storytelling, and forget about such silly modern notions as 'plot holes'.

Take for example Picard's initial assertion that Starfleet is prepared for whatever is out there. This is admittedly out of character for Picard and outright silly. But it is nothing but an instance of Classical hamartia, the hero's 'tragic flaw', moving the plot forward and leading to catharsis as he is humbled by Q and learns his lesson: "I need you!"

We know Picard to be better than this. And therein lies the greatness of this episode. Facing Q and letting his animosity toward that entity get the better of him, Picard, our hero, errs. And it costs him eighteen of his crew to learn that. In other words, his over-confident initial stance is not a 'plot hole', it is a time-honoured plot device.

Star Trek is rife with such classic storytelling devices, which we must know to recognise in order to fully appreciate many of the stories told. Star Trek, more often than not, is not about 'realism': it is about archetypes, classic tropes, and ancient lessons. This was understood thirty years ago when this episode aired. '

Unfortunately, audiences today are growing ignorant of classic storytelling. The serialised structure of much modern television is one of the main culprits, as it shreds to pieces classic dramaturgy, sacrificing sound structure to mystery and obfuscation week after week until finally providing answers that usually prove unsatisfying.

Still, it surprises me when people fail to see classic drama as it is unfolding right before their eyes. Yuta is a pawn of her gods just as Remata'Klan is—or, in essence, the alternate Voyager crew in VOY's 'Course Oblivion'. All those characters *must die* in the end for the drama to reach maturity. The fact that 'The Vengeance Factor' is not particularly well-written has no bearing on the nature of her character. And the writer correctly places Riker in the end in a position that makes it impossible for him to prevent her crime unless he kills her. From a purely dramaturgic perspective, this is entirely satisfying.
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Andy's Friend
Tue, Feb 25, 2020, 7:10am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag


'What STP tacitly acknowledges is a galaxy where Federation hegemony no longer exists, and the edges are not precise because they never really were. A galaxy where the Federation has been decimated (…)'

The Federation was never a hegemonic power, it was merely and barely the dominant power. A hegemon has sufficient power to take on all neighbours simultaneously and prevail: Athens under Pericles, early Imperial Rome, etc. That was never the case with the Federation.

We were always given the impression that any alliance between the Klingons and the Romulans, the Romulans and the Cardassians, or the Cardassians and the Klingons would be a grave test to the Federation. Fortunately, those powers all loathed each other. So all things being equal, nothing really should have changed as far as the balance of power in the quadrant is concerned.

But since I am not watching the new series, please tell me: in what way has the Federation been 'decimated'? As far as I have understood, it is the Romulans who have lost their homeworld due to the power of plot; and, for plot reasons also, apparently most of their vast empire as well. How does this not, in fact, tip the balance of power in favour of the Federation?
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 5:54am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Booming (to someone else)

‘I'm not a big fan of postmodernist thinking but this is just not correct. Do you really believe that the show is constructed around a philosophical framework created in mid 20th century France about how all societal narratives are constructed to reinforce societal power structures? Is that your point? This sounds like dark web nonsense to me (…) Have you actually read Foucault?!’

You should take care not to opine on what you do not know well. The notion that postmodernism can be reduced to ‘a philosophical framework … about how all societal narratives are constructed to reinforce societal power structures’ is (to be blunt) sheer nonsense.

Despite what I just wrote above, you could expurgate Foucault from world history without affecting the essence of postmodernism itself. Foucault is but one manifestation of something much larger.

Postmodernism is one of several continuations of classical scepticism, questioning our ability to know anything with any degree of certitude. In essence, postmodernism denies fixed meanings.

Postmodernism denies Plato’s realism and the contrary idealism. It denies conceptualism attempting to bridge the two, as well as reductionism attempting to reduce them. It denies the general validity of projectivism even if it sometimes is just that; it likewise denies the general validity of eliminativism even if it often employs eliminativist arguments (see the video you suggested).

Foucault is a post-structuralist within the larger framework of postmodernism. He is as far removed from Plato as any philosopher (and a dilettante in comparison), yet he represents but one strand of postmodernism.

Yet Foucault is nevertheless a good example if you read him correctly. Along with Derrida, he advocates above all the refusal of objectivity, even truth itself. According to him, there is no truth, no reality, only subjectivity. This is at the core of his theory of power relations. In other words, relativism reigns supreme.

I don’t know ‘vain and self-obsessed’ to be an adequate description of this new series as I am not watching it. But it is a valid description of the cynical worldview that often follows in the wake of postmodernist mania with scepticism, subjectivity, and relativism. And it certainly holds true that virtually all modern television series are essentially espousals of postmodernist thinking, if unwittingly. You can’t seriously want to dispute this.

(When was the last time you saw a television series clearly espousing a coherent philosophical school other than postmodernism, let alone a moral absolute?)

Only two comments on the video you so kindly suggested. Not only does Foucault take a synchronic stance that wasn’t even true in 1971; had Chomsky replied with a diachronic approach, he would have made his point much clearer, and undermine Foucault’s entire argument. But more fundamentally, there is a reason why natural law has existed as a concept independent of divine law since Antiquity, and has been debated by philosophers and theologians ever since. Foucault would of course deny this.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 5:47am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Booming (to someone else)

"Is your hypothesis that TNG was some kind of regressive view on society that only solidified power structures (for anybody who doesn't know. We have just entered Foucault territory)?
I always preferred Bourdieu over Foucault by a wide margin."

Same here. Without wishing to reduce Foucault to his theories of power, they are a disaster to humanity. Suddenly, friends aren't friends but compete for power in some warped relationship of 'power dynamics'. Suddenly, siblings don't love each other but compete for power in the 'power structure' that is the family. Everything is about power. It is sickening.

I personally prefer Ricœur over Bourdieu, and feel he is much more needed, even as regards Star Trek. But first:

I'm a historian. Your comment reminded me that in my own field, most scholars today write from a Foucauldian perspective. In a way, it’s not their fault: it’s what they were taught at university.

For the same reason, they generally lack an understanding of Philosophy and Theology that goes beyond the superficial. The same applies to sociologists, and so on. Whereas philosophers and theologians lack a deeper understanding of history, sociology, and so forth. The myopia in modern academia is frightening, and the lack of abstraction atrocious. In my field, other than a few specialists, historians today are philosophical and theological illiterates, obsessed with positivist approaches. Increasingly specialised and myopic, they are more like assembly-line workers than thinkers. This goes for all the human sciences.

The result, in my field, is a bleak, pessimistic, highly cynical interpretation of history that denies all idealism and sees hidden agendas everywhere. Aristotle’s vision of genuine, selfless friendship and any loving sentiment espoused by Christianity are nowhere to be found or accepted as true. A prelate distributing alms to the poor is not attempting to better the life of the indigent, but simply to ‘widen his power base’, and so forth. There is always some sinister, or simply egotistical ulterior motive.

It strikes me that this cynical worldview is also what is seen in much modern television: there is no idealism anywhere, no moral absolutes defended. All we find is postmodern relativism, and disenchantment in the Weberian sense.

Also in modern, so-called Star Trek. It is really all very depressing.

Concerning the discussion on Star Trek being had here, Ricœur comes to mind, and his need of the exegete to make himself contemporary with the source. But try explaining that to people. Most seem convinced that the past must be judged by today’s standards, not contemporary ones; and many seem to think that their own, uninformed opinions are as good as any. This deserves a few comments.

Unfortunately, the absurd idea that 'all art is subjective' has spread. But other than (post)modern, abstract art, all classic narrative art is highly objective. People tend to forget this.

'Oedipus' is a moral tale, not early incest porn.
'Medea' is a moral tale, not a feminist manifesto.
'Robinson Crusoe' is a moral tale, not a white supremacist proclamation.
…and so on, and so forth.

Stories until the postmodern era were bound in moral absolutes and used to contain an ethical lesson, which could be more or less obvious, and better or worse executed. But the ethical lesson was always at the core of any great piece of narrative art. This includes, e.g., paintings.

Take 'The Surrender of Breda'. It is a powerful moral tale as much as it is a panegyric to the victor, Spinola. It reminds the viewer that if you rebel against your rightful sovereign, you will ultimately fall: but also, that the pious and the righteous shows magnanimity in victory.

That painting is in the best tradition of Star Trek. It depicts not the harsh siege, but the peaceful surrender. Not the blood-stained, battle-hardened victorious commander, but the diplomatic, gracious victor, already establishing friendly relations with the vanquished. Not ‘vae victis’, but 'gloria victis’. In it, it is not only Ambrogio Spinola we see: it is also Jean-Luc Picard.

This also includes say, sculpture. Take Thorvaldsen's 'Jason with the Golden Fleece'. It reminds us of course of Medea, and Orpheus. You can almost hear the various statues and paintings in any great museum of art talking amongst themselves after dark, holding a great reunion after the guests have left. All it takes is knowledge of the tales they tell.

Unfortunately, people today don't know classic stories (let alone storytelling devices), whether of pagan mythology, Christian origin, or their own, national histories, other than at the most superficial level. They therefore fail to recognise the themes and the ethics in most classic art.

So when looking at say, Thorvaldsen's 'Jason', they will not comment on the story of the Argonauts; nor will they comment on how it relates to that of Medea, and that of Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of Castor and Pollux, and, and, and…, and finally, how well the statue brings to life the moral tale: how seeing Jason at the supreme moment of his life reminds the viewer of his fate, also: his downfall. Catharsis. A moral tale.

Instead, they will comment the superficial only. They will comment the craftmanship of the artist: the perfection of the toenails in Jason's feet, or the curls of the Golden Fleece. The smoothness of the marble, or the colours in the painting.

They will comment the form of the art, not its function.
They will comment the aesthetics, not the ethics.
They will comment the 'How', not the 'Why?'

Suppose they see a killing in a painting. The depiction itself will of course provoke an aesthetic response in the viewer. But who was it that was killed? Was it a vicious murderer guilty of heinous crimes? Was it a father guilty of stealing bread for his starving children? Or was it simply a good man, wrongly accused of some misdeed? If the viewers know not who is being killed and why, their aesthetic response to the artwork is meaningless.

However, staring at art they fail to comprehend, many tell themselves that their uninformed opinion is as valid as any other. ‘It doesn’t matter who it was, or why, this is what I feel when I see it.’ This conviction many further transplant to other fields of human intercourse. And the problem is upon us:

We increasingly see the absurd proposition that no opinion is intrinsically more valid than any other. This is blatantly false and has been known to be since Plato: εἰκασία is a lower type of opinion than πίστις. But more importantly, as Plato reminds us, it is not such types of *opinion* that one should strive for: it is types of *truth*. If not the highest νόησις, at least διάνοια.

Unfortunately, people, and this includes most of my fellow colleagues, no longer study much philosophy.

And so, we get some of the absurd claims we have here, that this new series is somehow pregnant with meaning and that TNG was actually all about attempting to perpetuate white Anglo-Saxon political and patriarchal power structures leading to Trump and Brexit and what not. Talk about missing the point(s).

You're quite right, Foucault and his huge influence is partly to blame. I will put forth Ricœur rather than Bourdieu as one countermeasure. But more fundamentally, we need more hermeneutics and less positivism in the world today. We need more realism, in the philosophical sense, and less physicalism, or materialism in the philosophical sense. We need more idealism in the common sense, and less relativism. Above all, we need more philosophy: we need to think better and understand more.

Or at least know to *know* more: to seek the truth, and opine less. The widespread notion that 'I am entitled to my opinion' is a logical fallacy. As Picard once put it, 'The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth'. In this, he was echoing Plato's theory of forms.

It's curious, isn't it? Here we essentially have two factions. One wishing to discuss, based on recent, in-universe precedent, the truthfulness of the setting of this new series. The other advocating their right to... opinion. On whose side would Plato be, one wonders?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 4:58am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag


"I personally prefer the way the new shows are geared towards adult viewers. Adults swear, bat'leths stab, people bleed, and the preachy utopia of a well-run Federation starship in peacetime is revealed (…)"

i. I personally prefer the way Chinese Communism is now geared towards market forces compared to the 1960s. I just don't call it Communism anymore.

ii. The thing is, I never liked Communism to begin with. So I have no problem with applauding the steps that have been and are still being taken towards a more market-oriented, private venture-friendly economy in China despite the authoritarian nature of the regime. But as I recognise that the ideology of the Communist Party of China is no longer Communist, I call it something else.

iii. This is the crux of the matter. From what I read, Star Trek: Picard is as much Star Trek as China under Xi Jinping is Communist. China is still authoritarian, sure. But so was Pinochet's Chile. Communist it ain't, however.

iv. You apparently never accepted the "preachy utopia" premise of Star Trek. Fine. You prefer cynicism. Fine. There are many bleak series in sci-fi trappings to watch. You enjoy this new series. Fine. All fine. But please, don't insist on calling this Trek.

v. The feeling I have is not that some fans abhor the cynicism in some modern television productions. I believe that a great many Star Trek fans also liked BSG, for example. But they were able to see that the fundamental assumptions regarding society and human nature of BSG was another than Star Trek's.

vi. The feeling I have is therefore simply that many cannot understand how some will handwave away the evident discontinuity in psychology and ethos depicted in the new series vis-à-vis its immediate predecessors in-universe, TNG-VOY.

vii. It is perfectly valid to criticise the new series (Discovery and Picard) as not being Trek, and it is perfectly valid to like the new series. What is not valid is to like them *as Star Trek*, due to said discontinuity of psychology and ethos.

viii. This, then, is the problem. Some fans who never truly accepted the fundamental "utopian" premise of Star Trek insist that this *is* the "realistic" depicture of humanity, also in the 24th century. They grasp at straws, they conjure every imaginable line of script despite massive evidence to the contrary, because they *want to believe* that this cynical vision could be Star Trek.

ix. Perhaps it could. But not in the span of twenty years, from the late 2370s as in TNG-VOY to the late 2390s as depicted now.

x. Paradoxically, this goes precisely against the *realism* that so many argue that NuTrek represents. It is simply not realistic to expect that people born in the 2330s-2360s -- in other words, the *adults* in the late 2390s, not only the people in positions of power but the entire living, breathing, adult human tissue of the Federation -- would revert so much from their "evolved", "utopian" psychologies as depicted in the 2370s to what is depicted now.

xi. You want a "gritty", bleak, pessimistic, cynical vision of Star Trek? Fine. But place it in the 2440s, and give us *plausible causality* that may explain how, in the course of two or three generations, things changed. Don't have us believe that it happened in a mere twenty years, *over nothing*, and defend such an untenable proposition.

xii. See viii.

xiii. See i.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Feb 15, 2020, 5:05am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Absolute Candor

@ Melota, @Yanks

Melota — 'We saw plenty of very morally dubious decisions from Starfleet Admirals throughout TNG.‘
Yanks — ‘Yeah that is kind of the running joke of Star Trek. The moment you become an admiral you want to do nasty stuff.‘

I wouldn’t say plenty, and Yanks is essentially right: it was more a running joke than anything serious. However—and this is a huge however:

Melota — ‘We saw how quickly the McCarthyite witch hunt took hold in The Drumhead.‘

No, we certainly did not. What we saw was how quickly unjust accusations were revealed to be just that. And please note that those unjust accusations were made by a deranged admiral.

‘The Drumhead’ is likely one of the most abused episodes of TNG. Note that I write ‘abused‘, which it certainly is. But it is possibly also one of the most *misunderstood* of TNG episodes.

‘The Drumhead’ is a moral tale, and it is a cautionary tale, yes. Picard rightly warns of the dangers of succumbing to paranoia, yes. But it does not depict a Federation on the verge of becoming paranoid, not even a Starfleet prone to paranoia. Quite the contrary. The initial suspicions against the Vulcan officer are relatively innocuous. And the moment it becomes clear that Admiral Satie’s accusations are but paranoid delusion, she is cut short. She is cut short by Picard, in one of his ‘wonderful little speeches’, yes. That happens because Picard is the main star of the series. But it could have been anyone, and it would have been were Picard not said main star, and able to deliver such ‘wonderful little speeches‘.

The point is thus not that Picard is some sort of ‘More Starfleet than Starfleet’ super-captain, able to perceive what no-one else does, denounce what no-one else can, and uphold higher values than both the organisation and the society he serves. The point is thus not that Starfleet, and the Federation, are in fact baser than Picard is. No. He is simply the mouthpiece for the ethos of the Federation, entitled to the more substantive lines and grandiloquent speeches as per Mr Stewart’s contract and talent.

Note how that episode cleverly uses Worf, a Klingon with extreme sense of order and naturally biased against Romulans, to service the plot. Had it not been for Worf, another character, with a backstory similar to O’Brien’s re the Cardassians, would have had to be written to serve Worf’s function. For in TNG, we all know that around 2370, more ordinary Starfleet officers would balk at Satie’s propositions.

Note also how the episode must make Admiral Satie psychologically unhinged in order to even make the story believable: for in TNG, we all know that around 2370, only an unbalanced person would make the kind of false accusations she makes.

In short, ‘The Drumhead’ is as fine an espousal of Star Trek 24th century Federation ethos as any. It does not, contrary to what is so often claimed, show how quickly Starfleet or the Federation might succumb to racism, xenophobia, isolationism, and other paranoias. It does quite the opposite. It shows us how quickly any Starfleet officer *with sufficient insight*—in this case, quite naturally, our main star—would unmask such paranoia. All while, quite correctly, warning *the audience in the 20th century* against such paranoia.

As always, we must know to differentiate, and to recognise when the ‘big speech’ is being directed primarily at the in-universe characters (say, ‘The First Duty’), and when it is being directed primarily at the audience as commentary, as here. TNG generally stroke a balance between the two deliveries, and did so masterfully. Unfortunately, in the case of ‘The Drumhead’, this is not understood by most fans. Picard is not speaking to his fellow officers: he is speaking to us.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Feb 14, 2020, 8:36am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Absolute Candor

@A A Roi

‘Maybe watch The Undiscovered Country regarding a similar situation with the Klingons. Maybe watch Balance of Terror re: racism towards Romulans/Vulcans among humans in the Federation, or Dr. McCoy's casual racism versus Vulcans throughout TOS. Maybe watch the episodes in the Berman era where O'Brien refers to Cardassians as 'Spoonheads'. Maybe watch Measure of a Man and Offspring to see how Starfleet feels about Androids. Maybe watch how the Federation Council voted to withold the cure for the virus Section 31 from the Founders in the Dominion War.’

1. One shouldn’t use TOS (2260s) as benchmark for the Starfleet and Federation of the 2390s, but TNG-VOY (2360s-2370s).

2. a) Please tell me in which episode O’Brien uses the term ‘spoon head’, I seem to have forgotten.

2. b) You seem to have missed the point. O’Brien’s ‘Cardies’ shows his resentment for what he experienced at Setlik III, yes. But he uses that term in DS9, not TNG: different writers, and a different ethos. And this notwithstanding, it shows how restrained that resentment of a Starfleet officer is even in DS9-Trek. He didn’t call them ‘F*cking spoon heads’, did he?

3. a) re ‘Measure of a Man’. Again, you seem to have missed the point. Maddox and Starfleet simply haven’t grasped the nature of Data. To them, *in this episode*, Data is essentially a robot, a glorified toaster: they have not understood him to possess artificial consciousness. Granted, *this a conceit*: he would never have graduated from Starfleet Academy without making the Academy aware of this, and by inherence, Starfleet. But it is a conceit we must accept in order for the episode to play out its story, which is a glorious one. And again, *as nearly always in TNG*, we see *dialogue, even if adversarial as here, bring about enlightenment*, and change of heart. By the end of the episode, Maddox no longer regards Data as a mere advanced robot, does he?

3. b) re ‘The Offspring’. I’ll partly grant you this one. After ‘The Measure of a Man’, Starfleet should, perhaps, be ready to let Data evaluate and educate his own creation. Starfleet does appear to be too adversarial here. But again, this is one of those conceits we must accept in order to tell a story, which is what TNG did in virtually every episode. The episode itself is sound. Like ‘The Measure of a Man’, it is a story that uses advanced, futuristic science in order to tell what is essentially a moral tale. Some would even call it science-fiction.

4. I’ll grant you this one, on two counts. The cure for the virus affecting the Founders *should* have been given them by the Federation to prove the benign nature of the Federation, and thus bring about an end to the Dominion war; but of course, the virus should never have been developed by the Federation in the first place. More idealistic writers might perhaps have thought of having the virus evolve independently and affect Odo also, and let Federation doctors attempting to cure him develop a cure to all the Founders as well. Roddenberry would surely have preferred such an ending, as it would showcase the best values humanity has to offer. Roddenberry-era Star Trek was never so much about realism as it was about idealism.

Point 4. above is one of the (many) reasons why so many TNG fans have a problem with DS9, even if we readily admit that it was a fine series. It is a symptom of something deeper, with problems concerning both its serialisation—it tells much fewer stories—and its core ethos: if the quantity of stories is lower, their quality, in ethical terms, is often lower, too. DS9 is less morally satisfying (or, if you prefer, more morally challenging) than TNG. And whether one prefers TNG or DS9 is, essentially, a moral question.

A better example of the Federation and Starfleet ethos around the same time as the end of the Dominion war in DS9 is VOY’s seventh-season ‘The Void’, which takes place in the year 2377. VOY as we know is plagued by very uneven writing, and Janeway proves to be a fascinating study of a captain broken by circumstances. I find many of Janeway’s decisions provocative, and some, as in ‘Tuvix’, outright disgusting. Perhaps it is true that it is when we are most tested that our true colours show, and the extreme circumstances in ‘The Void’ certainly test our crew, and captain. It feels reassuring—or, if you prefer, morally satisfying—that even after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant for seven years, that broken, guilt-ridden captain is able to display such fine Federation values as in ‘The Void’. Some would even call it humanism.

Humanism is also displayed by The Doctor in the episode ‘Critical Care’ that same season.The Doctor is ultimately the end result of Federation programming, and exhibits that same Federation ethos. I am reminded of both him in ‘Living Witness’, and a younger Jean-Luc Picard, in ‘Emergence’:

‘The intelligence that was formed on the Enterprise didn’t just come out of the ship’s systems. It came from us. From our mission records, personal logs, holodeck programs, our fantasies. Now, if our experiences with the Enterprise have been honourable, can’t we trust that the sum of those experiences will be the same?’

A mere twenty-two years separate the events in ‘Critical Care’ and ‘The Void’ from those in this new series. Young men and women then should now be people in their prime. Do tell me, A A Roi: what happened to humanity?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Maps and Legends

@ Bold Helmsman

"On the matter of cursing on Trek, I've never looked at it as them taking license to be immature. People have been spicing their language with curses since time immemorial, especially when they get emotional. It's simply part of human nature, even evolved humans."

That is only partially true. The more well-bred you are and the more education you have received, the better manners you will have and the less you will curse.

Take a thousand Ph.Ds. and a thousand [insert menial worker of choice] in [insert country of choice]: despite national differences as regards what levels of profanity are tolerated, the thousand Ph.Ds. will, on average, curse less than the menial workers *in any country*. They will curse less in normal daily life, and, if exposed to the same levels of stress, they will curse less under stress, too.

I have not watched and will not watch Picard; but a 24th century Starfleet Admiral using that kind of language, especially to *Picard's* face, is like having Grace Kelly using it to James Stewart's face. Unimaginable. Grace Kelly wouldn't have done it in 1955, and she wouldn't have done it in 1975, either.

Society has to deal with a huge inertia when it comes to the human psyche. People don't change much in the course of their lives, and certainly not in twenty years: generations change from one generation to another. This applies especially to good manners. Good manners is part of your identity, part of what gives you your dignity. You may lose your fortune, your friends, your family even: good manners is one of the last things to die.

The people who had very good manners aged thirty-five in 1955 still had very good manners aged fifty-five in 1975: it was their kids who were behaving differently. This is true as far back as you wish to go in recorded history. A well-bred late Victorian lady and gentleman -- say, Professor Moriarty and his lady friend in 'Ship in a Bottle' -- wouldn't curse and swear even after the horrors of the Great War.

On TNG's Earth, all men and women were modern-day ladies and gentlemen, so to speak, and certainly all Starfleet Academy graduates, infused with the Federation ethos: if not wise, at least educated; if not elegant, at least sophisticated; if not noble, at least gracious. (And, the reprimand given with wit and sagacity is much more effective than profanity.)

In other words, it seems like an absurd societal development has occurred from the year 2367 to the year 2397. People who grew up and were brought up to be gracious have forgotten even their manners. I don't, I can't believe it. But then again, based on what I read here and elsewhere, there are many things I can't believe about modern 'Star Trek'.
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