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Peter G.
Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Conundrum

@ Cinnamon,

Troi and Riker broke up because he had career ambitions, not because they didn't like each other. They still like each other, and there's probably a lot more respect than there was the first time around. Not sure why this strikes you as weird. Fate saw fit to put them on the same ship as each other, and after that they had to pretty much keep each other at bay for professional reasons (like Picard and Crusher). But it doesn't mean there wasn't still something there.

Incidentally, have you ever dated someone from a telepathic species? The term "Imzadi" has some connotations that probably refer to having shared someone's inmost thoughts and feelings. "We're different people now" wouldn't mean to a Betazoid what it means to you, and their relationship had at least some of that in it.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 12:46am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Valiant

@ Adam,

An interesting idea, but since Waters was named Acting Captain by an actual Captain, that commission would be an official one and therefore Waters was an actual Captain in rank until such a time as a senior officer relieved him of that rank. Now, if all the officers had died, and Waters had assumed command simply by virtue of being the senior cadet, then any officer would indeed outrank him. But unless I'm mistaken I think his rank was made official.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jun 14, 2019, 2:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Booming,

I appreciate the effort to find data, but the problem with questionnaires like that is they are deeply flawed. I don't think there's very much to go on based on those, although than that perhaps people don't like to think that they've made decisions for material reasons. Whether in fact they really did or didn't is not data that can be drawn from such studies. Incidentally I wasn't even making an argument about whether material considerations are the final basis of any decision. All I said above was that it seems to be relevant to people upfront (i.e., before love has any chance to develop).
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Peter G.
Fri, Jun 14, 2019, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Booming,

"Did you meant to say falling for a guy for reasons other than his personality?"

I meant to stay that we shouldn't impugn a woman for falling for a guy for superficial reasons, or call it sexist to suggest she would. That being said, yeah, there's more than just superficial quality to Apollo here. I did mean to say portfolio, because if you ask modern women what type of man they're looking for, or peruse dating profiles, few today would admit to just 'looking fora hot guy', whereas it's quite common to say he should have a good job. Asking what a prospective date does for a living is a very standard initial inquiry, which I've sort of condensed into "portfolio".

@ Chrome,

I do sort of agree that the rapidity and manner shown is a bit goofy, but I think it's to suddenly get out in the open without wasting time what's on the table for Apollo vs Scotty. But I laughed out loud at the Bluto line. I do agree that it's sad to think that Scotty would lose out because the other is cut like a god, but on the other hand I think we *are* supposed to feel bad for Scotty. It is a simple fact that no matter how dignified, educated, or caring you are you might lose out to someone for very superficial reasons. In the performance arts this is even more true, where losing a part may very often have happened for very plastic considerations. That said, I think we're supposed to feel bad for Apollo as well, because the fact of the matter is that in the future there seems less room for simply looking good to count for much, and so Apollo, for all his immediate charm, can't win out in the end in wooing Palamas. He's the guy she goes out with first but not the guy she takes home to meet her family. So in this way I think we're supposed to feel bad for both men, when in different ways each can't compete with the other. And she is necessarily drawn to both, but for very different reasons.

I think this particular issue was actually quite prescient on the part of the show, because it's far more common now than it was in the early 60's to be able to recognize that the hunk has his way with the women initially but that they grow tired of it and move on to someone stable with a good career when they get a bit older. Especially so with the growing trend of marrying and starting families much later in life, which leaves one's 20's for 'dating' and often involves a certain type of standard for dating that is quite different from the one used for settling down. Scotty is the settling down kind of guy, who likely has to eat mud while the Apollos out there can win a girl without even doing anything, but eventually finds someone who's done with all that and wants a family. Apollo, on the other hand, has his due time to be admired for his particular gifts, but finally realizes that this adulation came with a deadline and now he's not what's in demand. The old vs new concept in this episode does still work on a society-level, where "we don't need gods like you anymore", but frankly the way it actually plays out it feels more like old vs new in terms of maturing within one's own lifetime and realizing there are better things than chasing what's only beautiful on the outside.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jun 14, 2019, 11:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Chrome,

I'll even go to bat against this, although perhaps the odds are against me:

"To be sure, there are far more sexist scenes in this episode including Palamas falling in love with flexing pecs and a smile in seconds."

I think there's a lot of misconception about what "women" want, put forward by very vocal bloggers and interest groups, whereas down here on Earth it seems entirely natural to be swept up immediately in a certain circumstance. In order to call that sexist one would have to say to those women point-blank they they are *wrong* to do so, which in turn makes it an anti-feminist argument. I've known plently of liberal-leaning women with strong values about women's rights or sexism, and yet will have no compunction to admit that if a certain dreamboat [insert popular Hollywood star here] they would go ga-ga. And I think these remarks are not incompatiable with each other, and yet is seems to be the case that when a woman is portrayed as falling for a man for reasons other than his portfolio or his doctorate, it's 'sexist TV'. I don't really buy that, as I think it's entirely reasonable to show a woman, especially one who we've been told already may value 'being a woman' more than 'being an officer', as losing it over a literal god.

I may be fighting upfill on this one, but I'm doing my best to show that it's not the same thing to show a realistic depiction of a woman who loves men falling for a man superficially, compared to arguing that it shows that women are sex objects or only exist to couple up, or anything like that. And I don't even think it's fair to call it weakness on her part to fall for Adonis; it's literally the point of feminism to show that women should be able to make their own choices, whether those are work-oriented, family, or of the more amusing variety.
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Peter G.
Thu, Jun 13, 2019, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Booming & Jason R.,

Since Jason fielded the last one I'll take on the role of clairvoyant on this one and try to field for him:

"To me this sounds like women, because they already leave for a while because of the pregnancy, should continue to stay at home instead of the father."

The reason this isn't an accurate reading of Jason R's comment is because you've addeed some features he didn't include. One of these is your broadening the statement to include "women", as in, *all* women. Jason's phrasing was a hypothetical in the case of a singular woman. The more important change is in your use of the word "should". Jason R appeared to be describing what actually does happen, but you are trying to turn this into what women "should" do, which is not what he said. It might well be what they'd want to do, so if by "should" you meant that it would be advantageous for them, then that would be closer to what it appears he way saying. But out of context "should" looks a lot more like "this should be the mandated system", and so doesn't match what Jason said.

Incidentally, I think attempting clairvoyance (to continue to poke a bit of fun at your term) is a good exercise, since taking up the burden of restating someone else's claims in your words is a good way to see if you've understood them or not.

"I'm not sure how to respond to this order of yours. It is such a general statement that one would have to be an utter fool to deny that there are practical reasons why women do these things. "

The trouble here is that you made a generalized statement that femininity, along with certain practices of women going off work for family, "are" social constructs. My only point, at any rate, was to point to the fact that they are not *entirely* social constructs. To whatever extent there is some social agreement and some necessary advantage in taking a particular strategy it requires being picky about details to avoid making sweeping statements that make it hard to discuss. We're getting a bit bogged down now, but what I want is for people here to be able to discuss concepts like "Uhura retains her femininity" without it being deconstructed into whether that word has any real meaning. I think people pretty much know what I mean when I use the term, and if they don't they can ask.

"I asked Peter and if you are not clairvoyant then I would prefer to hear his answer or can he not answer a simple question?"

Jason has proved himself clairvoyant on this point. I was describing an "is" and you turned it into a "should", which I didn't say. And I especially didn't even bring up the topic of firing anyone. We were talking about what might govern choices a woman would make.

"I'm not familiar with the numbers in the States but considering how dreadful things are there these days it certainly wouldn't surprise me."

Yes, therea are many features of both health care and labor laws in the U.S. that leave much to be desired. There's definitely a case to be made that Europe is ahead on certain fronts. I also agree that there is more room to be had in encouraging stay at home dads, or at least increased paternal involvement. But these goals shouldn't be confused with statements suggesting that there's a natural advantage in having the mother conduct certain duties. And so in this episode I don't think we need to call sexism automatically because it's suggested that the female may leave to have a family. Although I will also submit that it's certainly possble that it is sexism and the writer just wasn't able to imagine the future all that well.
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Peter G.
Thu, Jun 13, 2019, 11:13am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Booming,

"Maybe this happens again and again because of my limited English skills but the social construct I mean is society expecting women to quit their jobs for ever not taking parental leave for a while which is a guaranteed normality in Europe. In many European countries men take parental leave, too. "

You tend to make generalizations about what the 'social construct is' but as Jason R. mentioned, you are sometimes takling about things that are arbitrary and sometimes things that are physical realities. If a woman is breastfeeding it won't be convenient for the man to stay at home for the first year (or even more). You may say that she can then go back to work, which is fine, but what if the couple wants a second or third child? You think a company, even in Europe, is going to be able to sustain an employee who is gone for a year, comes back for 6-12 months, and leaves for another year? This is just not common sense. There are many different scenarios that a family can have, and some of them can involve both parents working after having kids, and some may involve one or both taking leave or even living at home. But it is not a social construct that there are physical realities making it more convenient for it to be the woman who does so.

"I'm not debating that breastfeeding exists even though I find your view that fathers should barely participate in the upbringing of their newborn during the first month odd. "

Jason R. never said this. It would advise a bit of caution, because a few times in this conversation you've attributed statements to people that they didn't make.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 12, 2019, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Booming,

"During the 60s women more or less never placed their careers first, first and foremost because they couldn't get well payed jobs."

TOS is not set in the 60's. It is inescapable, true, that some stuff from the 60's was going to seep into any product made in that time, but TOS was decidedly *not* portraying a society where women were expected to just stay at home, and I see no reason to presuppose such a premise for this episode (notwithstanding that they're all written by different people).

"Second, social identity is constructed by society"

That's a theory, not a fact. But putting aside the various arguments that could be made on this topic, my point is that social identity doesn't merely have to do with artificial convention. Being on a good basketball team is a social activity, but what makes a person good at that isn't a social construct but rather a physical reality. Other social scenarios may have some combination of social and baked-in elements. In the case of a woman wanting to have a family, there's not much to say about it being a social construct that women are the ones who have the babies.

"I highly doubt that you will find a show from that era that isn't somewhat sexist."

Most likely you're correct.

"That is one of the more important contributors to the gender pay gap. An employer assumes that a woman could have children and therefor does not promote her which then leads to lower salaries and so on. If a woman actually wants children is immaterial. "

I have seen considerable arguments claiming to have debunked this, but I also have no doubt that there as a**holes all around that do things most people would wince at. But I've never heard a cogent argument to the effect that the gender pay gap is sexist strictly on the basis of employers fearing to lose the women to family and therefore holding them back. Or at least this isn't the common explanation given for the supposed pay gap. In any case even if your statement was true it would seem to have little bearing on this ep, since Kirk never says he's going to avoid promoting her due to being "all woman".

"To end this with a kind of funny comparison because you mention Uhura being portrayed as feminine. That is all a construct, too. Femininity."

You're missing my point on this one. My point is that the women on TOS aren't portrayed as successful *because they behave like men*, which is often what happens in shows featuring successful women. Here they're shown to be able to retain their femininity (whatever that is in a given society) and yet confuct professional jobs.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 12, 2019, 11:41am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ Booming,

You'll get no argument from me that Palamis is a poorly written character. They give us little to no background on what she's like, nor does her veering through the story serve much of a purpose for her own characterization other than to show a power struggle between the old and the new; Apollo and Kirk. That she's occupying the role of 'worshipper' in a loose sense is unfortunate, but I'm not sure it's sexist. I think it's just lazy writing.

Regarding the "she's all woman" line, it did make me cringe. However, I try to give it the benefit of doubt in context rather than to ascribe to it all sorts of characteristics that a feminist approach might do. I *think* what they were trying to get across is that some people place career first, and others place their social identity first, and in her case "woman" trumped "officer". You point out that these need not necessarily be at odds, and I'm sure that sometimes that's true. But at other times it really is true that a person's social needs will trump their career needs, whether those social needs be in form of male/female relations, friends, social circle, etc.

As an employer, btw, it's a very real-world thing to note that someone may seem like they're going to get married and/or be having babies sooner or later and that they probably won't stick around for that long. In a modern outlook we don't want to frown on such things or penalize them, but likewise it's foolish not to be aware of such things. We may note that Bones and Kirk were having this exchange in confidence, and it in no way constituted an 'official position' of the Captain and Doctor. And as you mention, Kirk did regret the thought of losing an officer, which should imply that it wasn't actually his desire for her to go home and be a housewife. Rather he seemed to be implying that this was what it appeared she would eventually want. I don't think it's fair to say that this statement was about women as a whole in that era, because there are plenty of career women shown in TOS about which this is never said, especially Uhuru who is certainly portrayed as feminine.

I'll also note that the idea that career and family can be balanced is a modern notion and actually one not held by TOS in general. Both Kirk and McCoy at various times have made it pretty clear that they had to make a strict choice between being an officer and having a family. This isn't a sexism thing, but rather a general premise about being in Starfleet that's so important that it actually became a central plot point in ST: II WoK. Only in TNG do they make a special point of mentioning that families can be on ships and that career and family are now compatible in Starfleet.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 12, 2019, 9:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

@ saffron,

You've got me thinking, and I needed to rewatch again to figure out what the context was of that remark. Earlier they had said that she was "all woman" and would leave the service sooner or later to marry. On the one hand we could call that a sexist piece of writing, but on the other it may have been a realistic appraisal of someone who was in for a brief stint but didn't seem interested in being a career officer. Either way we don't get an explanation for it at the time. But once the landing party beams down we have her ask, sort of unenthusiastically why she's there, and Bones reminds her of her qualifications. Could it be that the actress was meant to be portraying fear or something, and she just wasn't doing it? After all, a literal god was sitting in eyesight of their landing position maybe 100 feet away. But the acting doesn't really portray that, anyhow. Or could it be that she fancied herself a scholar of some kind and didn't have any desire to be on away missions, dangerous or otherwise, which would then require Bones to remind her that she's a Starfleet officer and that the Enterprise isn't her personal travelling office?

Whatever the intention was her flat delivery of the line makes it very hard to figure out exactly what the script-writer intended with it. Maybe it was just as simple as "I'm not a star of this show, so why am I here?" and McCoy's answer is a fig leaf for "because the plot has requirements of you that will only be apparent later." Sadly, this last possibility now strikes me as being the most likely one. But I really don't see sexism in that particular exchange; it had no air of him needing to explain her own career to her.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 12, 2019, 2:09am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

@ Dave in MN,

""I actually had a similar reaction as you did on my first viewing.

It was only when I watched it many years later did the ethical and moral problems (with the script) bothered me."

This is a good point, and one I should made made clearer on my own behalf. Back when the episode first aired, when I was still in elementary school, I was on Geordi's side 100% with no questions asked. Why was she so mean to him, what the heck! This position would be somewhat modified over time even until my 20's, when I saw both sides more or less equally. It was only into my 30's that I began to see Leah's side much more strongly to the point where now I'm largely on her side while finding Geordi's antics to be problematic.

There are many eps where my opinion of them now is more or less as it was when they first aired, for instance Cause and Effect, where my "wow, cool!" reaction is sustained to this day. But certain eps like this one and Hollow Pursuits strike me very differently than they did when I was younger.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Turnabout Intruder

I also agree that Nimoy delivers a performance that in my view even exceeds what we get from Data in terms of nuance and struggle, but both are great characters.

Personally I think Shatner is the best actor in all of Trek, however this needs to be qualified with a strong proviso, which is that his task wasn't the same as any other actor in TOS nor in any of the others: he had to not only single-handedly created the dramatic tension in most scene using only his face and body, but also had to effectively create special effects using only his reactions. Imagine Marvel movies but where there's no CGI and the actors themselves would have to sell their reactions to blasts and lasers. True, TOS did have the odd on-screen special effects like a phasor, but for the most part all the various things that happen to Kirk are sold mostly on his famous 'hands out' routine that's imitated so often. This can come off as alternatively awesome or legendarily corny, but remember that it was in an era where there wasn't really any "serious" sci-fi on TV and where there was no established standard for how to show these things. What Shatner lacked in subtlety at times he made up for in spades with pure energy.

One thing I especially note about not just Shatner (although largely him) but also Spock, Bones and even Scotty and Sulu, is that bridge shots during tense moments are shot in two general ways to get the maximum tension, which are to use both wide shots as well as super-close-ups. Especially in the close-ups these actors had such a focus on the object of tension (such as an alien ship, space monster, etc) that you can see the immediate danger written all over them. The music is iconic at times and one hears the background klaxon sounding, but most of the reality of the danger is generated by their faces, and no one on any Trek show following this could match any of them. Not even close, although Stewart's focus might perhaps be put at the same general level when needed. But due to camera technique, lighting usage changes, and better effects, Stewart wasn't called on in quite the same way to personally sell the Enterprise being in danger. Very often in TNG the shots move from person to person, from interior to exterior shots, and rarely is the sole object of our attention the face of a single bridge officer as it so often was in TOS. That they could have multiple actors able to pull that off and create (IMO) high levels of tension is amazing, both directorally and in terms of their camera techniques. They also used *tons* of lighting to create light/shadow regions on the actors' faces in TOS just to accentuate how much their faces sold the moments. Kirk especially often got very special lighting for close-ups that didn't come close to having continuity with the wide shots, very deliberately. These guys were just something else.

I think maybe Rahul or someone else mentioned something similar at one point, but I think the actors on TOS were just leagues ahead of most who followed. I don't know what it is, but it seems maybe the standards back then were just higher, with much less reliance on editing technology and more on the humans. Or maybe their casting and directing was just superlatively good. It's hard to say.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Charlie X

I will have to watch this one again to verify some details, but I wonder whether we might take Charlie as a message about what happens when power is mixed with a lack of social checks, and specifically in the world of TV. Obviously in real life powerful people have their way with others, and we don't need any sci-fi show to tell us that. But what if the message is more about media, where we're used to seeing charismatic leads getting the ladies, with the presumption that an attraction woman is on-screen *to be won* by the male lead (or vice versa now). Likewise, we're inundated with material where people with powers - whether supernatural or just political - can get away with all kinds of stuff that we'll root for, whether it's Marvel characters doing zany stuff, or Kevin Spacey in House of Cards charming as the anti-hero.

If we take all of this in context and give Charlie X a lot of credit, maybe we're seeing the underbelly of all of that: that it's naked power showing its unsophisticated self, wanting whatever it sees without consideration for what it means or whether it's good. Someone like Kirk, who by all rights *could be seen* as a standard womanizing lead who does whatever he wants (which I don't really think he ever was) is faced here with explaining to a juvenile why it's wrong and to try to put a stop to it. What starts off as innocent turns dark quickly when "no" is not an acceptable answer. Could this be some kind of examination of what might happen in standard media if leads in TV shows and film experienced rejection instead of victory?
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Peter G.
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Turnabout Intruder

@ William B,

I agree that we can't directly attribute this show's message to Roddenberry himself, but I largely think that a lot of the messages in TOS were made by pro-active writers with more of an eye on the ball of reality than Roddenberry had.

Regarding how well Lester comes off in this episode according to my theory, I've mentioned earlier in the thread that I think the episode basically fails in its attempt to portray her as wronged, *if that was their intent*, precisely because she's a lunatic. But I could see how there's a Merchant of Venice kind of situation here, where she is now damaged goods but where this damage came as a result of oppression against her. She comes off looking bad, but since it's the system that pushed her to it we see a vicious cycle of victimhood where the victims look bad precisely because of being oppressed, which then creates the "confirmation of their worst fears" that you allude to. It's a self-fulfilling system. That said, if showing this system was their intent I still think they failed, because she's not just damaged goods but a straight-up maniac that has no redeemable message to give us.

My point isn't to argue that this episode is great, but rather to argue that it's message may have been progressive rather than sexist, even thought its execution was botched. I would personally recommend lambasting it for being bad, instead of for being regressive or anti-women. As it happens I don't even quite think it's bad, although it's pretty clearly not good.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Turnabout Intruder

@ Springy,

"What a surprise and disappointment to learn that, on TOS, Starship captaincy was forbidden to women in the 23rd century. Roddenberry certainly had his limitations of vision."

Unlike TNG and the later series, you shouldn't always take TOS to be what we would call "science fiction", meaning it's showing you a prediction of what the future will be like. Very often TOS uses a sci-fi backdrop to show something contemporary in a different light. In this instance I strongly believe that Turnabout Intruder was *not* saying that in the future women won't be able to be captains. I think what it was saying was that *right now* (i.e. in 1969) networks won't allow female leads on shows. This hearkens back to the series pilot where Roddenberry was told to change Number One to a man because they didn't want the XO to be a woman. I think this 'series closer' is a middle finger to the networks about how backwards they were in treating women like second-class citizens. At least, that's my theory.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jun 7, 2019, 11:31am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ Chrome,

I didn't mean for the government to participate in the sense of helping bring automation about. I meant for government to participate in mandating significant alterations in the public monetary system. One example of this would be the introduction of a basic income, as Jason R. mentioned, although perhaps it's not the only option. I could also imagine a return to the old trading company system, where the government could create work for people and pay them on a credit system, where they'd be entitled to spend it as cash. This already exists to an extent re: government employees but this could be greatly expanded. But then again making the government the main employer also has its own terrible risks. But I'm just offering it as an example of what I mean.

My main point is that Captain Dunsel doesn't only mean that people become obsolete and sullen, but in the short-term at least also have no reasonable means of securing an income. As this increasingly becomes the case (as it must do) the government may increasingly be pressured to provide an alternative system.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jun 7, 2019, 10:06am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

We're confusing two different issues here, one of which is a *prediction* that automation will cause considerable strife rather than being our salvation - at least at first. The other issue is whether the government should do something about it, such as banning the horseless carriage. I don't think the government realistically *can* do anything about it in the long-term. Rather, I think it's the people who will have to change their attitude towards employment and work, which in turn will cause the government to follow, lagging behind. I doubt the governments will lead the way in advance of public sentiment on this topic. Once public morale gets too low something will be done, and until then it will be every man for himself.
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Peter G.
Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Actually, the least plausible thing in the Trek model of running a ship is navigation. The idea that they need the Captain to issue verbal orders and have someone manually key them in by hand, course correction by course correction, is so inefficient that it's a joke. I don't even think we should take that part of it seriously it's so absurd, and so it works on a narrative/drama level even though technically it's preposterous. Why would that be better than the computer automatically implementing the course corrections? How could one pilot (like Riker or Tom Paris) be better than another if it's just a question of keying in the commands? And if that's all it is, wouldn't the computer be better than either of them? And it it's not, then why is the Captain manually issuing navigation orders using coordinates? But anyhow it makes for good TV.

If we were going to take Trek seriously on a literal level for computer usage I'd say that TOS is the only one that does it right. In that series it's a given that AI is not strong enough to replace a human at most tasks, and while it can compute probabilities (such as when Spock asks it questions) it can't execute commands or make decisions. That leaves the humans to do all of that, which is a lot. The fact that we now know that computers will be better than that by the 23rd century is beside the point; in terms of internal consistency TOS was reasonable. By TNG's time, especially in showing us the Bynars and Minuet, it becomes basically implausible that the ship's computer can't replace most labor. This conceit is never addressed, which is ok, but it lingers as an "off-limits" area that the show has to accept arbitrarily, like warp drive and transporters. Data himself is an exception to this, and even then he's treated as a person rather than an example of AI. The premise there seems to be that without the hardware, which can't be copied, the programming can't be copies either. That sounds weird but there it is. By the time of VOY the AI-premise becomes really absurd, which the ship's computers already using biological technology, and with a doctor that most viewers consider sentient and who does a harder job than the navigator does.
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Peter G.
Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 9:23am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ Thomas,

"Sounds great. Bring it on. I can't see any downsides to a future where our time no longer needs to be taken up by menial tasks."

You sound awfully confident that in this scenario you would be living a life of leisure and pleasure. What if it's the opposite and you're made into a slave of those with all the power who control the means of production? And that's putting aside the possibility of a Brave New World dystopia where your entire life is planned for you, consisting of countless pleasures but having no say and no purpose. Many would think this sounds good, which is exactly why Huxley wrote it.

"It's true that if you view life as having no purpose other than to work, which it's clear most people do, then if the only options are between relaxing and working the obvious choice would be the latter."

Jason R. is right that you're creating a false dilemma here. But you also make the mistake of referring to this as a person's "view" of life. It has nothing to do with point of view about work. It is factual (one way or the other) that a lack of meaningful work would erode and destroy people, and this premise doesn't rely on anyone's opinion. Maybe some people would enjoy it more than others, but that has nothing to do with whether they are enslaved or powerless to decide anything meaningful. If you're put in a cell, it's a matter of point of view whether it makes you miserable, but not whether you're a prisoner.

That being said I do actually think there would be potential for meaningful tasks (but not paying work) in a post-scarcity society, but that's only given the premise that it ends without the dystopia ending somehow. Basically a Trek scenario would have to happen where the tools of humanity are shared more or less equally, rather than those in power having the run of the place. Most likely that doesn't happen without a WWIII.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ Chrome,

Agreed that there can be many angles to an episode like this one, and that it isn't just about AI specifically.

"Imagine that prior to the 1930s, much farming had to be done by hand, and you'd need skilled workers who trained there whole live farming just to get it right. At some point, however, tractors, auto-tillers, crop-dusters and like made much that skilled workers use redundant - and less important."

That's true, but now imagine that the next machine isn't just able to replace the skilled worker, but also the tractor driver, and eventually also the farmer. This is only a question of complexity, and this in this respect my point would be about AI rather than machine 'hands-on' capabilities.

"Daystrom was certainly licking his chops at the prospect of who he could replace with his inventions. But, I don't think Daystrom was going as far as to say humans would have no use. After all, he himself would certainly have job security if his computer was successful. "

There are two ways I could see this. One is that it's possible he was too blind to realize that the push towards replacement wouldn't just stop at Captains but would eventually include engineers and designers. The second I'll address below.

"DAYSTROM: There are other things a man like you might do. Or perhaps you object to the possible loss of prestige and ceremony accorded a starship captain. A computer can do your job and without all that."

I'm not at all convinced that he truly thought this 'new work' would be worth doing. In context it sounded more to me like he was essentially unsympathetic to Kirk questioning this progress. But the less charitable possibility, #2 from my other reply above, is that his response here was not entirely honest and that he knew full well that Kirk was going to be rendered basically useless. Put *even less* charitably, I might imagine that he potentially saw himself as being part of a small clique of intellectuals who would be able to control this brave new world, and that all the rest of humanity would be led by his machines. There's a great line from Frank Herbert's Dune which speaks of the great Buterlian Jihad as being caused by the following conditions:

"Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them."

Whether or not Daystrom was aware of it (and I think he might well have been) this scenario is very foreseeable once machines (and AI) are sufficiently advanced. The oligarchy controlling the advanced machines would effectively be overlords.

That M5 specifically turns to murder can be seen as a glitch, but I'm not sure it is even within the context of the episode. We've mentioned a bit earlier in the thread how this may actually be a true accounting of Daystrom's real thinking, which M5 has been modeled on, which accounts human life at a very low value comapared to the new machine. It doesn't seem at all far-fetched to me that, long-term, the advent of machine supremacy could very well lead to the utter dimishment of the value of human life, and this episode does draw for us what happens when the humans lose control. Even the designer at a certain point can't stop what he's begun.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ Chrome,

I don't think the connotation of "Captain Dunsel" is just that Kirk will have to get used to the idea of a career change. I think the crux of it is something like humans being obsolete across the board. Daystrom, being a wonder-child, was apparently so annoyed with the inferior intellects of his fellow humans along with their stupid decision-making that he made it his life's work to see to it that they would be replaced with something superior and could be moved aside. The episode isn't played as straight-up dystpian and only hints at these matters, but I legitimately think that the issue at stake isn't losing one's job and having to retrain, but rather being told that one is no longer of any use *at all* and that things are going to be run by computers and machines from now on. Some people might well celebrate such news as salvation from work, whereas someone like Kirk would see it as the extinguishing of the human flame.

I think this episode is more prophetic than we give it credit for, and we have yet to see this scenario really come into its own. People will realize when the time comes what happens when there's no use for most of us. The two main issues in that department are: 1) if work is still required to have an income then how will most people have an income? and 2) If people have nothing left to strive for other than killing time how will society change?

The Ultimate Computer only addresses the issue of feeling the oncoming reality of being replaced, but I think it does it well. I also think it does well to have it be someone like Daystrom trying to usher in the change, because there is indeed a certain type of mentality in play where some people would like others to be deprived of the right or ability to make stupid choices. We all know and sympathize with this to a degree, but what if that little secret desire could be made a reality for everyone? It would quickly turn quite bad, I think.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 11:47am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

Good review, Sleeper Agent. I more or less agree with all of your criticisms, although the film did do one thing correctly, which was to try to be iconic in certain ways in which it somewhat succeeded. Generations aimed low and achieved it, feeling like a mediocre episode at the best of times, and at its worst being overblown in a manner not justified by the premise. FC at least has the right sense of scope and stakes for a Trek film, even though IMO it barely feels like Star Trek and even begins to feel like an Aliens clone in some scenes.

Incidentally the biggest strike I have against it is the soundtrack, which is probably the worst of the franchise to me.
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Peter G.
Tue, May 28, 2019, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

@ William B,

The trouble with comparison to The Enemy Within, as I mentioned earlier in the thread, is that the order matters. Meaning: if one whole person is split into two, each of which can't survive without the other, this allegorically tells us that we need our darker half, while on a literal level tells us that each half actually needs to merge back if they're to continue to exist. By contrast, with the merge into Tuvix the two parts didn't *need* to separate in order for the result (Tuvix) to survive. Rather, the episode goes to some lengths to show that he was even more functionally adpatible than either of his predecessors. So while allegorically we might hope they're separated because...reasons...literally speaking there was no need for them to split again. And another contrast is desire: good Kirk *knew* that evil Kirk wanted to be back together with him but was afraid of being destroyed in the process. Even though evil Kirk demanded the right to live, good Kirk - who we need to remember was the same person! - knew what that really meant; he was uniquely in a position to interpret the statement of another person and to say it didn't mean what it sounded like. However in the case of Tuvix his desire to live seemed to be legitimately just that, rather than some metaphor of worrying that his different parts would be lost. And again in contrast to Kirk, when he says he wants to live there is no one present qualified to argue "well that's not what he really means" on his behalf. We therefore have to take his statement at face value, without second-guessing whether the "Neelix half" really meant that. If we go down that road we could make the same reductive argument about anyone's statement about themself, in the following way:

Person A: "I don't want sex."
Person B: "Well, that's probably their intellectual half talking, but I know their sexual half is in favor of it so we should discount what they're saying since we know better. After all, if the two parts of them have separate desires we can pick and choose which to take seriously, right?"

And we know that Person B's position is currently understood to be anathema in the sexual realm, so I don't see why it shouldn't be taken even more seriously when it comes to life and death. If Person A says they want to live, we had better take that seriously! So I agree with William that it must in the end come down to whether Neelix and Tuvok, despite being absent, can still said to have rights that must be protected. For my part I would tend to argue that they don't, but I could see how this isn't by any means a closed matter.
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Peter G.
Tue, May 28, 2019, 11:25am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

@ Luke,

I'm not sure why you think the Tuvix has "two minds trying to deal with their situation". He literally has only one mind, as in, one brain. It's a sci-fi conceit that it's possible to combine two brains into one, but they didn't take it so far that it's actually two consciousnesses in there both trying to make do. It's just one: they were merged. As you said, early on we're led to accept that Tuvok and Neelix are both in there, but as time progresses in the episode it's clear that's not true, as Tuvix has characteristics that neither one of them had, and he finally sums it up by saying he isn't them, he's him, and doesn't want to die. If you're going to ignore that kind of plea I don't know how any other kind could matter either.
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Peter G.
Mon, May 27, 2019, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

I stand by my translation.
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