A nerd’s paradise

anything sci-fi, fantasy, computer and rants

Data: the questions that Star Trek raises

Well, this is my first post on this blog…the paradise of all nerds. And what better way to start off this blog, then to blog about the show that springs forth the archetype idea of the ‘nerd’: Star-Trek. On the small screen since the sixties and without any doubt part of American culture.

I always enjoyed watching the show, ever since I was a little boy. But as I grew older I learned to appreciate Star-Trek more and more. Not just for the marvelous special effects and riveting storylines as I did as a child, but also for the philosophical questions that this show can raise. This show has made me think more about what it is to be human then any other show.

In all the series, versions and movies of Star Trek there was room for deeper thought. Every script had details for the viewer to be discovered and messages to convey.

One of the questions that the show raises – and occupies me at the moment – is: ‘Is Data possible and is he a person?’ For those who do not know Data. He is a character in Star Trek the next generation, a self-aware android who can think and act on his own, striving to become more human. You can read all about him here on the Star Trek wiki

Although it is only fiction, in the real world scientists are working on Artificial Intelligence (AI). And every day advances are being made, chatbots appear online whom you can talk to (although some can only produce absolute gibberish), AI in computergames is getting better, …

What is being human? From a biological and neurological standpoint we are nothing more than bio machines. An electro-chemical proces is responsible for everything we do and feel. In a way we could easily compare our brain with a sort of computer. What if it were possible to create life from steel, bits and bytes? Could we consider it to be alive, human? Would we have to respect it rights if it can feel pain, think, …?

I say yes. We should if this were possible.

But is it possible? I don’t know. I think so, and as every other science-fiction enthousiast I hope so too. If were are machines from flesh and blood, if our brain is a computer of sorts. Then it should be possible to duplicate it. If we know how our brain works we could reproduce it. Or vice versa…If mankind evolves further in the field of AI, we will learn to understand ourselves better.

This question is difficult to adress and many thought experiments have been done on this subject. The most famous is the Chinese room thought expirment that speaks against AI and is still heavily debated. The argument and the refutation you can find
here

Here is a nice clip I found on youtube to get to know Data better:

Good episode by the way.

If you have any thoughts about AI, Star Trek or any of the questions it raises, please leave a comment. I am always interested in your opinions. I intend to be writing more about the questions that Star Trek and other shows raise in the near future.

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August 8, 2007 - Posted by | philosophy, sci fi

3 Comments »

  1. I could not agree more, A lot of the value of Star Trek, especially STNG is the philosophical questions it raises and explores.

    Comment by Ed Tajchman | August 8, 2007 | Reply

  2. Yes, especially STTNG was good in this. A lot of questions were raised here. It is my favorite series of Star Trek.

    Comment by oneandonlyhypnos | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. even current events as well has philosophical stuff, like the one where Riker dates a person of the ‘third gender’ on a planet, only Riker, well maybe Kirk too, lol

    or my personal favorite, the one where Geordi and Data create Sherlock Holmes’s arch nemesis Dr. Moriarty in the holodeck and he’s self aware.

    Comment by Ed Tajchman | August 9, 2007 | Reply


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