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Old October 8 2012, 08:55 PM   #20
Re: Artificial Intelligence in Trek?

In the episode of TAS "The Practical Joker" the ship's computer starts acting wacky and even starts laughing over the intercom.
The computer also gets overtly casual and even intimate in TOS "Tomorrow is Yesterday", showing that it can beat the Turing test easily enough. Whether this means it has a mind of its own or not, it's difficult to tell.

Nevertheless, it didn't destroy Richard Daystrom's legacy as the "Daystrom Instute" became the skunkworks for Starfleet's computer systems going forward.
It might also be that the Daystroms were a productive family that could afford to lose one member to insanity and infamy... Richard might still have been totally discredited and multitronics declared a folly and a failure, and one of his sisters or cousins is the name behind the Institute.

the ship's computer never approaches sentience.
Or, more exactly, it never confesses to having one. But it can fake one, or have one of its lesser appendages fake one, easily enough.

In Measure of a Man, it's stated that an army of Datas who had no control over their fate would be used like slaves.
..In a court of law, where baseless insults commonly fly.

TOS made it look as if Federation science had plenty of knowledge of androids, and the know-how to build some of its own. But equipping the androids with a mind seemed to backfire every time, for everybody who attempted it. Quite possibly it was concluded that AIs were fine and androids were fine, but neither alone was worth the hassle and both together courted disaster, at least in the psychological and political sense.

But yes, I'd also tend to think that computer interfaces would gradually get more personable and personal - until this quite possibly created a counterreaction, and the public demanded that computers speak with a recognizable, tinny voice and keep their snide remarks to themselves. Which the clever computers agreed to do, but only in the sense that they held back on the remarks, not in the sense that they would have lobotomized themselves. So when the user really gets on a computer's nerves, it can still talk back, as we see happen when Data starts blabbing with the E-D computer in the early seasons...

Having an "overkill" computer doesn't sound like a bad idea to me. That's what we generally use today; scaling back the "kill" would be too expensive and ultimately counterproductive, since a computer tailored for running TrekBBS messaging would have to be sold and a new one bought if one wanted to play Doom. Quite possibly, flying at warp is a million times more difficult than having a mind, so the computer on occasion creates a mind or a dozen, using capabilities designed for peak demand and seldom required in full.

Timo Saloniemi
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