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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old October 1 2012, 03:07 AM   #1
los2188
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Location: North Carolina
Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

I was thinking about this the other day and I kind of came to somewhat of a question in regards to Data. As all of you know Data wanted to grow beyond his programming and wanted to be more human...am I correct? But the question that I have is in regards to the words that have been used in reference to Data and humanity. Want...desire... endeavor. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't those emotions when you break it down? I want to be 6'9", but I don't need to be. I understand that in order for Data's character to work and connect well to viewers, he still has to be written as if he were human...just a little bit, but isn't desire and wants still a human emotion, or at the very least a human thing?? I may be full of nothing with this question, but I thought that maybe someone can enlighten me a little bit. Thanks. On a side note, I always thought it was a shame that Data's emotion chip wasn't used more often as a vehicle to show Data's growth with him learning how to integrate these emotions. I mean we all saw what we saw in Generations with his emotion chip, and with the exception of a brief emotional moment or two in First Contact, they never go there again anymore so to speak. It would have been nice to see him grow with those emotions in the movies. Although I guess you can say that Data making the ultimate sacrifice in Nemesis shows his growth. Just a thought.
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Old October 1 2012, 06:51 AM   #2
Genesis
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

It's funny that this would be posted just after I joined, because it's something I've been wondering for at least a decade. More than once I've shouted at the TV: "BUT DESIRE IS AN EMOTION!"

I've always held the personal opinion that Data does have emotions without the chip, but that they're very different from the emotions of a human and he doesn't recognize what they are. Recognition of this at some point in the series or movies would've been extremely awesome, and I do think it's a real shame that there wasn't more emphasis placed on Data's successes in his quest for humanity.

I can't enlighten you as to why this apparent contradiction was overlooked in the show, though. The writers didn't realize it was a contradiction, maybe? I honestly don't know. The TV never answers the questions I shout at it.
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Old October 1 2012, 12:37 PM   #3
horatio83
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

Hasn't the main idea of Data always been that this emotionless machine is often more human than we are? He is kind, never angry, cares about his fellows, still curious about the universe and above all wants to improve himself.
While the scenes in GEN were funny Data appeared like a soulless puppet. The emotion chip didn't work precisely because it violated this paradoxical 'Data is more human and emotional precisely because he lacks emotions' notion and that's why it has never been used afterwards.
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Old October 1 2012, 08:03 PM   #4
Genesis
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

I'm not sure if the "main idea" of Data was that he was more human than we are (unless the writers said something to that effect at some point). I assumed the main idea was that his character could be used in different plots exploring what it meant to be human from different perspectives, sometimes emphasizing his humanity and sometimes using him for contrast.

I do fully agree that the emotion chip was a very bad idea. It ruined what made Data different and special and interesting.
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Old October 1 2012, 10:22 PM   #5
sbk1234
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

I believe he was more human - or perhaps we should say more sentient - than he even thought. I remember the episode Brothers which featured Brent Spiner as Dr. Soong. When Soong is dying, Data says something about not being able to mourn him. Even Soong, his creator who presumably knows Data's capabilities more than anyone else, makes a coment that he actually will be able to grieve. I don't remember the exact words. I'm sure someone can clue me in to the exact dialogue.
Anyway, to me, that means that there is a lot more to Data than ANYONE gave him credit for.
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Old October 2 2012, 08:36 PM   #6
Genesis
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

The exact dialogue from Brothers:

Data: You know I cannot grieve for you.
Soong: You will. In your own way.

I absolutely agree that there was more to Data than he was ever given credit for. Even Soong wanted to give him that emotion chip, which I don't believe he truly needed in order to feel.
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Old October 2 2012, 10:10 PM   #7
davejames
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

Maybe wanting and desiring is human to some extent, but I got the impression Data wanted a lot more than just that. He wanted to truly understand humanity and experience things the same way they did-- and that's something he never fully figured out how to do.

What's odd to me, is that even while pursuing this life-long goal, he still insisted on keeping his freaky gold skin color. You would think if he truly wanted to become and feel human, making himself actually look like one would have been a good first step.

Yeah I know that was addressed on the show a couple times, but I'm not sure I ever really bought the answer he gave.
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Old October 2 2012, 10:32 PM   #8
Genesis
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

davejames wrote: View Post
Maybe wanting and desiring is human to some extent, but I got the impression Data wanted a lot more than just that. He wanted to truly understand humanity and experience things the same way they did-- and that's something he never fully figured out how to do.
But humans don't fully understand themselves or each other either. And no two people experience things in the same way.

Getting the kind of understanding Data wanted would've made him more than human. Of course, wanting more than we can ever possibly have is very human.
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Old October 5 2012, 02:52 PM   #9
SimpleLogic
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

Did perhaps Data give himself emotions by learning and expanding in sort of the same way the Doctor just programmed them in. What I mean is by learning to paint and write poems, etc possibly emotion which would go along with creativity was sort of a programming by product?

I don't know if anyone gets what I mean.
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Old October 5 2012, 05:52 PM   #10
MikeS
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Location: Liverpool, UK
Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

I fully expected the writers to go down the same route as the Wizard of Oz...

...You actually had all those attributes all along and didn't even know it.
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Old October 6 2012, 08:35 PM   #11
sonak
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

MikeS wrote: View Post
I fully expected the writers to go down the same route as the Wizard of Oz...

...You actually had all those attributes all along and didn't even know it.

well, that's kind of true. Data frequently showed curiosity, confusion, kindness, etc. before the chip.


Also, I think it would be impossible for a truly sentient, self-aware being to not have emotions-without them, it has no wants, so how would Data get the notion to join Starfleet, befriend Geordi, take up painting, etc.?


So Data either had at least some emotions at a basic level, or he wasn't really sentient or self-aware, he was just a very good mimic of a self-aware being.
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Old October 6 2012, 09:03 PM   #12
horatio83
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

Emotions and self-awareness do not go hand in hand. A human being can temporarily repress all of its emotions and be quite self-aware in the meantime.
There is no scientific explanation for consciousness because whenever you explain how our brain works this very explanation is basically the very opposite of consciousness, it is mechanical, explains how A connects to B and so on. Wherever you look, the whole is always more than the sum of its parts (you cannot say that hydrogen is just an electron and a proton, you cannot say that music is just a sum of sounds, you cannot say that society is just a bunch of individual people) and consciousness is located in this gap between the whole and the sum of its parts, be it the consciousness of a human being, another higher mammal or an android.
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Old October 7 2012, 04:17 AM   #13
Genesis
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

MikeS wrote: View Post
I fully expected the writers to go down the same route as the Wizard of Oz...

...You actually had all those attributes all along and didn't even know it.
Me too. This seemed to be the direction they were going for a long time, but they just couldn't quite get there and ended up copping out with the emotion chip. I don't have the slightest idea why.

Oh, well. Gives me something to write fan fiction about.
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Old October 7 2012, 04:35 PM   #14
sonak
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

horatio83 wrote: View Post
Emotions and self-awareness do not go hand in hand. A human being can temporarily repress all of its emotions and be quite self-aware in the meantime.
There is no scientific explanation for consciousness because whenever you explain how our brain works this very explanation is basically the very opposite of consciousness, it is mechanical, explains how A connects to B and so on. Wherever you look, the whole is always more than the sum of its parts (you cannot say that hydrogen is just an electron and a proton, you cannot say that music is just a sum of sounds, you cannot say that society is just a bunch of individual people) and consciousness is located in this gap between the whole and the sum of its parts, be it the consciousness of a human being, another higher mammal or an android.

Repression of emotions is not the same thing as having no emotions. Many religions or philosophies teach emotional detachment, but you still need the emotions themselves.

Think about it: how do you have wants, desires, or preferences without emotions? How do you decide who to ask on a date, what show to watch, what food to eat, etc.? A self-aware, sentient being must have emotions, or they would sit in a chair or lay in a bed, unable to make the most basic decisions.
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Old October 8 2012, 02:42 PM   #15
horatio83
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Re: Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

I think the question is trivial in the case of biological life. In the case of artificial life it becomes more interesting and Data is a self-aware being without emotions.
The difference between us is that you search for some causality whereas I locate consciousness in the above mentioned gap between the whole and the sum of its parts. Back to Data, think about why this unemotional machine often appears to be more human than us. There is nothing in his programming that explains it so you have to locate his "already more human than he thinks he is" trait in the gap. It is like the mysterious X that makes music out of single notes, a unique relationship out of two people and society out of single individuals.
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