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

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Old March 3 2013, 08:25 PM   #1
The Overlord
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Data and killing

It seems like while Data is generally against killing except in self defense, but he seems to have made two exceptions to that rule.

He said Armus should be destroyed in Skin of Evil and in "The Most Toys" he tried to kill Fajo after he killed Varria.

Do you think Data was justified in those two incidents? Would logical being with no emotions believe killing for reasons other then self defense was okay?
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Old March 3 2013, 08:46 PM   #2
yousirname
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Re: Data and killing

Data's criteria for killing aren't confined to self-defence, I'm fairly sure. Presumably he's also prepared to kill in defence of others. Fajo made it clear that in Data's present circumstances, Fajo's continued existence presents a certain threat to the well-being not just of Data but of others, too.

Treating the show just as a drama, I can buy that, though looking at it more as a real world situation it seems to me that Data could probably incapacitate Fajo and take control of the vessel. But as depicted, it works perfectly.

Armus is slightly thornier. Data summarises him as possessing 'no redeeming features' and Armus is clearly miserable in his present circumstances. Even if it were possible to alleviate those circumstances, there's excellent reason to believe that would spell serious trouble for other people. So Data's conclusion there might best be regarded as a proposed involuntary euthanasia.

The reality is that Data's specific moral criteria vary from writer to writer on the show, but those particular incidents are reconcilable with some form of ethical system that's at least benevolent in intent.
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Old March 3 2013, 09:01 PM   #3
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Data and killing

yousirname wrote: View Post
Fajo made it clear that in Data's present circumstances, Fajo's continued existence presents a certain threat to the well-being not just of Data but of others, too.

Treating the show just as a drama, I can buy that, though looking at it more as a real world situation it seems to me that Data could probably incapacitate Fajo and take control of the vessel.
How would Data have been able to do that? Data couldn't get close to Fajo because of the proximity-actuated field.

He already tried numerous other forms of resistance throughout the episode, and this was his only chance to get ahold of the disrupter.
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Old March 3 2013, 09:17 PM   #4
yousirname
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Re: Data and killing

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
How would Data have been able to do that? Data couldn't get close to Fajo because of the proximity-actuated field.

He already tried numerous other forms of resistance throughout the episode, and this was his only chance to get ahold of the disrupter.
It's a fair point about the field, I'd forgotten about that. But he already has the disrupter, we're past that bit, aren't we? He might try to locate another weapon - one that can incapacitate from a distance as opposed to only being lethal - and work from there. He could warn Fajo's employees that Fajo plans to use them as ransom fodder to manipulate him and see if he can get one of them to assist him. He could even promise them that they can help themselves to some of Fajo's wealth if they help Data to bring Fajo to justice.

I suppose if Data truly thinks that none of those are viable options, he can shoot.

Though as I say, for dramatic purposes I've no problem with how it played out.
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Old March 3 2013, 09:26 PM   #5
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Data and killing

You mean that Data should have given Fajo a chance to activate another trap? You mean that Data should have tried to educate the crew about things that they already knew? Who knows what terrors Fajo had used to break them already.

We should take the episode at its word. Based on everything he knew, Data's only option was to fire. We can also believe that Data computed that conclusion in his positronic brain.

It's also worth pointing out that Fajo was cocky at that moment, because he didn't believe that Data actually would fire. Perhaps a single code word from Fajo would have transported Data back to his prison room. That moment was Data's best opportunity.
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Old March 3 2013, 09:38 PM   #6
Marcus Porcius Cato
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Re: Data and killing

yousirname wrote: View Post
Data's criteria for killing aren't confined to self-defence, I'm fairly sure. Presumably he's also prepared to kill in defence of others. Fajo made it clear that in Data's present circumstances, Fajo's continued existence presents a certain threat to the well-being not just of Data but of others, too.

Treating the show just as a drama, I can buy that, though looking at it more as a real world situation it seems to me that Data could probably incapacitate Fajo and take control of the vessel. But as depicted, it works perfectly.

Armus is slightly thornier. Data summarises him as possessing 'no redeeming features' and Armus is clearly miserable in his present circumstances. Even if it were possible to alleviate those circumstances, there's excellent reason to believe that would spell serious trouble for other people. So Data's conclusion there might best be regarded as a proposed involuntary euthanasia.

The reality is that Data's specific moral criteria vary from writer to writer on the show, but those particular incidents are reconcilable with some form of ethical system that's at least benevolent in intent.
could this be because Armus has killed Tasha?
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Old March 3 2013, 09:40 PM   #7
T'Girl
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Re: Data and killing

yousirname wrote: View Post
Data's criteria for killing aren't confined to self-defence, I'm fairly sure. Presumably he's also prepared to kill in defence of others.
Data appeared to have no ethical problems with killing in the line of duty.

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Old March 3 2013, 10:19 PM   #8
yousirname
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Re: Data and killing

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
You mean that Data should have given Fajo a chance to activate another trap?
Yes, possibly. It depends on his estimate of the probability that Fajo has another trap, the possibility of its working, versus the value derived from eliminating Fajo. I understand what you're saying about taking the episode at its word, and I've tried to be clear that I'm happy to do that, but just for the sake of chattin' about it, I'm wondering what questions I might ask if I were adjudicating over an inquiry into Data's actions.

You mean that Data should have tried to educate the crew about things that they already knew? Who knows what terrors Fajo had used to break them already.
Varria had already turned. We know he had used particularly brutal methods on her. They clearly weren't entirely effective. 'Educating' is not the right term, either. I'm happy to say the crew knows that Fajo might threaten their lives to get his way. That's different, or at least it's plausibly different, from knowing that Fajo now intends to do that.

It's also worth pointing out that Fajo was cocky at that moment, because he didn't believe that Data actually would fire. Perhaps a single code word from Fajo would have transported Data back to his prison room. That moment was Data's best opportunity.
You would think he would already have done that before Data got hold of the disruptor. But in spite of that, I don't think Data's preservation of his freedom was his main concern when deciding to fire. It was the continued threat to others that Fajo represented. We've already seen that Data's prepared to put the lives of others over his own autonomy (the chair, when Varria is threatened). That would seem to imply that if Data is only thinking about his own freedom, rather than kill Fajo he would return to his cell and attempt to escape later.
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Old March 3 2013, 10:21 PM   #9
yousirname
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Re: Data and killing

Marcus Porcius Cato wrote: View Post
could this be because Armus has killed Tasha?
I don't think so. For one thing, Data doesn't say that's why, and you would think he might, no? Neither does Data appear to petition for Fajo to receive the death penalty, even though he killed Varria.

Basically I don't see any evidence that Data's reasoning is punitive, or that he subscribes to a retributive theory of justice at all.
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Old March 3 2013, 10:33 PM   #10
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Data and killing

yousirname wrote: View Post
You would think he would already have done that before Data got hold of the disruptor.
As I said, he was cocky, which was fortunate.

But in spite of that, I don't think Data's preservation of his freedom was his main concern when deciding to fire. It was the continued threat to others that Fajo represented.
I agree.

Of course, however, the next question is, why did he lie about it afterwards. That would seem to imply that even though he thought it was necessary, it still violated parameters of his ethical subroutines. And the fact that he could lie about it afterwards would really only compound the unethical behavior, wouldn't it.

Fajo was probably right that that sort of killing violated certain parameters in Data's subroutines, but just wrong that Data would lack the means to be able to overcome the limitations in such circumstances.
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Old March 3 2013, 10:46 PM   #11
yousirname
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Re: Data and killing

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Of course, however, the next question is, why did he lie about it afterwards. That would seem to imply that even though he thought it was necessary, it still violated parameters of his ethical subroutines. And the fact that he could lie about it afterwards would really only compound the unethical behavior, wouldn't it.
It would, which implies to me that he did it simply to avoid a charge of attempted murder. Data already has experience of the somewhat arbitrary nature of Starfleet military law, doesn't he? If he'd had an advocate less capable than Picard, he might be gathering dust on a shelf somewhere as the victim of a failed experiment.

If we assume that he in fact believes he behaved correctly, given that his dilemma has been obviated by his rescue, he might simply wish to avoid what he sees as the unnecessary risk of being convicted of a crime he knows was justified in the circumstances.

Fajo was probably right that that sort of killing violated certain parameters in Data's subroutines, but just wrong that Data would lack the means to be able to overcome the limitations in such circumstances.
I tend to think Fajo was simply mistaken about the nature of Data's subroutines. He assumed that 'do not kill' was an immutable absolute. But Data had already assisted in the marooning in space of his brother Lore. That might not be 'murder' but it could certainly have plausibly caused Lore's death, so it is at the least cruel and unusual punishment and at the worst wilful endangerment of life (they don't even try to locate Lore later and beam him into the brig or whatever, they just leave him to drift and be found by Pakleds).
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Old March 3 2013, 11:08 PM   #12
sonak
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Re: Data and killing

T'Girl wrote: View Post
yousirname wrote: View Post
Data's criteria for killing aren't confined to self-defence, I'm fairly sure. Presumably he's also prepared to kill in defence of others.
Data appeared to have no ethical problems with killing in the line of duty.


precisely what I was thinking. He can't have a strict code against killing except in strict self-defense and still be in Starfleet. I'm not sure why they bothered with that silliness-doesn't Fajo make fun of it, saying "a pacifist soldier? whose bright idea was that?"
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Old March 4 2013, 01:17 AM   #13
JirinPanthosa
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Re: Data and killing

Here's what I don't get about Fajo's energy field. Couldn't Data have just thrown something at him, or used a good ol pointed stick? If the smoke monster could figure that out so could Data.

Wouldn't killing Fajo have been an act of defending others, had the Enterprise not figured out he was still alive? Fajo was not only a mass murderer, he was a slave driver who would, for sure, murder and enslave more innocent people in the future.

I think Fajo saw Data as just a robot like we see the little Japanese robot dogs. He didn't think Data was capable of forming original thoughts.

Starfleet has never been Pacifist. They do, however, strongly prefer peace to conflict, to such an extent that they are over-eager to make ridiculous concessions to avoid war. Data's the same, and Fajo put him in a position where the moral cost of letting him live exceeded the moral cost of killing him.
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Old March 4 2013, 06:49 AM   #14
Tiberius
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Re: Data and killing

Data firing at Fajo was a terrible decision. Fajo was unarmed and in no position to threaten Data. Data should have been courtmartialled.
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Old March 4 2013, 06:54 AM   #15
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Data and killing

yousirname wrote: View Post
Data already has experience of the somewhat arbitrary nature of Starfleet military law, doesn't he? If he'd had an advocate less capable than Picard, he might be gathering dust on a shelf somewhere as the victim of a failed experiment.

If we assume that he in fact believes he behaved correctly, given that his dilemma has been obviated by his rescue, he might simply wish to avoid what he sees as the unnecessary risk of being convicted of a crime he knows was justified in the circumstances.
That's a pretty good read on the situation, I think.
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