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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old April 3 2009, 07:48 AM   #1
Kaziarl
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Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Ok, so what exactly makes the posatronic brain so spiffy? And why can't starfleet make more that don't loose their minds like Lal did. Was this ever explained on the show?
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Old April 3 2009, 01:20 PM   #2
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Nobody except Soong seemed to have faith in the positronic brain as a technology until Data successfully demonstrated it. But thereafter, positronics have seen general use in the Federation: for example Dr. Bashir did brain prosthetics with positronics (DS9 "Life Support").

Whether other technologies apart from positronics make it possible to build sentient androids is unknown. B'Elanna Torres in VOY "Prototype" claims that Data is the only sentient android in existence in the UFP at that time, but that doesn't preclude preceding experiments and successes that have since been lost somehow.

The Feds have always known how to build passable android bodies, I'd think. TOS showed our heroes getting their hands on a large number of examples at least; some of those were even manufactured aboard Kirk's ship (TOS "Return to Tomorrow").

Perhaps we could deduce that the Feds have little or no interest in androids, sentient or otherwise, and hence have never bothered to do what Soong did, either before or after him. Or perhaps they did their share of androids before Soong and got bored - but Soong chose a sentient android as the best possible demonstration of his newly developed positronics.

Alternately, we could say that the Feds tried sentient androids but failed, because only positronics provided a sufficiently compact complex computer to run them. After failing, they decided that androids were useless, and that decision remains in force despite the emergence of Data and his assorted brothers, mothers and whatnot. Essentially, sour grapes.

It might also be that the UFP or Starfleet does see some merit in Data, but is disinterested in mass production because of the straw-man argument used in TNG "Measure of a Man": anybody who mass-produces sentient beings may be accused of "creating a slave race" or somesuch idiocy. (I do wonder why they didn't sterilize the entire population at that point, to prevent them from "creating a slave race" via the usual means...)

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Old April 3 2009, 08:18 PM   #3
JNG
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

I think the bad results of experiments in multitronics (like in TOS: "The Ultimate Computer") keep this a laboratory kind of thing, and with the bad rep from the Borg and with The Man legally unable to tear down Data, I can imagine most are unwilling, unable or both.

I am quite curious what some of the adversaries, unburdened by some of the moral restrictions Federation citizens put upon themselves, have come up with in this arena. One wonders what they could do with robots and androids and thinking computers...or have done already. On a slightly different artificial life-form front, Cardassians successfully engineered sleeper agents who could impersonate someone of a different species and pass a not-particularly-exacting genetic scan, and the Romulans cloned their very own Picard...could they engineer whole artificial biological lifeforms, or "bionoids?" I wonder if they have something like Augments in their history, or if they aren't there yet?
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Old April 3 2009, 11:15 PM   #4
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Stir this...

Timo wrote: View Post
It might also be that the UFP or Starfleet does see some merit in Data, but is disinterested in mass production because of the straw-man argument used in TNG "Measure of a Man": anybody who mass-produces sentient beings may be accused of "creating a slave race" or somesuch idiocy. (I do wonder why they didn't sterilize the entire population at that point, to prevent them from "creating a slave race" via the usual means...)

Timo Saloniemi
with this...

JNG wrote: View Post
I think the bad results of experiments in multitronics (like in TOS: "The Ultimate Computer") keep this a laboratory kind of thing, and with the bad rep from the Borg and with The Man legally unable to tear down Data, I can imagine most are unwilling, unable or both.
...for my take on it.

I think it's also important to note that while the Federation might employ non-sentient 'robots' in daily operations somewhere off-screen, to account for their ability to do so as demonstrated in 'Return to Tomorrow' that there is a difference between non-sentient robots and sophisticated androids such as Data.

I am quite curious what some of the adversaries, unburdened by some of the moral restrictions Federation citizens put upon themselves, have come up with in this arena. One wonders what they could do with robots and androids and thinking computers...or have done already. On a slightly different artificial life-form front, Cardassians successfully engineered sleeper agents who could impersonate someone of a different species and pass a not-particularly-exacting genetic scan, and the Romulans cloned their very own Picard...could they engineer whole artificial biological lifeforms, or "bionoids?" I wonder if they have something like Augments in their history, or if they aren't there yet?
That's a very intriguing premise...
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Old April 8 2009, 06:44 PM   #5
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

In my opinion the Federation abandoned android research in favor of holographs because their less resource intensive to build/maintain and a far more flexible design.
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Old April 8 2009, 07:51 PM   #6
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

I don't see how one could argue a hologram to be easier to maintain, and especially not far more flexible when one takes into account they require projectors.
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Old April 9 2009, 01:06 AM   #7
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Timo wrote: View Post
It might also be that the UFP or Starfleet does see some merit in Data, but is disinterested in mass production because of the straw-man argument used in TNG "Measure of a Man": anybody who mass-produces sentient beings may be accused of "creating a slave race" or somesuch idiocy. (I do wonder why they didn't sterilize the entire population at that point, to prevent them from "creating a slave race" via the usual means...
It comes down to disposability - if you have five Datas, identical in every way, and a couple of backups in storage, then what's the difference if one gets blown up? You pull the backup out, same way you swap out a damaged transporter pad. It's this identikitness that's at issue (and look at SF's treatment of the Mk1 EMHs before you say "it couldn't happen"...)

Cloning [and the related field of genetic engineering] seems to be mostly taboo as well.

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I don't see how one could argue a hologram to be easier to maintain, and especially not far more flexible when one takes into account they require projectors.
Depends - holodecks/holosuites (with the obvious exception of the Enterprise-D holodecks, which got so bad even the characters started mocking their inability to "keep the holodecks working right.") seem to be a generally understood technology, while androids aren't. Merely training all the SF engineers in making (parts for) & repairing Soong-type androids would take a lot of time, effort and distraction from other stuff that could be done.
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Old April 9 2009, 01:13 AM   #8
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

So then why not use simple, non-sentient automatons (presuming they don't)?
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Old April 9 2009, 03:10 AM   #9
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Praetor wrote: View Post
So then why not use simple, non-sentient automatons (presuming they don't)?
The limitations of it, I suppose - what do you gain through making non-sentient humanoid robots that can't be accomplished another way, using existing tech that doesn't require the sort of R&D [and the accompanying drain on resources] such automatons would? It would be easy for them to end up as glorified Rube Goldberg machines.
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Old April 9 2009, 03:44 AM   #10
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Well, still, one would think even a limited automaton would have uses for uninteresting jobs that we see crewmen performing.

Then again, we don't really see people performing boring jobs... and one might argue that in the 'enlightened' age of Trek that no one finds their job boring.
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Old April 9 2009, 09:02 PM   #11
SoM
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Praetor wrote: View Post
Well, still, one would think even a limited automaton would have uses for uninteresting jobs that we see crewmen performing.

Then again, we don't really see people performing boring jobs... and one might argue that in the 'enlightened' age of Trek that no one finds their job boring.
Well, we know O'Brien found standing in a transporter room all day, every day boring as hell, and was happy to get the exercise of constantly patching DS9 up

At the same time though, if you were going to use an automaton to play transporter chief, why bother with the robot - why not go straight to runabout-style voice commands-only? Presumably there's something necessary - or at least highly desirable - about manning the transporter rooms of large ships with sentients.
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Old April 9 2009, 10:23 PM   #12
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Very true. Many duties aboard a starship - particularly the Enterprise-D, seem like very supervisory rather than direct control jobs, other than inputting the Captain's orders. If 'Remember Me' is to be believed, the ship can make a vast interstellar journey on automation at the voice commands of one Dr. Beverly Crusher!

Perhaps Starfleet just doesn't completely trust automatons, and therefore hasn't invested much research into building true sentient synthetic life forms? (Maybe a lot of Admirals are Asimov fans.)
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Old April 10 2009, 03:07 AM   #13
SoM
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

Praetor wrote: View Post
Very true. Many duties aboard a starship - particularly the Enterprise-D, seem like very supervisory rather than direct control jobs, other than inputting the Captain's orders. If 'Remember Me' is to be believed, the ship can make a vast interstellar journey on automation at the voice commands of one Dr. Beverly Crusher!
I've always wondered just how much of a crew is actually needed in routine work - take out those whose job isn't to do with the ship itself (diplomats, people on the science decks, teachers, kids, etc), don't get into a firefight & don't fall into a wibbly-wobbly thing, and just how many people are needed to keep (e.g.) the Ent-D running indefinitely?

Praetor wrote: View Post
Perhaps Starfleet just doesn't completely trust automatons, and therefore hasn't invested much research into building true sentient synthetic life forms? (Maybe a lot of Admirals are Asimov fans.)
There seems to be - perhaps ironically - a narrow-but-deep Luddite streak in the Federation to some extent (even ignoring the "replicated food/candles/drink/etc isn't as good as unreplicated stuff" crowd). Genetic engineering is a complete taboo based on what happened on one planet 300 years beforehand, cloning is looked down upon too, and artificial sentients have to fight tooth and claw for recognition of sentience/the right to breed.

It's almost as if the "reproductive science = playing God" crowd won in the ST universe...
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Old April 10 2009, 03:25 AM   #14
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

I always liked that in the seemingly infinite scientific universe of Star Trek they made self-aware AI something the Federation couldn't achieve. It made Data all the more special, and it really made it interesting that the idea of self-aware AI...the ability to make a fully aware artifical life...isn't just cracking a mathematical equation. Even Data couldn't keep his android alive.
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Old April 10 2009, 05:46 AM   #15
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Re: Data, Lore, B-4, Lal...

SoM wrote: View Post
Praetor wrote: View Post
Very true. Many duties aboard a starship - particularly the Enterprise-D, seem like very supervisory rather than direct control jobs, other than inputting the Captain's orders. If 'Remember Me' is to be believed, the ship can make a vast interstellar journey on automation at the voice commands of one Dr. Beverly Crusher!
I've always wondered just how much of a crew is actually needed in routine work - take out those whose job isn't to do with the ship itself (diplomats, people on the science decks, teachers, kids, etc), don't get into a firefight & don't fall into a wibbly-wobbly thing, and just how many people are needed to keep (e.g.) the Ent-D running indefinitely?
I've always wondered the very same thing. On TOS, it was rather clear that one man could not even pilot the ship out of orbit alone ('This Side of Paradise') but that as few as maybe two dozen people operated it with the aid of the M-5 in 'The Ultimate Computer.'

There seemed to be a rather clear implication on VGR that they needed as many people as they could get to keep the ship running - I can remember talk about needed to breed to have future generations to run the ship since it would take 70+ years to get home originally. At first, it seems odd for such a small ship compared to the Enterprise-D but then one might suppose that the same systems, even on a smaller scale, might have certain absolute operator requirements, and Chakotay may have been thinking worst case scenario as well.

Just speculating here, I would tend to think for the D that around 100 people might be 'needed' for safe long-term operation, but the D was fairly automatic.

SoM wrote: View Post
Praetor wrote: View Post
Perhaps Starfleet just doesn't completely trust automatons, and therefore hasn't invested much research into building true sentient synthetic life forms? (Maybe a lot of Admirals are Asimov fans.)
There seems to be - perhaps ironically - a narrow-but-deep Luddite streak in the Federation to some extent (even ignoring the "replicated food/candles/drink/etc isn't as good as unreplicated stuff" crowd). Genetic engineering is a complete taboo based on what happened on one planet 300 years beforehand, cloning is looked down upon too, and artificial sentients have to fight tooth and claw for recognition of sentience/the right to breed.

It's almost as if the "reproductive science = playing God" crowd won in the ST universe...
Maybe they did? Maybe like you allude to, the Eugenics War put a deep streak of fear of 'playing God' in humanity that carried over into the Federation, a streak that only few, such as Dr. Soong, dared cross.

I seem to recall Gene Roddenberry alluding to the idea that man could send automatic probes to do the same work that we saw starships doing and probably meet with relative success, but it would rob mankind of the experience of actually being out there, going boldly. Perhaps that, then is the crux of it. The Federation's technology is only as capable as they allow it to be, because deep down they fear no longer having a purpose and being replaced by machines - something 'The Ultimate Computer' dealth with thematically quite well, IMO.

Bacl wrote: View Post
I always liked that in the seemingly infinite scientific universe of Star Trek they made self-aware AI something the Federation couldn't achieve. It made Data all the more special, and it really made it interesting that the idea of self-aware AI...the ability to make a fully aware artifical life...isn't just cracking a mathematical equation. Even Data couldn't keep his android alive.
Dramatically, that is probably why there aren't more androids. It's also a reason why I've always been insistent that VGR's EMH should be unique, and while other EMH programs might have the capacity to reach sentience, they should not automatically be concluded to be sentient, because dramatically it takes away from the Doc being a product of his experiences and a 'self-made man' of sorts.
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