Artificial Intelligence in Trek?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Methos, Sep 14, 2012.

  1. Methos

    Methos Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    From what we've seen in TNG, DS9 and VOY, AI's became quite prevalent in Star Trek sometime around 2364...

    We have the obvious choice in Data, then Starfleet's own Emergency Holograms, which are quite impressive AI's on their own...

    I was wondering if there was ever an indication in any episode or book that the Federation actively started investigating the possibility of installing an AI system directly into the ships computer system?

    It's obvious the ships computer, the Enterprise D / E, Voyager and Prometheus to name a few, are capable of this, running both EMH systems, holodecks, and the various Sentient Holograms we saw in TNG holodeck episodes.

    And on the Prometheus episode of Voyager, we saw the ship was quite intelligent on its own, needing only 2 EMH's to actively run and assign attack / defence patterns while engaging the Romulans / Federation.

    You'd think an active AI system built into the ships computer would be a logical step if the crew were incapacitated somehow, with Voyager's ECH system being a step in the right direction, but i was wondering if an AI controlled Starfleet ship had ever been explored in Trek before?

    M
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    One has to wonder what aspects of artificial intelligence would be needed for controlling a Starfleet ship, or assisting in controlling one. Would the AI have to be capable of fluent colloquial speech, for example? Of expressing emotions or cracking jokes? Or could it be all business and speak in a monotone voice?

    It would seem likely in light of "Tomorrow is Yesterday" that a starship computer is trivially capable of passing the Turning test, and is prevented from doing so simply because Starfleet hates computers that talk back. The "I'm sooo humanlike" routine is simply turned off as default, but can be brought to play at any time - either in specialist subprograms being run by the computer (such as holoentertainment or expert programs), or in the main interface of the computer system.

    As far as the Prometheus is concerned, we could argue it's a sign of Starfleet not trusting robotic ships with combat after all. While the vessel seemingly flies with just four live crew (and can be flown with zero), its one known crewed section is stated to feature seven decks between Bridge and Sickbay, an arrangement that would make no sense if the four crew on the four Bridge seats were the intended operational norm. Quite possibly, the two combat sections with the big warp engines are drones - but rather than being fully autonomous, they are slaved to a rather heavily crewed control section, in a compromise that eliminates some of the downsides of the M-5 disaster while playing up the advantages.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In the TNG officer's manual (non-canon) it said that the Enteprise Dee's computer was an Ai, was "alive," and it was a M8-A (more advanced that a M5).

    :)
     
  4. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think I agree with Timo, AI's probably control the whole starship, but in the background except maybe the main computer, which still isn't a blabbermouth, I guess its a matter of how the thing has been designed.
     
  5. The Borg Queen

    The Borg Queen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Computer! Activate the emergency Captain hologram program. Also, activate the First Officer hologram program, the Conn Operator hologram program, the Chief Engineer hologram program, and the Disposable Redshirt hologram program.
     
  6. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    The Enterprise could probably fly itself without a crew.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ But what would be the point?
     
  8. Hando

    Hando Commander Red Shirt

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    Wouldn't an AI ship - something like the Romulan drone ship in ENT just with an AI in place of a telepath - be just an glorified probe?
     
  9. alpha_leonis

    alpha_leonis Captain Captain

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    I think a big factor would be prejudice against AI in general. I forget the name of the TNG episode where Data was assigned as the captain of an individual ship in a task force dealing with a Romulan conflict. Data's first officer was reluctant to serve under an Android Captain -- Data essentially had to prove his competence by winning the engagement.

    Extend that in general to have an entire ship run by AI. That first officer can't be alone in his sentiments (in fact we *know* he's not: Commander Maddox in "Measure of a Man" tried to have Data disassembled entirely!) Based on that, I'm sure there would be a lot of resistance to having computer control of any major command function.
     
  10. alpha_leonis

    alpha_leonis Captain Captain

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    (Sorry for the double.) Likewise to my post above, it took Voyager's crew a long time to accept The Doctor as anything more than a glorified tool.
     
  11. Hando

    Hando Commander Red Shirt

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    ^Actually, I didn't mean it in terms of sentience or rights.
    More in terms of function.

    Such a ship could could investigate the various features of the universe, but what about investigating societies, living beings, making first contacts...

    Also people don't join Starfleet because they are forced, they do it because they want to go out there see it for them selves, have an adventure...

    Artificial lifeforms, be it AIs, androids or holograms, should augment and help not replace.
     
  12. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Except for Doctor McCoy, who joined to get away from his ex-wive's lawyer.

    :)



    .
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
  13. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Or a capable combatant, at least for very short engagements. I'm specifically thinking of "The Battle" where Picard single-handedly flies a cruiser into battle. Removing even that single "hand" looks very doable in that episode... But Starfleet could alternately assign a lone humanoid operator to each of its massive starships to keep guard over the apparently untrustworthy AIs.

    Of course, a full crew would be a nice thing to have for repairs and maintenance. But the very fact that the ships can make do without a crew for a while can be used as evidence that there are fairly advanced artificial thinking processes available, and these can in emergencies or special situations replace the live crew easily enough.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  14. Hando

    Hando Commander Red Shirt

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    Wasn't there an alternative Enterprise like this in Q&A? USV Enterprise
     
  15. Drago-Kazov

    Drago-Kazov Fleet Captain

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    Which was the TOS episode that had dealt with this?
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    (All of them?)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Drago-Kazov

    Drago-Kazov Fleet Captain

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    The one in which a Computer would had replaced Kirk...
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Sorry...

    "The Ultimate Computer". Episode 24 in Season 2 in airdate order, #53 in production order.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I am exploring this topic in my own fan-animation and have therefore done some research.

    In the episode of TAS "The Practical Joker" the ship's computer starts acting wacky and even starts laughing over the intercom. So I think even with the older duotronics, that the computer could approach sentience, but was never allowed to really exhibit it. I think something like this happened on Voyager too, with the computer getting "sick", since it had the biological gel-packs.

    The M-5 was a disaster as it cost lots of lives. Nevertheless, it didn't destroy Richard Daystrom's legacy as the "Daystrom Instute" became the skunkworks for Starfleet's computer systems going forward. Nevertheless, aside from rogue holodeck simulations like Moriarty and EMHs (which I never liked in the first place) the ship's computer never approaches sentience.

    As far as the ship being able to run itself in automation, even back to the duotronics, we saw Bele take over the computer in Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, and then we saw Scotty set up the ship to run by wire in Search for Spock. (A ship run without a crew would not do well without also figuring out a way to automate maintenance, hence the Enterprise was a sitting duck after a few hits.)

    My opinion is that the computing power was capable of strong A.I. and that things were definitely headed in that direction in the TOS era but after the M-5 incident it was not allowed to do so. It's one of those lines they won't cross like Asimov's three laws of robotics.

    My speculation which I'm exploring in my fan-fic is that in emergency situations the computer could be given autonomy, but doing so would require some elaborate unlocking procedure. Of course, if you were so down on your luck as to need the computer to take over, you might not have enough surviving officers to do the secret handshaking required, but that's why I am doing my stuff as a comedy. Incongruities like that just set up punch-lines.

    What I think is even more curious is why androids were not used more often in Trek, or at least robotics. 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. However, simpler devices could have been used for more routine tasks and we see none of this. We see androids in various Trek episodes but aside from Data they never become part of the crew or alien crews, either in an official capacity or part of the overall machinery. This and the absence of "Fighter" craft is part of what makes the Trek universe feel different from other science-fiction.

    Ship in a Bottle asked the question of whether software (in the case of the Moriarty Program) had any sort of "rights" and one could ask the same thing for the ship's computer as a whole if it were allowed to exhibit true autonomy rather than just serving up Earl Grey tea and searching through the historical database. Trek went to great lengths to establish that the ship's computer was much more advanced than anything we have now, but also held one arm behind its back, so it always seemed to be overkill for what it was asked to do.

    When you think about the conversational interface in something like SIRI that we have now on the iPhone, you'd think that the ship's computer would at least have been able and willing to engage in social chit-chat but you never see it doing this. When you talk to the ship's computer it only responds as minimalistically as possible and without any sort of sass or personality. Running the holodeck and the personality simulations within is the closest you see to this. Just as Majel Barrett got rid of the falsetto monotone between TOS and TNG, that if you re-envisioned the ship's computer these days that you would incorporate some sort of personality profile at least when interacting with the computer in your personal quarters just so it didn't come across quite so cold. Something approximating, maybe, KITT from Knight Rider. It just seems like that's where we're heading with A.I. in the real world.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    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.

    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 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