How do you define a sentient hologram?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by t_smitts, Jul 10, 2014.

  1. t_smitts

    t_smitts Captain Captain

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    This was something that came up regularly on Voyager and, arguably, once or twice on TNG.

    So what makes a hologram sentient? Is it simply being aware that you're a hologram?

    I think most people assume the Doctor to be sentient. But what about Moriarty or Vic Fontaine? How about the characters in "Shadowplay"? Or that insane hologram in "Revulsion", or Iden's holograms? How about the EMH's on the Equinox, Prometheus, and Enterprise-E?

    (Edited to add: OOPS! I meant to post this in General Discussion!)
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  2. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Premium Member

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    I would define a sentient hologram as the projection of a self-aware machine (computer)
     
  3. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    My only problem with self-aware holograms and how they're supposed to be such a miraculous thing is, why aren't the ships housing those computers, or even the ship's computer itself, treated as if they are self-aware?
     
  4. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Premium Member

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    Now THAT is an excellent question...if memory serves, the holo-people that have been shown as "sentient" have been "surprises" to the crew, and, by extension, to the nature of the technology...maybe too few and too far between to be classified and understood and harnessed?...
     
  5. The Entire Bee Movie But

    The Entire Bee Movie But Badass Admiral

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    IIRC, the ship computer (when functioning normally) was never depicted in a way that suggested it had any degree of self-awareness.

    It was, however, obviously able to create self-contained "programs" (for lack of a better term) - such as James Moriarty - that appeared to be fully self-aware.

    ETA: I was just reminded of TNG's "Emergence", where they Ent-D actually develops an intelligence and promptly proceeds to procreate. At the end of the episode, of course, the reset button kicks in as the emergent intelligence dies/vanishes after giving birth and the Ent-D computer is back to normal.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  6. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    I've only seen "Emergence" once or twice, though thought it did some inventive things for making a slightly different holodeck story. But wasn't it all caused by some mystical outside alien influence?

    If the Enterprise and Voyager computers can create self-aware programs, why isn't it creating a self-aware identity for itself? If it's because it's programmed not to conceive of such a concept, then why couldn't one of its sentient holograms think of it as a way of upgrading the ship? The Intrepid class even seems a likely candidate for such a thing, with its bio-neural gelpacks.

    ETA: Bought TNG Season 7 today, so at least I can watch "Emergence" again now.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The ship's main computer might have built in "hardwired" safeguards that prevent it from ever becoming self aware. If it should ever begin to exhibit signs that it starting to become self aware, programs will activate to set the computer back to a "unaware" state.

    Holodecks/suites might have been around for a while, but I got the impression from the first season of TNG that the holodeck on the Enterprise was something new and advanced. The creation of Moriarty was likely an accident, it was somethng the main computer's programmers didn't anticipate.

    Similar with Voyager's EMH, initally he wasn't self aware, just a program. But as he was used for unanticipated protracted periods of time he grew into a sapient being. He accidently woke up.

    I like the character of Vic Fontaine, but I'm not completely sure he's self aware.

    :)
     
  8. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    Whereas I'm kind of the opposite. I found Vic a little grating - I think everyone just gushed about how cool he was once too often - but I do think he's self aware.
    I do think the issue of sentient holograms is really interesting, and given it's implications I'd think that the Federation should really consider how they're using holograms. The potential abuse there could be pretty horrific.
     
  9. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    "Vulcan Love Slave" with a sentient hologram might be a bit extreme.
     
  10. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    That's pretty much what I'm thinking, although beyond sex, there would be sadists who would enjoy acting out abuse on a hologram.
     
  11. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Premium Member

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    However, with Urbane, "Gentlemen-of-the-Galaxy" like ourselves, there would be only the most judicious and exquisite use of the technology!... :techman: :eek: :vulcan: ...yeah, baby!

    As I think I tried to say above, I think a confluence of events and "critical mass" of tech and power and use and connection occurred, and these " self-aware" events happened...kind of like we are to accept Skynet becoming self-aware...who is to say how and when, and with what "ingredients" this kind of thing can occur?...
     
  12. HolidayRomantic

    HolidayRomantic Phloxist Moderator Moderator

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    Moved to General Trek Discussion per OP's oops. ;)
     
  13. E-DUB

    E-DUB Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Some of this has been talked about over in Trek Lit, given the subject of "The Light Fantastic".

    I would say "The Doctor"-Yes, sentient.
    Moriarty, Yes.
    Vic, No-he's just programmed to fake it really well.
    The Shadowplay people. Can't really tell.

    It's hard, maybe even impossible, to tell the difference between actual sentience and simulated sentience, yet I maintain that there is one.
     
  14. Oso Blanco

    Oso Blanco Commodore Commodore

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    There is a very fine line between a hologram being a just a combination of different computer routines and the point when it's becoming more than the sum of its parts.

    Human brains are nothing but biochemical computers, yet each of us is different and we're all acting kind of unpredictable. Maybe that's the difference ... being unpredictable. Making decisions that based on computer logic do not make any sense at all. An ability to chose that goes beyond simple computer commands.
     
  15. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    What about Minuet, the Binars' distraction for Riker in the first season?
     
  16. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The weird thing about the EMH aboard USS Voyager is that his sentience was originally presented as being an abberation of sorts, something surprising even to the human crew, which resulted from him having been left 'switched on' beyond his expected useage time and as a result he began to achieve awareness of things beyond his limiting parameters. But if this is the case, then it always surprises me those occasions when the Doctor is switched off and on again, yet still retains everything he has already learned. Realistically, if his role was supposed to be as merely a short-term being that can be called upon for emergency situations and then simply switched off again, then his personality would have to begin again every time he gets rebooted. For as long as he's "online" he might amass further traits and quirks, but the very first time he goes offline and then is brought online again all of that should have been lost, and the EMH reset to factory settings.

    But we never saw that. Every time EMH had this happen, he usually re-engaged with full awareness of everything he'd developed prior to the switch off. Which means that Zimmerman must have programmed him with some degree of memory retention in the first place. Which in turn means there was always a sentience. Like Data, the EMH was never a "toaster". ;) But he was, effectively, always a slave. Which opens up a whole other can of Unfortunate Implications (especially after we see a bunch of them being used as free labor at the bottom of a mine shaft!!! :eek: ).
     
  17. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I don't see why switching off would automatically mean rebooting. It doesn't mean that for my PC here...

    As for "abuse", that's all in the eye of the beholder. Humans are being subjected to all sorts of things they don't exactly volunteer for, like paying taxes, stopping at red lights, or refraining from vivisecting cute puppies. Moral outrage at such coercion and inhibition varies with time and place.

    The thing different with artificially created life (whether holographic or biologic) is that the creation process might already be considered so complex and demanding that the further ability to "program" the end product might be considered a trivial addition to the process, or indeed a solid and necessary part of it. Hence, artificial sapients could honestly enjoy being abused, and might suffer from not being abused.

    Although that's not such a big difference, really. Regular humans can probably be "programmed" that way, too, once our technology and knowledge evolves a bit more. And humans today certainly enjoy being abused in certain ways and suffer from not being abused - it just depends on the definition of the day for abuse (say, an underage girl might really love having frantic sex with older boys every day, and hate the dirty old men at the legislative body who reserve the right to tell her when to open her legs).

    Also, AI in many a piece of speculative fiction is not "programmed" at all, but left to emerge at random. Say, Asimov's positronic brains were "born" despite being built - the manufacturer had little control over the finer detail of the thought processes that would result when the switch was first flipped. So there wouldn't be a fundamental difference between positronic robots and flesh-and-bones humans in Asimovian stories in that respect; robots weren't "programmed", they were trained (and indoctrinated with the Three Rules, to varying degrees of success, but such indoctrination did not extend to other areas such as making a particular brain fanatically enthusiastic about running a combine harvester).

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  18. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I would say in the Star Trek universe, a machine becomes sentient at the point where its circuitry is able to recombine its circuitry and programming to form new behavior patterns dynamically based on experience. When they gain the ability to form their own ideas and motivations that aren't directly within the scope of the programmer's intent.

    By this logic Data and the Doctor qualify. It's not clear if Vic qualifies, but I don't think he does. Data was mentally capable of getting up and leaving Starfleet. The Doctor was mentally capable of ceasing to practice medicine and choosing a new career. Vic was not mentally capable of not performing for people. The parameters of his program were very reactive but they did not evolve. Moriarty by this definition seemed like he was sentient because he was able to choose careers other than supervillainy.

    Knowing you're a hologram isn't enough. That's just System.out.println("I am alive"). You need the ability to dynamically self-generate your code the same way new neural pathways form in the human brain.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  19. t_smitts

    t_smitts Captain Captain

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    Why is Vic programmed to fake it, while the Doctor's the real deal?
     
  20. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ From what we saw of him, I don't believe Zimmerman would include a "fake being sentient" program in the EMH's overall programming.

    And given that the EMH was intended for limited durations of activation, why would a "fake it" program take so long to kick in?

    :)