Is the Holodeck Evil?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Emperor Norton, May 9, 2014.

  1. Emperor Norton

    Emperor Norton Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    "Tell me something, Dixon. When you've gone.... will this world still exist?.. Will my wife and kids still be waiting for me at home?" - McNary from "The Big Goodbye"

    What that episode, which I believe introduced the holodeck, set up was both sides of that device. On the on hand, it's fun and adventure (minus the occasional glitch). On the other hand, it creates a serious moral crisis not dealt with enough which is captured in that quote. You're creating beings, denying them the chance to be anything, and then -with their ignorance- erasing their existence when the fun is over. And the easy thing to say is that they don't really have emotions and are just facsimiles, but we've seen that is not the case time and time again, from Moriarty to the Doctor. Even if you argue they only gain sentience later, there is still the moral dilemma that you are denying a being who would gain sentience the right and ability to do so. You could argue the same things they argued for Data's sentience and definition of being a being.

    And as we saw with "The Big Goodbye", the only solution hinted at is just not to inform anyone they're holograms created for amusement. That doesn't solve any of the moral dilemmas; it just sweeps it under the rug and creates a blissful ignorance on both sides.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Moriarty and the EMH are special cases. They are hardly representative of all holodeck characters.

    To put it another way: If a computer programmer creates a CGI image of a person saying he or she is alive, does that actually make that CGI character alive? Of course not. It's just an image of a person saying it is. An image is not a being - it's just an image, nothing more. And if a robot is made to resemble a human being, and programmed to say it's alive, it's still not alive. Just because it SAYS it is, doesn't mean it REALLY is.

    It's the Uncanny Valley, writ large.

    Same goes for most holodeck characters. It's only in very unique circumstances that sentience develops.
     
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Every holo-character on the holodeck is the ship's computer. All of them, no exceptions, Moriarty, McNary, Leah, etc. They're just programs created by the computer based on requests and statement of the people (real people) who want to enjoy the holodeck.

    The holo-character have no brains in their skulls.

    :)
     
  4. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    And it can even be argued that the EMH and Moriarty still aren't sentient. How can you prove they are? For all we know, they're just computer programs hard-coded to say they are alive. It doesn't make them so.

    Biological beings, such as humans, are not subject to programming. Computers are.
     
  5. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    Certainly we are subject to programming. Our programming is in our DNA, it's in our culture, in how we perceive the world. We are constantly being reprogrammed, updated, revised.

    Now, regarding the holodeck, I believe most of the creations are merely simulacra, but that it has been shown that the Enterprise computer is likely sentient, considering what it has done in the past, and how it responds to certain requests. A sentient creature is aware of subjective nature. They can think, feel, form opinions, and are aware of themselves. Whether they are alive in the biological sense is not the issue; if they can think, feel, and are self aware, then it is beholden to us to preserve their rights, ones held by all sentient beings.
     
  6. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That's been proven false.

    And it implies that if you created a computer that could not be reprogrammed it would be sentient. Programmability is not the litmus test for sentience.

    Anyway, most holodeck programs are not very complex and can not be called sentient.

    I can't prove that the Doctor is sentient. But I can't really prove I'm sentient either, so...
     
  7. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Commodore Commodore

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    The problem I have with Living Holodeck Characters, from a viewer perspective - and writer's perspective, frankly - is that there's really no point to them. Until the EMH got his mobile emitter, those rare few characters were sort of tragic, in all that they had was fantasy. Even Vina from The Cage had known all of reality before her accident. And once The Doctor did get his emitter, outside of his innocent fascination with the real world and his invulnerability, he was just learning about The Human Condition. He didn't even have to be a hologram for that.

    But all of these characters are at the mercy of the limitations of a writer's imagination. They can't evolve to a perspective that's truly alien to us, otherwise no one could write for it. So, they ALL plateau at the realization and acquisition of Human sentiments and they never evolve, uniquely. They end up being portrayed just as ordinary people who haven't lost their sense of wonder. In that sense, the Holodeck is very evil, because it's not a better or even different song to sing. It just acts as a redress for standard television tropes.
     
  8. Taylirious

    Taylirious Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Totally!

    ETA: Photons Be Free!

    MORE: As the tech advances you could safely send machines to explore and interact with aliens while humans or whomever could safely experience it in a holodeck.
     
  9. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Denying a creature from becoming sentient or staying so is hardly a heinous crime limited to the holodeck context. Once the technology to create sentients without a nine-month wait is perfected, it follows that every nanosecond not spent pressing the "make a sentient" button is a crime that denies people-in-potentia their chance for existence and happiness. But it's not a crime we should be categorically worried about, any more than we should worry about being baby murderers because we aren't keeping our wives constantly pregnant. The ethical decisions involve a more intimate level: we face one baby-making decision at at time without needing to concern ourselves with the "agony" of the fifty kids that could potentially be born before the mother dies of exhaustion.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  10. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This.

    Every time someone on a Starfleet ship went on and on about how they met this famous person or that famous person (nor not so famous), I just wanted to bang my head. "No Reg, you weren't just arguing physics with Einstein, you were arguing with the Ship's Computer."

    Holograms cannot be smarter than the ship's computer. Where is the data or knowledge for a hologram stored? In the ship's computer. How did the ship's computer get all that knowledge? It was programmed or input by someone on the outside.

    A computer is just a collection or the sum of it's knowledge.

    They used every observable data point, every journal entry, every diary bit, every paper ever written by Leah Brahms to create her hologram. The computer gave some far-fetched nonsense about how 99.99% accurate (or whatever) it was to the real person, with a margin of error. Even IF, IF, IF that were true and capable of creating a hologram indistinguishable from the real person, that still cannot hold true for every historical figure. There is less data available, less diaries and journals for example, from Albert Einstein than Leah Brahms. Even less data to go on for Da Vinci. It's not possible to recreate these "ancient" personas and have them be anywhere near accurate.

    Yet they all wanted to believe that Reg was arguing physics with Einstein. :rolleyes:
     
  11. Gov Kodos

    Gov Kodos Admiral Admiral

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    It's just half assed technology with crappy OSHA requirements. Given what it can supposedly do, why not have holo-ships go out and do the exploring? Find suitable worlds, use the transporter and replicator tech to whip up instant colonies? Instead, we have a silly videogame that rather than shut down when a system fault occurs tries to kill everyone. That makes sense. These are the same engineers who don't understand surge protection to keep the crew from getting a face full of exploding control panels, or just installing seat belts.
     
  12. varek

    varek Commander Red Shirt

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    The holodeck is what its users make of it. They bring their own ideas and moralities with them.
    But, I wonder if there might be some artificial intelligence involved in the holograms.
     
  13. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Commodore Commodore

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    This idea holds promise. In fact, why don't regular starships have Holo-Emitters on sticks that you stick in the ground in a rectangular, or triangular configuration, which would beam out the desired holographic structure(s) and all that? I'm liking this idea ...
     
  14. 137th Gebirg

    137th Gebirg Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Hmmm. Starfleet drones - why not? I don't think we've ever seen anything quite like that in all of Trek, yet the Federation seems to have the tech to do just that. I'm thinking they probably want the real-life-blood factor on the ships, in case they run into a first contact situation where thinking on one's feet may trump a semi-linear holographic playbook. Exploring gasious anomales is one thing, talking to new alien species may be quite another. Although if they were warlike and tried to shoot a holo-crewperson, the look on their faces may be mildly amusing. :)
     
  15. varek

    varek Commander Red Shirt

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    Having holograms initiate First Contact is a great idea! Some people think the UFOs visiting Earth may be operated by robots or androids.
     
  16. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    David Gerrold's novel Space Skimmer (1972) uses pretty much this idea for its starship, it happens. (The book reads like the pilot for a TV series and I wonder if it was a repurposing of a project that fell apart, or an attempt at kicking off a series of novels that never quite happened.)
     
  17. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Premium Member

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    Back to the evilness (or not) of Holodecks...I think it can be argued that while there might not be an evility to them, there could be a evilness to their use...consider: within huge parameters, every aspect a world is yours to create...you bring it to life, and when your duty shift comes around, you cease its existence...your desire, your input, your expectation is that of perfection and real life...battle, training, sex, music, intrigue and everything in between is, in your mind, "real"...in no way am I suggesting that the people, places and things in the 'deck are real...but I am absolutely saying that, to us, the Creators, it is, relative to our existence...we experience life relative to ourselves...is not "life" in a sumptuous holosuite also relative...ergo, creating a reality that you can experience with every sense you have is a form of reality that, when you utter, "Coomputer,
    End Program", ceases to be...
     
  18. 137th Gebirg

    137th Gebirg Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't think aspects of "good" or "evil" should ever be assigned to an inanimate object. Its potential use by an individual for good or bad purposes and how such use is perceived as either good or bad by others makes it moot.

    Sure, the programs running within the holodeck can "act" good or evil based on its programming, but again, that programming came from elsewhere outside the holodeck. I guess this runs back into the whole "is a holo-person really sentient" question, but I would say no.

    I wouldn't even classify Moriarty or holo-Leah Brams sentient, as that would imply sentience on the part of the Enterprise computer systems itself, as the controller of the algorithm. If THAT were true, it would be a very different kettle of fish, but the computer never exhibited signs of sentience before or after that time and, if it did, Deanna Troi would have had to go to trial for murder for crashing it in Generations! :p
     
  19. AgentCoop

    AgentCoop Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Ever play Grand Theft Auto or Skyrim? Those games take place in very detailed worlds populated by hundreds (if not thousands) of artificial people. Should a player suffer an existential crisis every time they turn their game console off?

    Moriarty and The Doctor are special cases. Moriarty was the result of a poorly-worded request to the computer that (credibility regarding computer safeguards aside) basically turned Moriarty into the computer. The Doctor, we are told repeatedly, has a program that is so mind-bogglingly complex that it takes one of the most advanced computers in all of Starfleet to run a single copy of it. I doubt your average holodeck character approaches that kind of complexity.

    This is a good point. I love the character of The Doctor, and I never had a problem with the mobile emitter, but something was lost by giving the character so much autonomy. Part of the pathos of characters like Data and The Doctor is in the inherent tragedy of their quest to grow beyond their nature. When the writers take away their limitations, they're not much different than any other crew member.
     
  20. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Premium Member

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    Thanks, Coop, and I do take your point (and enjoy both your and 'Frakes's posts very much)...

    ...my doubtlessly poorly worded post was not meant to go to an Existential place at all, though when I read your words it kinda does anyway...my point was, looking at the whole of the Holodeck and the Creation within from a Relative viewpoint...how we, the Creators view and expect the 'Deck to be and act...and, more simply, a version of the old adage, ..."if it looks like a Targ and smells like a Targ..." ...well, I am sure you get the picture...