"Latent Image" and tthe Doctor's breakdown

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Voyager' started by sonak, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Is it just me or does the doctor's breakdown seem like bad programming? Wouldn't programmers for an EMH program know that a situation would come up where the Doctor would have to make decisions among patients that would inevitably result in one of them dying? Putting aside the absurdity of two patients in a scenario having EXACTLY EQUAL chances of survival(wouldn't their relative health at the time, genetics, etc. mean that it would be impossible for both to respond the same way to an injury?) an EMH program has to realize that patients under his care would die. Heck, if he breaks down over this, what about a scenario where an EMH might mis-diagnose something, leading to a preventable death from the wrong treatment or treatment not given?
     
  2. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Well the Voyager EMH is a bit of a unique case, as the EMH was designed to suppliment the onboard medical staff not replace them. So I doubt they even thought that the EMH would be the only Doctor onbaord a ship.

    But you could say why wasn't one of them placed in stasis, so one could be treated then the other.
     
  3. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    The issue in "Latent Image" wasn't from the Doc's original programming, but because he was left on and allowed to grow for many years. He SHOULD have been fine picking someone at random, but since he'd grown to know and liked someone better and chose them, the conflict arose.
     
  4. JanewayRulz!

    JanewayRulz! Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I look at Latent Image as the real "birth" of sentience in the EMH. He has a problem that software engineers CAN'T program away. LI was his Koybayashi Maru and he failed.

    Remember what Kirk said to Savik...

    KIRK: A no-win situation is a possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you?
    SAAVIK: No sir. It has not.
    KIRK: How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?

    Of course there can be two situations with equal probability of survival/death.

    How one chooses and how well one deals with the choice is the stuff of great literature and personal growth.
     
  5. Ro_Laren

    Ro_Laren Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, perhaps Dr. Zimmerman did program the original EMH with some sort of algorithm to choose between two patients. But, who knows how much B'Elanna & company messed up his programming by their changes.
     
  6. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I guess, but it seems like an example in Trek, like in "I, Borg" where the writers seem to think that a computer program or AI will just have break downs over relatively minor things that shouldn't really trip up a program.
     
  7. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The EMH has got some nerve thinking that 1) he's the only doctor who's ever lost a patient, and 2) he's somehow "above" having to make decisions as to which patient should live and which should die. Every doctor in history has had to make decisions like that; the EMH isn't "better" just because he's a computer program. He deserved to be slapped because of that stupid ego trip he had.

    That being said: Obviously the EMH wouldn't deliberately let Jetal die, but maybe it was subconscious. In which case he's obviously not responsible. No one is ever responsible for a subconscious act - that's logically impossible.

    And let's be frank: Anything that helps him make a decision, given two absolutely equal choices, is kind of a good thing. Either Harry dies, Jetal dies, or both die. The EMH was at a roadblock, so to speak: he couldn't decide. He was waffling about it, and something had to break that deadlock.

    So maybe his friendship with Harry subconsciously influenced his decision. That may seem harsh, but if the alternative is that both Harry and Jetal die, it's better that only ONE of them die; anything that helps him make a decision as to who, even if it's totally 'automatic' and blameless, is better than nothing. Something had to help the Doctor make a decision, so even if it was something arbitrary like this, that's better than the Doctor making no decision at all and letting both patients die.

    The very fact that the Doctor felt guilty about it, is reason enough to let him off the hook. If he was as bad as he accused himself of being, he wouldn't have cared. He clearly did care, so he had the presence of mind to feel bad about it. That's entirely normal - sentient beings do that. It's part of what it means to be sentient.

    On the other hand: Perhaps it wasn't the Doctor's friendship with Harry that (subconsciously) influenced him, but the fact that Harry was a bridge officer. Being one, Harry was - arguably - more valuable to the crew than Jetal was. Somebody should have pointed that out.
     
  8. Danny99

    Danny99 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly. In his own words, he was only meant to "short term emergency supplement" to the medical staff. His program grew, hence the dilemma.
     
  9. Akiraprise

    Akiraprise Vice Admiral Moderator

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    Can the Doctor have a subconscious? Should he have really been able to daydream and lose himself from time to time? He is a computer program capable of performing thousands of calculations a second (maybe). He should have immediately calculated that Kim was more valuable to the crew than Jetal without any issues.
     
  10. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ The Doctor is a sentient life form, therefore yes, he can have a subconscious. Kinda goes with the territory.
     
  11. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    @Mr Laser Beam

    But real Doctors have had years of training and experience that led them build up a barrier between their personal feelings and their medical decisions. The Doctor is an emotional infant, his personal feelings were just beginning to exist, he didn't have that barrier.

    I think the episode would have worked better if they hadn't approached it that way and started after erasing his memory.
     
  12. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    I think if he were really being objective, from a species' survival point of view - or even a lost starship crew's view - a more human doctor might have chosen the "baby oven" over the "sperm donor." If you'll forgive the shorthand. As I'm sure the doctor was well aware, being programmed with virtually all of medical history, a mother having to make a choice between a drowning infant or toddler will more often choose the toddler, since it has survived the multivariate health risks of infancy. This is arguably a species-hardwired instinct.

    In other words, all things being truly equal between the patients' chances of survival, a human would have made a certain kind of choice that a program, being PC (ha), did not make. The EMH lacked "gender bias." So you could argue it made him less human, in fact. Or at least less chivalrous, which, Harry certainly would have been.

    It's not about inequality but survival of a tribe. All things being equal, how could you not consider reproductive fitness? Yes, these were individuals, but they were also part of a starship crew on a lifelong mission. What kind of medical officer does not consider the long term impact on the ship and crew?

    Ok, I know, they only have an hour to tell a story....
     
  13. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Are you suggesting that the EMH should have let Jetal live on the pretext that, as a possible mother, she could have mothered babies who would increase the crew's gene pool?

    I suppose a computer program would have considered that, but the point of the whole mission is simply to get home again. And there are plenty of other female crewmembers who could have filled this role. There's no danger of Voyager's crew not having a valid gene pool simply because of Jetal's death.
     
  14. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    All things being equal, that's even less reason to consider Harry. Plenty of male crew could replace him, and even a vial of his own stuff could be harvested and still get the job done, ladies.

    Had they been given the choice themselves, I bet Harry would have won the argument and have self-sacrificed, and I bet Jetal would have let him. Just opinion.
     
  15. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The problem was that the Doctor made his decision based on personal preference (he “liked“ one person more, so he saved that one), which was never intended by the creator. It wasn't a logical decision that his ethical subroutines were designed for.
     
  16. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That argument would work under some conditions but not these. In this case:
    A) The slowest they expected to get home was 70 years, which is not enough generations for long term generational attrition to come into play.
    B) Exponential population increase would strain the carrying capacity of the ship, so maintaining equilibrium is more important than supercharging reproduction potential.
    C) The death rate among crewmembers is a more imminent concern than future reproduction rates. Skillsets that keep crew alive is more important than future hypothetical reproduction odds.
    D) It's the 24th century, if ship population really became a problem a generation or two down the road they have all kinds of artificial means to produce offspring.
     
  17. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    ^ Ok Jirin, I get that. Good arguments for the longterm. Not to naysay, but here's where other things come in:

    Mortality rate - you're assuming a steady curve, when in Starfleet, it can also spike in either direction due to unforseen circumstances: Borg assimilation, spacetime anomaly, political differences, virus, or alien insurrection. Each and every crewmember on the ship was vital to its survival, since the Delta Quadrant offered so many interesting and surprising new ways to destroy a starship and crew.

    At any moment you might be facing the loss of half your crew. The Displaced aliens could just have easily beamed them into space and cut the risk of losing the ship to a fraction of a percent. The Devore could easily have made off with 90% of their crew in irons, but voluntarily pulled off due to the loss of credibility Voyager eventually represented.

    My argument is not theoretical but in fact, a very real and pressing concern to maximize the crew's survivability in the short, medium and long terms. I see what you mean about equilibrium and mine is a worst case scenario. Of course the story was really about the EMH's growing friendship with the crew - and so, his humanity - and how it was putting him through an identity crisis that threatened his very matrix.

    Given the risks of starship duty in the DQ, I still believe my hypothetical thought experiment may still have something to it. Not that the "chivalry" aspect could not have worked the other way, it very well could have. But in terms of reproduction? There would be no way to know what tomorrow held in store for each and every one of them. A human male's response might skew toward saving the female, and the female response might - actually I have no idea. In this way, the EMH might have been more PC than male, but more human than PC.

    Or maybe this is just gender bias, but reproductive factors drive much of human behavior.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  18. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Particularly as a (human) child born today is not going to be able to contribute meaningfully to Voyager's capabilities for over a decade.
     
  19. exodus

    exodus Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Missing the point.
    The EMH would have this issue if he was becoming sentient.
    The dilemma isn't a computer one, it's a human emotional one. Dealing with death isn't a minor issue for anyone.
     
  20. Lord Manitou

    Lord Manitou Commander Red Shirt

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    What makes the whole episode cute is the fact the doctor regarded absolutism above anything else. His CPU (or is it in the ship) couldn't co-exist with his programming. Of course, he wasn't designed to be on all the time, and he wasn't designed to have exterior sub-routines. You said the doctor might be medically incorrect to be too absorbed about these matters.
    The EMH didn't have a team of programmers to create him, but only Dr. Zimmerman. Dr. Zimmerman had his books and, it it just one person, the result would be his pet or Nemesis. He could have programmed his personality as a reflection of himself, but Dr. Zimmerman is 50 million lt. yrs away.