TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Oct 21, 2012.

?

Rate The Persistence of Memory.

  1. Outstanding

    71 vote(s)
    55.9%
  2. Above Average

    42 vote(s)
    33.1%
  3. Average

    12 vote(s)
    9.4%
  4. Below Average

    1 vote(s)
    0.8%
  5. Poor

    1 vote(s)
    0.8%
  1. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2011
    Location:
    The Black Country, England
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    If someone suffers a brain injury and recovers, but some memory, motor control, behavior, character etc. change (albeit slightly), it is still the same person. Is this not analogous to Data 2.0 ?
     
  2. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    Per Ardua
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    It would be more akin to taking the memories from a dead brain and implanting them into a live one with a much higher IQ.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    I don't think the phrase "a copy of Data's emotions" is even meaningful. Emotions aren't files, they're more like subroutines, programming that triggers certain responses to certain stimuli. They're hardware/firmware rather than software.

    B-4 didn't have an emotion chip, and as per the literature, Data didn't either by the time of Nemesis. (The movie seemed to forget the emotion chip had ever existed.) By that point, Data would've retained the memory of events that had emotional impact for him, but without the capacity to process emotion, he wouldn't have been able to understand or re-experience the emotional content of those memories. Data Jr. does have full emotional capacity in his neural net, so he'd probably be able to remember those emotional memories and form new ones.

    On the other hand, if the cognitive routines necessary for comprehending and processing emotion were physically stored within the chip (which seems to be the case, since Data apparently didn't retain his emotional capability without the chip active or installed), the emotional component of his memories might have been lost. We think of a memory as a single integrated whole, but its parts are actually stored separately and the brain reconstructs them from multiple stored elements. So you can remove some aspect of a memory altogether, or even of a real-time perception -- like the way brain-damaged people can be unaware of the existence of a whole limb or side of their body, not only failing to perceive it but no longer realizing that it ever existed.


    That's why I think joined Trill are an appropriate analogy. It's not a black-and-white question, either he's the same or different. It's somewhere in between. It's unusual enough that we have to be open to changing our definitions of identity.

    But is it really the same person? We assume that because we see the same face, hear the same voice, but is that too superficial an analysis? For that matter, am I the same person I was 20 years ago? Or have I become a different person who retains many memories and habits of the person I was then, but has also lost a lot of who that person was and gained other attributes? Identity is not a simple thing to define. It's unwise to leave your assumptions unexamined when dealing with a situation outside your past experience.

    And the situation here doesn't fit your analogy very well. This is a different positronic brain, constructed to house a different personality, with its experiential memories wiped and replaced with a copy of a copy of the memories from the original positronic brain. Also, brain damage tends to take elements away; this new brain has added abilities and enhanced performance. It's kind of the reverse of brain damage.
     
  4. shanejayell

    shanejayell Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2009
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    In some ways it's the opposite... a person with a damaged brain got uploaded to a fully functional one, almost.
     
  5. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2006
    Location:
    Star Trekkin Across the universe.
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Except in the case of Joined Trills the new body they move to has a living conscious person and their mind in there. From what I understand NuData's body was mindless at the time.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Define "mindless." As the book itself points out, and as I've been pointing out in post after post already, a mind isn't a monolithic thing. On the one hand there are the memories, and on the other hand there is the substrate that contains them, the hardware and firmware. Data's memories are not "his mind." They're one component of his mind; the physical brain that contained them was the other. It's not like pouring water into a glass. The brain itself helped shape his behavior, thought patterns, and personality. It's not just an empty vessel.

    So what we have here is a brain that's hardwired to think and behave like Noonien Soong, but that's forgotten all of Soong's personal memories and had them replaced with Data's. But because it's still Soong's brain structurally, it should have Soong's ingrained patterns of thought. And combining those with the memories and knowledge of Data should produce a new synergy.

    Granted, previous Trek hasn't exactly provided a lot of foundation for this idea. Usually it treats mind transfers as if it were just pouring water into a glass, as if the physical mind itself contributed nothing to the personality or identity but were just an empty vessel for it. Which is completely ridiculous and unrealistic, but unfortunately a pretty standardized depiction. Let's see, we've got "Return to Tomorrow," "Turnabout Intruder," "The Schizoid Man," "The Passenger," "Body and Soul"... as a rule, the assumption seems to be that the transferred personality is essentially unaffected by the substrate it occupies. Although "Turnabout" did imply that the subjects' brains were rejecting the personalities imprinted on them, and "Schizoid" did seem to suggest that Graves hadn't completely replaced Data's consciousness so much as suppressed it.

    But my reading of The Persistence of Memory tells me that Dave is taking a different, more credible approach and acknowledging that Data 2.0 is an amalgam of Data's memories and the Soong android's ingrained personality traits.
     
  7. Bonzo the Fifth

    Bonzo the Fifth Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    The problem is that we don't have a hard and fast definition of 'identity'. Soong's character hit it best when he mused that, given the time and resources, he could use nanites/nanoprobes to pull a Ship of Theseus on himself for maximum assurance regarding identity. Even then, though, there's not a way to know whether continuity of consciousness would survive.

    It's the continuity of consciousness that's the real problem here. The truth is, we simply don't know how any of these issues can resolve themselves in real life. Maybe consciousness is malleable enough to survive the sort of indignities one would experience in Trill joining, uploading, resurrection, or even the dematerialization and rematerialization of transport.

    But then again, it may not.

    And how would we ever know?

    Unless the Betazoid or the Q have some special ability to discern that we could take advantage of to determine it, the answer can't be found.

    There's a book called "The Philosophy of Star Trek" that tackles this issue vis a vis the Trill and transporters specifically, along with other crazy identity weirdness in Trek, and I like a concept they brought in as a resolution called something like 'closest continuing individual' or something to that effect (unfortunately I can't find my copy at the moment to verify, can someone help me out here?).

    If we can accept that the person that comes out the other end of a transporter is the same person who went in, or that James Kirk is still Kirk even after he's been split into two people with different personalities and reintegrated, or that Spock would be the same after dying, being reconstituted and having his katra restored to his body, then I see no problem expanding the concept to include what has happened to Data as a closest continuer to the Data of old.

    Is he an unbroken consciousness? No. But then, what happens when he goes through transport? When he's shut down? When you flip his switch? When Q turned him (temporarily) human? We accepted those changes. Why not this?
     
  8. Turtletrekker

    Turtletrekker Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2003
    Location:
    Tacoma, Washington
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    When did Q turn Data human? I remember Riker/Q offering to do so, but Data refusing. I remember Q giving Data a giggle fit. At that time, Q stated that he never "curse" Data by making him human.

    As for the book itself, I voted "outstanding". My only complaint would be that I think I would have preferred that the "Noonian" section had been broken up a bit instead of one section, but that is a very minor nit.
     
  9. Bonzo the Fifth

    Bonzo the Fifth Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Possibly something closer to parthenogenesis or cloning, since we're talking about a form of reproduction more intimate than merely having a child. We're talking about an identical state of being, same memories and experiences, possibly translated into a different medium, like the duplicated Chrichton from Farscape or the Thomas Riker/Will Riker conundrum.

    How do we treat that? How is that experienced by the individual involved. Did they 'die', and if so, should we mourn them? I don't really know how to react to something like that, not really. But it doesn't have the feel of 'death'

    And yet it does.


    One could make the same argument in regards to the transporters and how they're able to recreate individuals after disassembly, even though as far as I can tell, subjects aren't put to sleep or deactivated in any sense during the process.

    Granted, I'm not saying it makes any sense in a real-life context, but it's worth considering since it is something that occurs in-universe on a regular basis, so it would seem like there's a cause to suspect it's possible without extraordinary effort.


    From a 'real world' perspective, that's how I would see this working, as copying a dynamic, fully operating brain, whether organic or artificial, does seem a bit unfeasable. But I suppose that depends on whether you think that an artificial consciousness is mere software or if it's as bound to it's medium as our own consciousness appears to be. If it's software, or can be actualized that way, I suppose you could copy, clone, merge, etc. any way you wanted to. But if it's bound by hardware, that would complicate matters, wouldn't it?

    Unfortunately, we just don't really know anything about how positronic brains work. And Star Trek seems to have played both sides of the argument in that, sometimes, it seems that Data is mere software in an amulbatory body, which could transfer from it to the Enterprise computer, to other computer systems, etc. Other times, he seems just as trapped in his brain as we are. They did the same thing to the Doctor in VGR, which made even less sense, in my opinion.

    But if memories were all that made a man, wouldn't Data have gone mad when he absorbed Lore's memories and experiences or had a similar cascade failure as Lal when he downloaded her? It seems odd that Soong would simply erase himself and turn himself into a clone of Data. Something about that doesn't quite ring true, especially given the 'dream sequence' where he wakes Data. I'm getting away from science and more into the metaphysical at this point (Metaphycial cybernetics!), but that scene impressed me with the idea that, in that moment, Soong, Data and B-4 were all distinct and full individuals. Were Data just a memory substrate with no 'soul', I can't see that scene playing out the same way. But at this point, I'm not arguing from a position of science so much as my perspective as a reader, so take that as you will..
     
  10. Bonzo the Fifth

    Bonzo the Fifth Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    You're right, I misremembered the episode in question. My bad.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    But the key word is right there: continuity. In the case of Soong's example, joining, or even transporting, there is evidently continuity of consciousness (we've seen in "Realm of Fear" that people are conscious within the transporter beam, that they have uninterrupted awareness throughout the process). But this case is clearly different. Data only copied his memories into B-4. It was never intended to be a transfer of his complete self, of his personality. It was only his stored knowledge and experiences. So what was loaded into the Soong android was not the entirety of Data's consciousness. The consciousness comes from the android; it's just had its own memories overwritten with Data's.


    Actually I've never been entirely convinced that post-fal tor pan Spock is the same individual as pre-Genesis Spock. Even if you do surmise that the mind melds allowed continuity of consciousness (which could be the case if you assume telepathy is a form of quantum entanglement, providing continuity in the same way a transporter does, as discussed here), we were explicitly shown that he'd lost much of his memory and needed to be re-educated. And considering that the brain is shaped by life experience and the physical body of the Genesis-cloned Spock had very different and briefer experiences than the original, it follows that there should've been some differences in psychology and personality as well.

    But at least Spock's katra was placed into a body and brain that were genetically identical to the original, so they would've "fit" together relatively well and the changes wouldn't have been too great, memory loss aside. Data 2.0's brain has significant differences of design and performance, and that should affect how he thinks and behaves.


    Why do we have to "accept" anything? Why should we be in haste to pick a side? For a question this complex, a situation this novel, isn't the intelligent response to reserve judgment, to keep an open mind? After all, if Data 2.0 himself isn't jumping to a conclusion about who he is, why should the rest of us?


    I dispute "identical." The medium is part of the message. A brain is not merely an empty vessel that a self is poured into. Part of what Data was -- his knowledge and experiential memory -- was combined with part of what the Soong android was -- his neurology and resulting thought patterns. Not identical at all.

    To make a crude analogy, when I open a WordPerfect file in MS Word, it isn't always identical. Because the software running it is different, there are differences in how it manifests and performs. There are things I could do with the document in WP that I can't do with it in Word, and vice-versa. Similarly, a given website viewed in Opera can perform differently than it would in Explorer or Firefox. Or a game written for Windows 5 may play differently on Windows 8. There need to be compatibility patches enabled, and even then there can be differences. The platform is part of what determines the performance. And a mind, a personality, is performance, activity, process, not just inert knowledge.



    Except that Dave told us how they work, at least where this book is concerned. The text states outright that only Data's memories were saved and placed into a brain with significant hardware and firmware differences. The text states outright that Data 2.0 feels like a different person and is thus unsure if he can be validly regarded as the same individual. All I'm doing is elaborating on the assumptions the book itself is apparently making.


    I think the book explained why Soong had to sacrifice himself in this distinct case, though I don't recall specifics. Again, I don't see the value of treating every remotely similar situation as exactly identical. Each case is different.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  12. Bonzo the Fifth

    Bonzo the Fifth Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    But yeah, I imagine that you would almost certainly have to 'die' to make a transfer like that work. I mean, even on present day computers, if you try to copy an active file while it's being fiddled with, you're asking for trouble. I imagine that problem only grows more hairy as you increase the complexity, so the only solution is to induce a static state and shut down all brain activity for the duration of the procedure.
     
  13. Bonzo the Fifth

    Bonzo the Fifth Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    I think we're on the same page about this, actually. My argument isn't necessarily that he's the same. And I feel identically re: reserving judgement.

    In the end, the only real answer for this is simply going to have to come from Data himself. Personally, I don't think either answer is right. He isn't the same being as he was before his death, but neither is he something completely different. It's going to be up to him to decide what and who he is now. It's not really our decision, it's his.

    After all, going back to the Farscape example. Both John Crichtons decided they were the real Crichton, and the show never gave us any reason to believe either was wrong, even if it's mathematically nonsensical. But by contrast, when Will Riker was twinned in essentially the same way, we know who the 'real' Riker is, and to an extent, even the characters seem to recognize that. As it should have been. Identity is as much a personal choice as it is a product of your creation. We can argue about it as much as we want, but in the end, only Data can decide whether or not he's 'real' or whether he's Memorex.
     
  14. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2006
    Location:
    Star Trekkin Across the universe.
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Execpt for the whole it not being him really renders the point of the film meaningless, and kind of goes against how the other films treat Spock.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Meaning is subjective, and the way people are treated is often more a matter of perception than reality. But since TVH itself showed clearly that Spock had lost much of his memory, it's actually kind of inconsistent that later stories treated him as no different from the original. They unfortunately treated the resurrection as a simple reset button, rather than taking the more meaningful route of having it take Spock to a new place character-wise and leave some real consequences.

    Fortunately, Data's "resurrection" here does change him in significant ways and opens new story directions for him, so I'd call that meaningful.
     
  16. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    As I understand The Persistence of Memory, Soong himself isn't necessarily permanently dead. His consciousness has been interrupted, but his memory files are saved. Were Data 2.0 able to build an duplicate of his new body and install the same software and transfer Soong's memories in, then you'd have Soong 2.0 back again (or maybe Soong 1.5).

    The same seems to be true for Lal, who could be resurrected whether through the construction of a new positronic matrix into which her memory could be downloaded, or through reactivating her current positronic matrix. For that matter, if Data wanted to he could conceivably build a new matrix to contain Lore's memories. (For that matter, I wonder if anything could be done with the memories of the Omicron Theta colonists.)

    Question: Does my understanding of what's going on make sense?
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    ^Maybe. But I'd like to think it wouldn't be that simple to replicate what Soong achieved in bringing Data (approximately) back. I think it carries more weight as a rare and exceptional thing than as something that could easily be duplicated.
     
  18. Kertrats47

    Kertrats47 Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 3, 2010
    Location:
    Alberta, Canada
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Just posted my review! Loved this one (as usual for David Mack), and I can't wait to see where this is going!
     
  19. CaptainDonovin

    CaptainDonovin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2006
    Location:
    Labrador City. woof
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    About at the halfway point, loving it so far.
     
  20. E-DUB

    E-DUB Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2011
    Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

    Without getting too philosophical, I'd have to say that an entity which remembers my memories, thinks my thoughts, and feels my emotions is me.

    I remember a book called "The Prospect of Immortality" by one of the pioneers in the field of cryonics (freezing folks in hope of later revival), a segment of which dealt extensively with the issue of identity. The book has long since passed from my hands but I remember that segment had a series of "thought experiments" which could be quite germane to this discussion.