Is the Data character more human than he's given credit for?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by los2188, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. Merlanthe

    Merlanthe Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 10, 2012
    Quote from TNG episode The Offspring

    Lal: Then why do you still try to emulate humans? What purpose does it serve except to remind you that you are incomplete?

    Data: I have asked myself that many times as I have struggled to be more human, Lal. Until I finally realized that it is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be better than we are. It does not matter that we will never reahc our ultimate goal. The effort yeilds its own rewards.

    I always found it kinda ironic that in trying to explain to Lal why he struggles to be more human Data ends up describing what it is to be human, at leats imho. This entire episode makes it very difficult to believe in Data as an emotionless being. Even Dr Crusher within the episode states that she finds it hard to believe that Data is incapable of providing Lal with love.
  2. Mr_Homn

    Mr_Homn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 30, 2010
    I think Data is incapable (outside of unique situations like Lore or Q's tampering) of feeling base emotions: anger, fear, sadness, joy, surprise, disgust

    He seems to be limited to some kind of desire/ambition, though. are those really emotions though? He just wants to get from point A to point B. It's a goal to him. It can be thought of as quite mathematical. There's not much *feeling* involved necessarily
  3. Genesis

    Genesis Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Oct 1, 2012
    Except at the end of The Most Toys he fires the disruptor at Fajo, an action of anger. (Unless you really want to believe what he said about it maybe being triggered by the transporter, which was ridiculous because if the transporter could make a weapon discharge everyone would shoot their balls off with their own phasers whenever they beam anywhere)

    Except he has a self-preservation instinct that makes him try to avoid unnecessary danger and damage, which is all fear really is.

    Except he can feel loss, the lack of someone he cared for (Tasha Yar, Lal). That's why he had to download Lal's memories at the end of Offspring, and why he kept the picture of Tasha (which he had no other reason for keeping; it's not like Data is capable of ever forgetting what someone looks like). Isn't missing someone's company, or the way they enriched your life, one of the greatest forms of sadness?

    Surprise definitely isn't a base emotion, but Data shows that pretty much every time something bizarre happens.

    Now, I fully believe Data *believes* he doesn't feel emotions, and that he feels them differently, in a much more muted and less all-consuming manner than most humans. It's like the difference between a placid lake and a raging river. Just because you can't hear the lake roaring like the river, just because it's still and won't bash you against rocks if you jump in, those things don't make it stop being water.

    In the end, though, it seems like the writers of the show wanted to leave it intentionally open to interpretation. So annoying, lol.
  4. T'Preea

    T'Preea Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 5, 2012
    Stimulating Data's Synaptic Pathways.
    I agree with Genesis in the sense that the emotion chip destroyed what made Data special. Yes, he may not have functioned like a real human in the sense that he could not feel the way we do; but he still "felt" emotion in his own way. I do think that Data behaved more human than he was given credit for. He expressed love, affection; desire, anger and frustration in his own way. That's what made him who he is.
  5. Mr_Homn

    Mr_Homn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 30, 2010
    That's true, I forgot about that. It's definitely the most compelling evidence that he can feel anger. It's possible he may have decided at the time that he would be saving the lives of others by ending Fajo's life, and so he would see it as a logical decision, but that's a reach.

    Now, that I also feel is a reach. Trying to stay alive doesn't have to be motivated by fear, it could just be simple programming.

    I'm not even sure if he does have much of a self preservation instinct, he often seems puts himself in harms way quite a few times to help others or accomplish the mission at hand. This could be said for many starfleet officers, of course. But data certainly never shows any hint of fear throughout the television series. (except maybe when lore was screwing with him)

    I would argue he is simply imitating human behavior here with the tasha hologram, perhaps in an effort to understand humans more. He might think that if he emulates this behavior enough, it could spark emotion somehow.

    As for Lal, I just think it was a logical thing for him to do. He had the capability to download her memories, and he did so, because why not? It might even help him understand emotion more since he could have her memories.

    I'm wondering what makes you so sure of that. It has been a long held well regarded theory that Surprise is one of the core, basic human emotions, as are all the others I listed (anger, fear, sadness, joy, surprise, disgust). Of course there are other theories as well.

    I would argue that data does not show "surprise", but rather that he emulates a human response of surprise/fascination at times.

    I think a lot of his "emotional responses" are often just him emulating humans in order to 1.) make them feel more comfortable around him as part of his programming and 2.) try to understand these emotions more, like the old saying "fake it till you make it"

    I most certainly agree with that as well. Dramatically, it worked well for Lore, but it was a horrible idea to make it work with Data and killed a lot of what made his character interesting.
  6. Dream

    Dream Admiral Admiral

    Dec 2, 2001
    Hotel Transylvania
    Data worked better as a character that was always trying to learn more about humans, but never quite getting there himself.

    Hated the emotion chip and how it was used in GEN for mostly cheap laughs. The writers even ignored it completey and went back to no emotion chip Data in the last two movies!
  7. FreddyE

    FreddyE Captain Captain

    Oct 15, 2009
    IMHO Spiner really played him as having at least small "traces" of emotions. He just seemed to lack the capacity to really express them or recognise their existance and meaning in the first place. I see the emotion chip not as something that actually gives him emotions of itsself, but more as a kind of "magnifier"..for something that was already there.
  8. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 18, 2009
    Here is the recent idea that I've seen written about Data and emotion.

    Dr Soon had already created an android with emotion, but Lore ended up being psychotic, so Data was created-without an emotion chip.

    Data seems to go through all the motions of feeling, but cannot classify it. Like a gap is missing.

    However, I like classical view on Data; He doesn't have emotions, he just has a set of desires and goals, and even those are programs.

    Yet he stills tries to be 'human' but is always an sentient computer looking from the outside. He comes off more interesting that way.

    It's true, after the movies gave him his emotion chip, Data became too gimmicky.

    They went right back to giving him the ability to flip off the chip, even though it was claimed in the first movie, the effects was not reversible.
  9. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 15, 2012
    I suppose it depends on how you define "being human." Is it biological? Is it a mental state of being?

    At the core Data is an android programed to emulate humans, or at least the best examples thereof. It's what he is and it's his primary function.

    Data's character evolution would argue towards the later definition, that striving to be more and better than he currently is, is what defines his humanity. Then again by that definition it really is fundamentally racist. By it's very name it implies that only humans are capable of being more than they are. Somewhat surprising that the only time the Federation gets called on this is during STVI.
  10. Eris

    Eris Ensign Newbie

    Feb 28, 2011
    I agree with sonak's transporter ghost. It's not possible for a sentient being to be devoid of all emotion. You can attribute his apparently emotional behaviour, say his self-preservation instinct or his loyalty, to a "program", but then you're depriving him of sentience in that area. If he's only loyal because he's programmed to be loyal, then he doesn't deserve the credit for it, surely.

    As for what the writers intended, that's a different matter. We were constantly told Data lacks emotion or humanity, but he frequently adopts human mannerisms. Think about it: if you met Data would you consider him inhuman, or just a little rigid? I think they were ambiguous on this. But by Redemption II they must've been trying to suggest that he apes human emotions when called upon to do so.
  11. T'Preea

    T'Preea Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 5, 2012
    Stimulating Data's Synaptic Pathways.
    He was also more human like in the sense that he was a free thinking Sentient. He was loyal to a fault, yes; but if he was put into a dangerous situation, he would find any way to save himself if it were possible. He wouldn't blindly sacrifice himself without first exhausting every available option.