Mission Log had an interesting discussion about reality and the holodeck.
I heard two themes: what makes something alive, and what makes a situation real. Here is what their discussion made me think.
- What makes something alive?
This was dropped pretty quickly on, but I’d like to add my thoughts on it. It’s an especially interesting question in 11001001 because we can compare Data, Minuet, and the Bynars. Each of them are dependent on computers for existence.
I think the actual question being asked was what makes something sentient. I’ll go with:
an entity possessing
- a will, and
- the ability to transcend its programing
Following this, I see no possibility that Minuet is sentient. She is intelligent, but shows only a hint of consciousness, no will, and no ability to transcend her programing.
I notice that a lot of the time when talking about these things we run into a vocabulary problem. If we’re all machines just different types, how do we make the distinctions between a cat and Data? Yet “sentient being” is a little cold.
So I prefer John Scalzi’s way of referring to a sentient being (regardless of species) as a person.
Data meets all four factors. So from here on out can we call him a person? Please?
Minuet, on the other hand, is not a person. She is just a good computer program.
- What makes a situation real
When it comes to the holodeck, we can lose sight of the fact that the situations the Enterprise crew enters into are all artificially created to provide an illusion. I hypothesize we can use this formula to determine whether or not a situation is real.
Artificially created + intentionally illusory = not real situation
In the Star Trek to come, I’ll be testing this equation.
So if a situation feels real in almost every way but isn’t real, are the emotions they elicit real?
I’m going to go with yes because everything we feel is response to stimulus, and whether or not situations are real, they elicit natural responses from us.
So a person can feel real love for a program that is an illusion created for him to love.
Ken asked what would such a person be missing out on. I can answer: a loving relationship with another person. Who’s to say missing out on that’s bad? In fact experiencing a loving relationship, whether or not it’s with a person or a program, seems like a good thing.
Consider the alternative. Ken’s example of sadomasochism didn’t go far enough, I think. Two consenting people can engage in S&M without it being the opposite of a loving relationship.
However, imagine Riker was killing programs in the holodeck. Not even in a war simulation, but imagine he was enjoying strangling a program walking along the sidewalk in a city. The experience would be eliciting the emotions of a murderer and he would have the real feelings of a murderer.
It seems a little bit like a serial killer killing cats before people.
At which point, yes I think Picard would have to reevaluate his opinion of Riker.
Interesting discussion, but now on to my thoughts on Too Short a Season.
Admiral Jameson’s a Survivor
The heart of this story is all the trouble Jameson caused because he doesn’t want to die and the ways he rationalizes that desire.
It begins forty-five years ago. Karnas takes the crew of a Federation ship hostage. He kills the first two negotiators, and for some reason, they send another one. They send Jameson. He gets there and he knows he’s screwed. He’s going to get killed unless he supplies Karnas weapons. So, he does… in violation of the Prime Directive.
Rationalization #1 he had no other way to save the federation crew.
Rationalization #2 he gives weapons to all of Karnas’s enemies because that’ll balance things off and make up for his doing what he had to do to stay alive.
That leads to 45 years of war on Mordan IV.
Now peace has come at last, but Jameson’s old. He still doesn’t want to die, so he uses his position to violate the laws of Cerberus II that prevent aliens from getting their special de-aging treatment.
Rationalization #3 Actually I don’t know how he rationalizes doing that. Maybe he just thinks he deserves it.
He gets enough for both he and his wife, but he doesn’t give her any.
Rationalization #4 He had to be sure it worked.
A second hostage case occurs on Mordan IV, so Jameson takes his wife’s share.
Rationalization #5 He had to be strong enough to make up for his weakness before.
He leads the away team down into tunnels, down passages that have been proven to be a dead end, and continues despite evidence that it’s just a bad idea.
Rationalization #6 (and I’m extrapolating here) He’s got to prove that he did the right thing by taking the anti-aging medicine. (Plus I guess we can’t discount the brashness that youth is making him feel).
Finally, he realizes all his attempts at reobtaining youth were futile, and he’s about to die. Now he does the thing he should’ve done forty five years ago. He goes down to the Mordan IV to die.
Imagine all the trouble that could’ve been saved if he hadn’t fought his death so hard and just let Karnas kill him all those years ago.
I wonder if Starfleet would’ve sent a fourth negotiator…
Morals, messages, and meanings
- Don’t compound mistakes – which is what Admiral Jameson does by taking the overdose of anti-aging medicine to gain enough strength to make up for his earlier mistakes.
- Accept old age
- Judge actions, not words – Throughout the episode people take others at their word and pay no heed to what they are actually doing.
- Trust your instincts – the crew suspect something’s off about Jameson, but they constantly give him the benefit of the doubt.
- Stick to the Org Chart – Again we see a corrupt person at the top, and all the subordinates reluctant to do anything about it.
- Admirals are dicks – I think this is related to the idea that the policymakers don’t quite know what’s going on and that the people in the field do. The prevalence of this way of thinking has got to be what’s influenced the creation of so many bad admirals in Star Trek.
- Don’t lie to your wife – if you’re doing something that you need to lie about, it’s wrong.
- There’s no profit in revenge
- Old sins haunt
Does it hold up?
I guess. I don’t hate it. It didn’t offend me, so that’s something.
This episode reminds me of Where No One Has Gone Before, an episode where the crew cannot make any meaningful choices. Someone else comes onboard, does all the stuff, and then resolves it.
Tasha and Worf had only one line each.
Troi is used badly.
Of course there’s the old age makeup was, but what about those annoying uses of shadow?
Plus, Jameson is a even less likable than Kosinski was.
Then there are the infeasible parts of the story, for example Riker lets Picard transport down into a combat situation.
That’s not to say that the production was terrible. There were some interesting directorial decisions. Shots were well framed, and it looked like the first time we’ve ever seen a steady cam on TNG. There’s a shot following Picard coming out of the turbolift that could’ve been in Firefly.
But overall it was barely OK.