Androids Can Dream of Electric Sheep, Part II: The Evolution in Star Trek: The Next Generation

The evolution of androids in Star Trek: The Next Generation was surprising in many ways.  The android Data on the Enterprise aspired to be human, even attaining an “emotion chip.”  Meanwhile, his twin brother Lor wanted to subjugate humanity and bring on the age of the machines through leadership of the Borgs.  And the predecessor to both, B4, in Star Trek: Nemesis operated on a primitive algorithm.  The introduction of the Borg in the Star Trek series (from The Next Generation to Voyager) also inquired about human aspiration to be individualistic for androids.

The Borg: Dr. Who‘s Cybermen Evolved

The Borg for the Star Trek: The Next Generation series is essentially Dr. Who’s Cybermen evolved.  They both exist with a hive mind, and both assimilate humans.  About the Borgs themselves, they view assimilation as a necessity to evolve, combining computer technology and humanity into the perfect android. This is perhaps the most logical manner to develop an android.

Data and Lor: Conflict of Interest

Data and Lor are two opposite sides of the same coin.  Whereas Data wants to become more human, by installing the emotion chip, Lor wants to enslave humanity under the thumb of machines (at one point, utilizing the Borg).  Lor has emotion although he uses it as a source of vindication against humanity.  Data, on the other hand, lacked emotion for much of the TV series.  However, he maintained his aspiration to be human, even without obtaining the emotion chip later on. In Star Trek: First Contact, through control of the chip at the end, he defeated the Borg queen and defeated the Borg threat in much of the Star Trek series.  

The Element of Emotion: Data’s Aspiration to be Human

This is what means to be human in the eyes of Gene Roddenberry.  This is what means to be human in the eyes of Data and Dr. Soon, his creator.  It is a fundamental element of humanity.  However, human emotions are as diverse as the shades of the rainbow and can be beneficial or crippling, depending on external events, internal conflicts or combinations of both.  Data experienced both.  However, he never had a chance to fully become human — an android Pinocchio that ultimately gave his life for his crew in Star Trek: Nemisis.

Technological Progress

Current technological developments have not given to current programs the element of emotion.  Most of the “emotion” that is programmed is within the cause-effect algorithm and very superficial (e.g., the eyes or brows move or smile) but it is fixed within the cause-effect algorithm.  The idea of the chip is the most logical and most feasible at this point.  Like computers back in its early days with a large machines, the chip would be a complete motherboard in its initial development minimally.  It would require large consumption of power to drive such an algorithm, as it would have to be contextual and essentially have artificial intelligence. The development of quad processors currently can help, but it is still limited in context of artificial intelligence.  Progress in algorithms and technology still require some leaps and bounds before emotional programming can develop.

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