Why was Data so unique?

The other ST threads reminded me of something I have always wondered. With the exceptions of Lor, the other “brother” Data had they found in Nemesis, and the “daughter” Data built, I got the impression there were no other androids that any scientist/engineer in the Federation had built that was anywhere near his level.

I also got the impression that the reason was not so much his body as it was his mind. No one had been able to get the “positronic brain” right before Dr.Soong. However, there seem to be several problems with this idea.

  1. No one could build one, yet they understood it enough to perform complex repairs on it AND modify it with an emotion chip? I understand that to a point it’s not that hard to reverse engineer something, and fixing something is always a hell of a lot easier than building one, but I imagine eventually with enough study they could have attempted to build an android like Data.

  2. Here’s the part that really bugs me. Let’s say that even with all the knowledge they got from examining Data and any notes that Dr.Soong left they still could not replicate the positronic brain. OK…but why do you need to? You say, because without it, the androids would not have complex thoughts like humans and Data. But, there is a problem here. We have seen time and time again that many people in the Federation CAN make artificial intelligence that is JUST as complex as a real person. The source of these complex AIs? The holodeck. They can essentially make an entire person, given enough programming. This was epitomized in Voyager with the Doctor, but even before him they had very complex holograms (like Moriarty.)

So why hasn’t anyone just built a robot shell, plug in a floppy drive, and download a holodeck “algorithm” into it to fucntion as the brain? Sure, it might not be as fast as Data (since we’ve seen him read entire books in seconds and move extremey fast,) but it would certainly be able to think at least as fast as a real person.

Dr. Soong created the emotion chip, not the Federation. It wasn’t something they backwards-engineered. And remember, when they have to repair Data they usually have his help, too. Sort of like brain surgery for Parkinson’s Disease - the patient stays awake while the doctors poke around in their brain, so the patient can tell them when they find the right spot. Data can do that for pretty much any problem. And I think his brain is pretty well-protected anyway… I seem to recall him talking about safeguards and diagnostics and whatnot.

As to holodeck characters; at a guess, they do have huge ship’s computers. Maybe while they can create good A.I., they’d need a much larger memory store than Data’s brain.

Dr. Soong created the emotion chip, Lore stole it but it eventually ended up in Data after Lore was disassembled.

Actually, they could. the problem is creating a stable one; witness the creation and short life of Lal.

The problem is those holograms normally cannot travel outside their respective environments. The Doctor is an exception; he acquired a mobile transmitter (a 29th Century artifact picked up from a bogus time traveller), gained additional subroutines from simply being active for much longer than was designed for, and was given a program upgrade so he could take command if needed.

[Jason Nesmith]It’s just a TV show![/Jason Nesmith]

Seriously, this is one of the many things that never made sense about the character along with his diffiulcty in parsing English idiom (despite his apparent command of other languages). And why did he have to interface with the computer and navigational systems by using his hands? Was wireless networking lost between now and the 23rd Century?


Data serves a thematic purpose; his artificiality allows the writers to explore what it is to be human, by using a character that is a machine that wants to be human.

Data can’t be replicated, even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense, for the same reason that you don’t see 90-93% of the male crew fighting over who gets to be double teamed by Angelina Jolie and Lindsey Lohan (the non-anorexic version) at the same time in Holodeck 3, even though you know that’s damn well what would happen if they invented holodecks, or why they bother with having helmsmen and such when it’s well established that the computer will just make the ship do anything you ask; because it would interfere with the purpose of HAVING Data, which is to allow for the various thematic explorations of the nature of personhood.

At its heart that’s what good sci-fi is all about; using such bizarre wonders, like artificial people and interstellar travel, to explore themes about humanity. Not that Star Trek was necessarily good sci-fi, but sometimes it was.

(The cannot-use-contractions things was just stupid. And Data does use contractions a few times during the series.)

There was no real need for him to network with the ship’s computer because everthing important in the computer was also in him.

You sure that was the “real” Data?

Not to mention all of the OTHER AIs, androids, and robots that starfleet has encountered over the years. (Hell, we’ve seen, what, a bit over 20 years of voyages, onscreen, of three different starships? You’ve got to figure at least a couple of hundred OTHER starships were out there, exploring just as much, over a couple of centuries…) So NONE of them were studied, reverse-engineered, or even just BOUGHT by the Federation?

I dunno…maybe Positronic brains weren’t actually the only way the Federation could make an AI, but it was just the most stable or efficient. Like they could make a brain with the capabilities of Data, but it required the equivilant resources of a small city to run it, or they could make one the size of Data’s (and thus suitable for use in an android), but it would be stupid or mentally unstable.

Then again, how much effort have we even seen being dedicated to AI research, or recreating positronic tech in the last few seasons of 24th century trek series’? Maybe they did figure it out, and went for the adapted holosoftware approach—wasn’t Starfleet using obsolete EMH models as mining slaves? That indicates that they weren’t dedicating horrendous amounts of computer equipment to keeping them running. Come to think of it, do we know how big of a federation computer they actually need to run a holoprogram, never mind projecting it? I seem to remember Moriarity and his girlfriend being transferred to a machine the size of a shoebox, and the Doctor was at least stored on a coffee-grinder size thing when he was transferred to the Alpha Quadrant, once.

Heck, they might have even been able to build new positronic brains—Bashir replaced half of a patient’s brain with one on DS9, and seemed to have been able to replace the other half, if he’d been able to. (The patient was a bit…spacey, afterwards, granted. But it still seemed to be working.)

I know that a hologram itself needs the holodeck (mobile emitter notwithstanding), but I was asking why the “algorithms” that they create that govern the actions of the holograms can’t simply be programmed into an android body.

Revenant Threshold mentioned that perhaps they just can’t fit enough memory into a computer small enough to be in an android body. I find that odd, since the ship’s computer can handle at times hundreds of simultaneous holgorams and even manage to have dozens of people in the holodeck and, even though they are close, actually adjust itself so that they appear to each other to be possibley miles apart (I’m thinking of the Voyager episode where the Hirogen hijack the holodeck and recreate a WWII battle in it.) So you’re telling me they can’t make a computer that can fit inside an android that only needs to have enough memory for one hologram? I’m not buying it.

Oh, and my mistake about the emotion chip.

They can but that android would initially have limited functions-- look at Voyager’s doctor. “What is the nature of your emergency?”

I watched that show for the first couple of seasons and there probably wasn’t an episode without a serious gap in logic.

Why did Data look exactly like a human except for the yellow eyes?
Why couldn’t he use contractions?

There was one episode where everyone caught some disease that made them insane except for Data who was immune. He had to search the ship’s database for some obscure fact. He could read really fast so he went through all of the data sequntially. WTF? They lost the art of relational data bases?

Yeah, I know, it’s just a TV show but that one had some of the laziest writing ever.

And just to nitpick, there was also Data’s “mother”, who was apparently perfectly stable (both in the sense of not collapsing into a useless pile of spare parts, and in the sense of not going psychopathically murderous). But then again, when he built her, Soong was starting with an existing human personality which he just duplicated/transfered, so maybe that made things easier in some inexplicable way.

Lute, the holograms were only restricted the Holodecks by virtue of the fact that they were holograms. There was still a computer somewhere which was running their software. I think that bouv’s point was that one could just as easily hook that computer up to a Data-body as hook it up to a holographic projector.

Really, I think it makes more sense if you ignore the SF trappings, and treat it as a fantasy. Data isn’t a work of engineering; he’s a golem, animated through the righteousness of his creator. The holodeck characters are summoned spirits, and woe be unto their summoners when something goes wrong with the pentacle which contains them. Why can’t a holodeck-spirit posess a Data-golem? Because a golem and a summoned spirit are two completely unrelated things.

In at least some of the novels, it was claimed he was designed to appear not quite human, in order to quiet human paranoia about replacement by android dopplegangers and/or being rendered obsolete.

Like **Ranchoth ** says, it should be possible; in the second Moriarty episode, Moriarty, his girlfriend and a simulation of the galaxy all fit into a unit small enough that Picard just sticks it on a shelf. Besides, even if they couldn’t build small enough brains or a mobile emitter, they could build remote-controlled bodies as avatars.

Wasn’t that a bunch of aliens ? Or am I misremembering ? It’s been a while.

No, Ran’s right about first-generation EMHs being used as menial labor. At least that’s what Dr. Zimmerman told Voyager’s EMH.

Why would this change a thing? Everyone would know that they could make a few very minor cosmetic changes to Data 2.0 and the same thing would happen.

It wasn’t meant as a rational solution, but as a propaganda technique. In other words, it doesn’t need to make sense, just affect people emotionally : “Sure, he can think and act faster than I can, but he’s obviously less flexible ! After all, he can’t use contractions, can he ?”

Also, another novel had him mention that some of his odd behavior is deliberate; part of his quest to become human. Humans have quirks, so he does odd things just to act. . . quirky; the example given is when he spouts way more information than asked. He says he knows that that’s not the desired repsonse, but does it anyway just to have a personality beyond cold efficiency.

I think the Hirogen used back-engineered holo technology (actually, Janeway gave it to them as a peace offering, as I remember) to make holoslaves, too, which they then sold on the open market. Most of the slaves they sold were basically zombies (completely non-sentient. And not very bright.) but ones the Hirogen used themselves, as hunting prey, were intelligent and capable of sentience.

I don’t remember exactly what kind of ships and hardware they needed to keep running, but I don’t think it was very impressive. (The zombie holoslaves were on a dinky cargo ship, and the sentient ones we saw were on a raider. Neither one was very comparable to Voyager, I didn’t think.)

They can’t duplicate Data’s brain, but they do it nearly every episode when they beam Data some place via transporter. Seems to me that they could whip out a few jillion Data’s in no time using transporter/replicators. I presume that there’s some kind of ctl+alt+del function for Data that would allow you to boot him to “safe mode” and install a different personality (preferrably not a GPP created by the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation).

Replicators produce “single bit errors” that limit what they can replicate, such as living creatures. Data might have that problem.

Transporter duplication seems to be different, and replicable only by Acts of Plot. I suppose it would cut dramatic tension if you could just churn out a new copy of Picard if he got killed or Borgified.

“Ghastly,” continued Marvin, “it all is. Absolutely ghastly. Just don’t even talk about it. Look at this door,” he said, stepping through it. The irony circuits cut in to his voice modulator as he mimicked the style of the sales brochure. “‘All the doors in this spaceship have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.’


Doctor Soong created another android besides Data and Lore. She did not know she was an android. He created an android version of his wife Juliana after she died. She appears in one of the episodes. IIRC, she was more advanced then Data as well, she could use contractions and everyone (but Data) thought she was human.