Artificial Intelligence in Star Trek


Star Trek hasn’t necessarily always predicted the future of artificial intelligence accurately, but that doesn’t mean it can’t teach us something about A.I. and how it may affect our future.

There are countless places where Star Trek predicted the future with uncanny accuracy, but artificial intelligence isn’t one of them. Star Trek of course has two characters in its pantheon that you immediately think of when you think of A.I., Data and The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager.

The Doctor and Data are both highly intelligent and interesting takes on A.I., but they also both probably fall below the standard that A.I. would be at in this kind of distant future. That’s not to say that Star Trek hasn’t contributed to the conversation about A.I., it has, but it has done so in its own uniquely Star Trek way.

There have been many science fiction franchises that have touched on this issue, but few have done so as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation. There are many examples of Data’s humanity being considered and questioned, but the seminal episode is “The Measure of a Man.”

In “The Measure of a Man” Captain Picard faces off against a starfleet officer who wants to tear Data apart to see how he is made. In typical Star Trek style this faceoff isn’t a fight on a battlefield, but in a courtroom.

Picard’s arguments are both interesting and convincing.

Picard regards Data as a lifeform, even if he is a form of artificial intelligence. This might be the key to understanding A.I. in the Star Trek universe. It may just be that to the Federation creating a being with that kind of intelligence would be regarded with a certain level of responsibility attached to it.

Knowing the Federation’s stance on genetic manipulation perhaps the real story is that a Star Trek future would be wise to be careful in how it deals with A.I.  Star Trek as always has something to teach us on a moral level.

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So what do you think? What do you think about Star Trek’s take on artificial intelligence? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below.