Pointless Nonsense

Posted in tv by Bill on January 10, 2013

dataThree things struck me as interesting about Data. First, the clear progression he makes over the course of the 7 seasons. He starts out as unbelievably annoying, constantly failing to understand common expressions, offering up information with far more details than are useful, showing a total lack of social graces. But he becomes far better at all those things, and in the finale which flashes between timelines, the contrast between season 7 Data and season 1 Data is dramatic. I guess it was important to establish Data as clearly not human before starting his journey towards human-ness, but I’m surprised fans didn’t revolt over this character who, at first, was almost as insufferable as Wesley.

The second thing that stuck out were the failings in his technology that are baffling. He’s unable to use contractions, and I was confident even in the 80s that those should be easy for a computer to figure out. Now, I’m quite sure it’s possible to feed a computer a bunch of contractionless text and have it add contractions where appropriate. He is also unable to whistle, which it seems should be totally trivial compared to speech with appropriate mouth movements. And he’s unable to figure out a Chinese finger trap, even though he should consider that device to be simple geometry. Plus, the whole thing with him giving out superfluous details early on, it seems like to have an AI that functions at all on a human level, it would have to simulate our ability to focus on what’s important and discard the rest, since even just looking at a room full of people would generate a staggering amount of information for Data to process, so learning to discard 99% of it as irrelevant would be the first step towards being able to function.

Third, he’s very interested in his “parents,” but they are total dicks. He was created, had some growing paints when he was first turned on, then he was shut down, his memory wiped, disassembled, and left behind when the planet he was on was attacked. He was put back together, decided to join starfleet, attended the academy, and rose to the rank of Lt. Commander, all things that would have been big news in the artificial intelligence/cybernetics community, but his parents, who supposedly thought of him as their son, made zero attempt to contact him for years. What assholes. Data should have considered himself lucky that they weren’t a big part of his life.

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  1. Pointless Nonsense said, on January 16, 2013 at 3:25 am

    […] Data, there are technological issues that 20+ years later seem silly. Geordi’s visor can’t […]


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