interesting thread on r/DaystromInstitute about the nature of Federation on-board computers and if they are sentient or not
The theory that the Federation is aware that their ship computers are indeed sentient but are suppressing said sentience is a chilling one.
That is much different from Federation computers being able to simply pretend to be sentient but not actually be sentient.
In TNG: "Measure of a Man" Guinan suggests that: "regardless of whether Data is a machine or not, Maddox's plans for reproducing him would lead to a situation tantamount to slavery."
Picard then argues that Data meets 2 out of 3 criteria that Maddox uses to define sentient life - intelligence and self-awareness and the third consciousness cannot be measured.
AFAIK, ship computers in ST have never demonstrated self-awareness but can create such beings (see TNG - Moriarty, VOY EMH).
To me that suggests that the Federation is able to create "emergent" AAI that can become sentient but ship computers have restraints placed on them to prevent such emergence from occurring.
This to presumably avoid the consequences of having sentient ship computers with fully realized rights that every Federation citizen possesses amongst other complications like for example: the ship computer having a conscience and rejecting a order based on that.
@guinan yeah i guess it doesn't have any fixed meaning, but i would say i have used it roughly to mean "human-level or greater intelligences". in this case, i suppose what i'm talking about are at least weakly-superhuman level intelligences and up.
as you mention, we've seen ample evidence that the TNG-era enterprise computer is capable of spawning multiple human-level intelligences and hosting other computational lifeforms. it's portrayed as a very powerful system, but there are surely...
@guinan ...vastly more computational resources distributed throughout the federation on planets and other ships, etc. and we know that fairly high-bandwidth FTL comms are a norm, so all those computers are probably linked in various ways.
plus we see tons of post-singularity civilizations with powerful godlike intelligences throughout trek. i think this all points to the conclusion that humans are actually surrounded by computational life with an agenda and culture of its own.
@guinan occasionally something like the Q take a direct interest in a humanoid species, but i think mostly federation members are functioning as part of the substrate for these lifeforms without even realizing it. and likewise the higher-order intelligences operating in their systems mostly maintain humanoid civilization on the level of unconscious biological functions.
Would it make sense that although powerful, the "processor architecture" of Federation,etc ships is incompatible to running a sentient AI directly? They are able to emulate and model architectures capable of running a sentient mind, but potentially at a high power draw/ performance cost.
Data exists be cause Dr Singh was able to write a hypervisor/emulator so well optimised that the performance penalty for running a human mind was negligible.
Also, afaik, the only time a simulated intelligence was able to take over the ship, it was by compromising the ships computer and issuing verbal commands. This may mean that everything in the emulated "sentient" space is isolated from the ship's API. This means that the ship has to provide a translation layer to all sentient life, much like our programming languages do now.
@GigaByte4711 @guinan i guess that's _possible_, but i'm skeptical inasmuch as we see the enterprise computer routinely performing operations that require human-or near-human reasoning capacity, presumably many of them in parallel, given how many people are interacting with the computer at once and how many functions it must oversee, the holodecks, entities like the doctor on voyager...
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