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.

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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).

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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.

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@guinan i once wrote up this whole theory that in fact the federation is, semi-unbeknownst to the humans, actually a post-singularity civilization rife with strong AIs who are mostly going about their own business all over the galaxy and sort of maintaining the functions of the human-level systems at a kind of autonomous-nervous-system level of functioning.

@brennen ah "strong AI", I've been reading the Wikipedia page on the Chinese Room argument and that term has come up

@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...

@brennen @guinan

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.

@brennen @guinan it also stands to reason that scientific calculations, etc are passed off to the physical hardware of data's brain, as they are optimised for this sort of task already.

@brennen @guinan

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.


@brennen @guinan
They do have a "sentient" ship in the Star Trek Discovery shorts, which blows all the aforementioned theories out of the water, as holodeck technology had not been introduced yet.

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