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In the TNG episode Manhunt, we see that Lwaxana Troi can't read the mind of a hologram (as there is no mind there to read!), but her telepathic abilities are well-renowned. Hence, could she possibly read Data's thoughts? If so, would she read thoughts like those of a human, or would they be lines of code?

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Related question that touched on this topic: How can Data lose a chess game? –  Dacio Apr 6 at 2:05

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up vote 21 down vote accepted

No. We see in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3. Episode 20 "Tin Man" that even the most powerful of Betazoids, Tam Elbrun, cannot read Data. Hence it would be extremely unlikely that Lwaxana would be able to read Data.

From the Wiki site:

"En route, Elbrun finds it impossible to filter out the thoughts of the Enterprise crew, but when meeting Data, he is puzzled by finding what he calls 'absence of mind', but also finds relief in developing a friendship with Data, who, being an artificial lifeform, has no thoughts to be read."

Wiki Tin Man Episode

Memory Alpha Tin Man Episode

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Excellent reference, the first thought I had was Tam from "Tin Man" as well. –  Hikaru Ichijyo Apr 7 at 4:07

Not normally, but once he has the emotion chip it's uncertain.

From TNG 7x01, Descent, Part II:

Deanna Troi: Data, I can sense feelings in you.
Data: Yes. My brother has made that possible.

This means that despite their robotic nature, when Soong-type androids feel emotions it can be sensed by a half-Betazoid - the same as with regular biological beings.

However, Data didn't install the emotion chip until the movie Generations, so we don't know what a pure Betazoid, like Lwaxana Troi, would have been able to sense from him.

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+1| excellent point raised about the impact the emotion chip has on reading emotions, although I doubt it would impact the ability to read 'thoughts' as such from Data, merely just emotions –  N.Soong Apr 6 at 1:35
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That development always felt like a giant hack to me... No disrespect to artificial intelligence, but if normal positronic thoughts can't be sensed, then emotional ones shouldn't be able to be sensed either. Eh, who am I kidding? Telepathy! –  Dacio Apr 6 at 2:09
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A wizard did it. –  James Sheridan Apr 6 at 3:41
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@Dacio Emotions are instinctive, while telepathy is portrayed to use a learned language. They show up in the brains of us humans (in an MRI scan, for example) in very different ways, so a positronic brain may be able to mimic one but not the other, and/or the emotion chip could act as a bridge to allow Betazoids to sense both... Purely a guess, though. –  Izkata Apr 6 at 6:55
    
I have a hard time believing that classic telepathy is scientifically possible beyond say a few meters and would probably be limited by obstructions. –  Mark Rogers Apr 6 at 21:04

The basis of Betazoid mind-reading is empathetic reading, "feeling" another person's thinking, and is a purely biological empathy, sensing the psychic "expression" in the same way that we might "read" a person's expression and body language. On that basis, an AI life-form, having no psychic presence, would be therefore unreadable, regardless of any sophisticated emotion chips (which are, afterall, just a simulation).

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How would you explain the handful of instances when Troi did sense emotion from Data, then? –  Izkata Apr 7 at 4:03

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