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In "Chain of Command II," Captain Jellico tries to recruit pilots for a dangerous mission against the Cardassians. Geordi tells him that Commander Riker is the best shuttle pilot onboard. What about Data, though? I don't understand how a human being could possibly be better than an android of Data's skills at flying a spacecraft.

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When it comes to guiding a hefty vessel through a rough ride, Will Riker is the Bill Clinton of the Federation. Data can't top that. –  James Sheridan Aug 9 at 4:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Data is a competent pilot, but he's too risk-averse to be a great pilot. As he says in "Nemesis":

Data: I will always be puzzled by the human predilection for piloting vehicles at unsafe velocities.

It's the difference between trusting the autopilot and flying it yourself.

We also see that although his knowledge of piloting is extensive, it doesn't match that of an experienced ship's pilot like Picard in TNG : Booby Trap. Data doesn't spot that Picard is creating a slingshot effect.

DATA : (to Picard - suprised) You have used the asteroid's gravitational pull as a slingshot. Excellent.

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How did you memorize all of Star Trek: Next Generation? –  Paul Draper Aug 10 at 5:26
    
While I agree with your second point, I'd argue that being more risk-averse and piloting things at safe speeds makes Data a better pilot. –  O. R. Mapper Aug 10 at 8:34
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@o.r.mapper - Those are excellent qualities for a chauffeur or an airline pilot, but not for a fighter pilot or an F1 driver. –  Richard Aug 10 at 9:12

To elaborate on a point in Richard's fine answer, it's a very common conceit in science fiction, when introducing androids that are, from a technical standpoint superior to humans in every way, to focus on the intrinsic advantages that humans have over them, usually couched in semi-mystic terminology like "spirit" or "innovative essence" or "intuition".

This is a common answer to many "what good are the humans?" questions, and here as well - Data's reflexes and spacial perception may be superior, but when you define good piloting as a combination of technical ability with aforementioned human recklessness and ingenuity, an android can't match.

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The idea that Data is going to be better at everything is belied by the fact that there are some things that he can't do better than a non-android, notably Strategema, whistling and 3D chess. He is apparently awfully good at sexy time though... –  Richard Aug 9 at 8:22
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@Richard: That's because sexy time is just a series of pre-programmed response to certain stimuli. That's how it works, right? –  James Sheridan Aug 9 at 8:34
    
@JamesSheridan - Ah, but do you know "multiple techniques, a broad variety of pleasuring..."? –  Richard Aug 9 at 8:37
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I know of multiple techniques that can give me a broad variety of pleasure, if that's what you mean. –  James Sheridan Aug 9 at 9:19

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