If Data cannot be happy or sad, why does he try to be more human and is wanting an emotion?

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    Pinocchio complex.
    – Spencer
    Jun 3, 2021 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


Because Data's purpose was to be more than the sum of his programming

The Memory Alpha page on Data contains a few useful pieces of information:

"I chose to believe that I was a person, that I had the potential to become more than a collection of circuits and sub-processors." – Data, 2369 ("Rightful Heir")


Data asserted that he did not only perceive data and facts, but also the "substance" and "flavor" and other ineffable qualities of the experience, which would be lost when downloaded to a conventional computer. (TNG: "The Measure Of A Man")

The context of that first quote though is much more revealing:

DATA: Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me I was an android, nothing more than a sophisticated machine with human form. However I realised that if I were simply a machine, I could never be anything else. I could never grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept, so I chose to believe that I was a person, that I had the potential to be more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors. It is a belief which I still hold.

Hence, his desire to grow beyond his programming is what makes Data strive towards becoming more human.

Emotions are only one facet of humans; Data acknowledges that he was not merely a machine, but a being with capacities far exceeding a normal machine. Many of his qualities, especially his appearance, were already human. He wanted to go beyond the superficial, though, and become more human. Note how Data has friends, notably Geordi; a very human quality. Data doesn't need emotions necessarily to form a friendship, so in this aspect he can become more human without the emotion chip.

  • Question: was Data programmed to try to be more than his programming? Wouldn't that mean he was still abiding by his programming? Sep 2, 2015 at 7:58
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    @PointlessSpike: Phrasing it that way does make it sound silly. Either Data is already quite good at phrasing things in a human way, or the writers missed that. I think the obvious conclusion is that Data was designed / programmed to act / feel / be more than an emotionless AI. Whether Noonian Soong's design was exactly what he intended or not, it's close enough that you can think of Data as a machine with these goals, or you can think of him as a person. (Or both, if you don't have a problem with non-traditional personhood.) Sep 2, 2015 at 8:06
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    And obviously the out-of-universe reason is that Trek always needs a character on the outside of humanity looking in. Spock / Data / Odo / 7of9. Pre-7of9, I don't remember Voyager playing this much. There were non-human characters, but that wasn't the most important thing about any of them. Early Voyager went for fitting in as non-Starfleet storylines, rather than as non-human. (Neelix, and various Maquis.) Sep 2, 2015 at 8:11
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    @PointlessSpike he wasn't programmed to be more than his programming; he was programmed to develop; in a sense it is no different to us; we are 'programmed' to find a purpose - to find a greater reason and through that we humans become more than our programming. You seem to be confusing his purpose with his programming Sep 2, 2015 at 8:13
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    Are humans more than the sum of their programming? I know they think they are.
    – orome
    Sep 2, 2015 at 12:21

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