Apparently it's pretty easy to create a holomatrix, even more so with only basic algorithms, such as scrubbing plasma conduits. Why did Star Trek go to the trouble of changing the EMH Mark I, instead of just creating new ones from scratch? Especially at the risk of offending one of the best (while most arrogant) holo engineer Dr. Zimmermann?

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    Would you accept "because poor writing" as an answer? ;)
    – Kris
    May 15, 2017 at 20:08
  • Did you watch the episode where Harry tried to create a working holo-doctor and failed massively?
    – Valorum
    May 15, 2017 at 20:08
  • @Kris: I'm looking for an in-universe answer :P
    – Christian
    May 15, 2017 at 20:22
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    @Valorum I suppose creating an EMH is a much harder tasks than creating an ECS (Emergency Conduit Scrubber)
    – Christian
    May 15, 2017 at 20:25
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    @Christian - Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they're asking me to scrub plasma conduits... Call that job satisfaction, 'cause I don't
    – Valorum
    May 15, 2017 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


Lacking any in-universe stated explanation (besides "poor writing"), we are forced to speculate that what are being called "menial tasks" here, like scrubbing plasma conduits and dilithium mining actually do require a level of technical intelligence that is not easily achieved with conventional AI (i.e. standard computer cores). As demonstrated by the EMH (even if defective) AI based on a holo-matrix can achieve a level of creativity and problem-solving that cannot be achieved another way economically. Presumably this makes them capable of whatever is needed for plasma conduit-scrubbing and dilithium mining, rather than risking humans or other biological sentients whose use is fraught with other problems (no volunteers, and not a suitable environment).

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    Hmm. An AI so advanced that it's beyond "normal" computers, but not so advanced that forced labor is considered slavery of a sentient being. Star Trek liked to play around with the question of when AIs become sentient, but they've never been very consistent on what the answer is.
    – user22502
    May 16, 2017 at 16:34
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    @PeterCooperJr. I think the cut over from simple program to sentience isn't what is in question in the Federation. The rights of artificial persons is. The standing view in the Federation seems to be that AIs have no rights of their own because they were created by someone else. Even Data had no rights until TNG "The Measure of a Man", and those rights weren't automatically extended to other AIs, as we saw in "The Offspring". The Doctor himself enjoyed no legal rights of his own until the episode "Author, Author".
    – Xantec
    May 16, 2017 at 16:52
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    I think that's the whole point of these episodes. How many nations on Earth gave up on slavery centuries after other countries did the same? These issues are almost never decided once, but over and over and over again. Look at the modern issues of gender equality and trans rights. May 16, 2017 at 18:13
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    @Peter: Nobody knows what the answer is. That's the whole point of the story. May 16, 2017 at 18:15

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