Is Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation alive? This has really been confusing me since Data is an android who sure as heck acts alive!

  • Picard's argument from TNG S2:9 "Measure of a Man" - youtube.com/watch?v=vjuQRCG_sUw – NKCampbell Jan 16 '18 at 23:23
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    What do you mean by "alive"? – ApproachingDarknessFish Jan 16 '18 at 23:24
  • ApproachingDarknessFish has it dead on -- this is a definition decision; if you can full define what you mean by 'a living being', it can be answered.. But you need to clearly define 'life' to do so, and although many have attempted to do so, arguments still rage. A 'Sentient Entity', on the other hand, has Starfleet definitions, and those he fits. – K-H-W Jan 17 '18 at 0:33
  • This reminds me of a time on another site when someone asked "is Superman human?", and my answer was: "Legally, he should be regarded as 'human' in the sense of having the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else. But biologically the answer (usually) seems to be 'No.' It all depends upon the frame of reference!" – Lorendiac Jan 17 '18 at 1:50
  • Is this a philosophical question or are you asking for a statement from canon? – Chenmunka Jan 17 '18 at 14:27

Legally, Data has been ruled by the Starfleet Judge Advocate General to not be alive, but to still be a sentient entity with the right of self-determination.

PHILLIPA: It sits there looking at me, and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I'm neither competent nor qualified to answer those. I've got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have all been dancing around the basic issue. Does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.

TNG: Measure of a Man


TORRES: I guess, you could say that the robots we use are servants in a manner of speaking. But they aren't sentient like you. In fact, we have only one sentient artificial life form in our society, and he is treated the same as any human.

3947: The same? He is equal to a Builder?

TORRES: That's right. He works on a ship just like you or I. He wears the same uniform I do.

VOY: Prototype

For a wider view, I would strongly suggest you watch TNG: Measure of a Man since the entire episode is devoted to this question.

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    Where in your source does it the judge claim that Data is not alive? This would also seem to conflict with Torres' (and numerous other) description of Data as a "Life form" – ApproachingDarknessFish Jan 17 '18 at 4:06
  • @ApproachingDarknessFish - Phillipa makes several comments that equate to stating he is not alive: "PHILLIPA: All this passion over a machine?" and "PHILLIPA: Then I will rule summarily based upon my findings. Data is a toaster.", "PICARD: Data, Captain Louvois has issued a ruling. You are the property of Starfleet Command. You can not resign. " – NKCampbell Jan 17 '18 at 18:52
  • @NKCampbell 1) I see no reason why "machine" should be exclusive with life. Spock mentions "living machines" in ST:TMP. 2) Phillipa claims Data is a toaster before the hearing in order to goad Riker into arguing against him. It is not representative of her most informed viewpoint. 3) This ruling was overturned. 3.1) Being someone/something's property doesn't mean they can't be alive (see: slavery). – ApproachingDarknessFish Jan 17 '18 at 18:59
  • The implicit issue at the root of the episode / argument though is 'life' - within the episode (for good or ill) - the antagonists equate life != machine. If Data is alive, then by extension, the property argument falls apart. They aren't talking about any other "object" other than Data. The toaster comment does indicate what she does think without hearing any arguments - which is what a summary judgement is - in her estimation: Data is a non-living piece of machinery with no rights or legal standing, no more alive than a phaser or the terrible carpet on the Enterprise. – NKCampbell Jan 17 '18 at 19:08
  • ..which is why her comment in her final ruling is important. Data is a machine. But he is not property (in other words - alive). Her ruling ensures the two terms are no longer mutally exclusive. Data himself references this ruling when protecting the Exocomps – NKCampbell Jan 17 '18 at 19:09

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