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It's well-known throughout Star Trek TNG that Data has a positronic neural network. Were there ever any specific advantages presented as to the usage of positrons vs electrons or photons for this technology? Did Dr. Soong just have a thing for antimatter, or was there a well-described reason for Data's head to be filled with subatomic antiparticles? Maybe so he could self-destruct it in an emergency! :)

I suppose the out-of-universe explanation is that the writers just thought positronic sounded futuristic. Is that also the case?

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    I remember somewhere that they used Positronic as an homage to Asimov, but they knew it wasn't the most efficient technology. Also, positronic sounds 'techier'. Oct 25, 2011 at 14:45
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    Soong used a positron matrix to ensure Data would have an upbeat personality. Oct 25, 2011 at 15:28
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    @OghmaOsiris, And Asimov used positrons because when the wrote the Robot novels, they had just been discovered and so were cutting-edge and he thought they sounded cool.
    – Sam
    Oct 25, 2011 at 15:30
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    It amuses me to imagine Data waking around with a head full of antimatter, one oopse away from blowing up a chunk of the ship. This is Star Trek after all. They put 50k volt lines to every console. Jan 30, 2012 at 3:28

2 Answers 2

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I believe its an homage to Asimov's Robot stories, where the robots were always being described as having Positronic Brains. Asimov just picked "Positronic" because it sounds high tech, and never attempted to actually describe how they work in any detail.

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  • This is definitely similar to my thinking. I was wondering if there were ever an in-universe explanation for it, and now I know that there was not. Somehow, that homage did not occur to me :) Oct 26, 2011 at 22:07
  • Personally, I was always disappointed that a clever guy like Asimov would use the word positron. Apparently it was first used 1932, Asimov's first robot stories appeared in 1939/1940 (both quotes from wikipedia) - plenty of time to understand that a positronic brain would be an extremely difficult thing to build :)
    – flq
    May 22, 2013 at 7:11
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In "Datalore", Tasha Yar says something along the lines "Until he tried to make Asimov's dream of a positron brain come true."

So it seems Dr. Soong was directly inspired by Asimov's "positronic brain".

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