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Since Data overrode B4's personality, would it be fair to say that Data murdered B4 to ensure his own survival?

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    In at least one timeline, B4 sacrifices himself to save Data. A corollary is that B4 is indeed sentient which means that if Data deliberately overrode his personality then it is indeed "murder". Dec 23, 2014 at 9:44
  • I've restricted myself to only what we see in the Star Trek main canon (films, TV series, official prequel comic)
    – Valorum
    Dec 23, 2014 at 10:06

3 Answers 3

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Murdered is an extremely harsh word for what happened.

  • Data's intentions when transferring his memories to the other android were pure, an attempt to stabilise B-4's personality and to allow him to function as a more fully realised entity:

DATA : Captain Picard agrees that the B-4 was probably designed with the same self-actualization parameters as myself. If my memory engrams are successfully integrated into his positronic matrix, he should have all my abilities.

GEORDI : He'd have all your memories too. You feel comfortable with that?

DATA : I feel nothing, Geordi. It is my belief that with my memory engrams he will be able to function as a more complete individual.

GEORDI : An individual more like you, you mean.

Star Trek : Nemesis

  • It's not entirely clear that B-4 ceased to exist. Data describes his neural nets as having been...

"...successfully imprinted onto B-4's existing programming"

suggesting that they might both be co-habiting the same body or functioning as a gestalt entity, albeit with the Data personality in primary control:

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  • It's not clear that B-4 was fully sentient by the Federation's own tools for assessment. As seen in TNG : Measure of a Man, machine expert Bruce Maddox defines machine sentience as being founded on the principles of

intelligence, self awareness and consciousness.

B-4 certainly lacks intelligence, his self-awareness is limited (he doesn't understand that Data is dead) and he shows no obvious signs of consciousness other than an almost pathetic desire to please. You can't murder a machine.

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    And yet, in that episode, Picard claims humans are machines and yet humans can be murdered. You answer differentiates between Data / B4 and humans - I think the focus should be on the differences (if any) between Data and B4 in terms of sentience. Dec 23, 2014 at 10:29
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    @Wikis - Picard is (evidently) happy for Data to experiment on B-4's memory without any form of consultation. B-4 is the classic example of a machine that mimics sentience without being sentient.
    – Valorum
    Dec 23, 2014 at 11:20
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    That sounds like the necessary evidence (leaving how Picard knows that to another question(er)...). Dec 23, 2014 at 11:27
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    I don't think these criteria or so clear-cut--what reason is there to think B-4 had less "intelligence, self awareness and consciousness" than a young child, for example?
    – Hypnosifl
    Dec 23, 2014 at 13:14
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    @Miltonaut - It's Spock
    – Valorum
    Dec 29, 2016 at 8:45
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The key part of murder is intent which is what I wish to explore. The question really is, did Data intend to 'kill' B-4?

In Nemesis, Data uploads his memories into B-4. Memory Alpha describes it as follows:

Data willingly copied all of his memories to B-4, hoping that the added experiences would help B-4 to expand beyond his original programming

This certainly isn't described as though he had the intent to kill him.

From the transcript of Nemesis:

DATA: I feel nothing, Geordi. It is my belief that with my memory engrams he will be able to function as a more complete individual.

LAFORGE: An individual more like you, you mean.

DATA: Yes.

LAFORGE: Maybe he's not supposed to be like you, Data. Maybe he's supposed to be exactly the way he is.

DATA: That might be so, but I believe he should have the opportunity to explore his potential.

Again, this sounds a lot to me as though Data didn't intend to necessarily overwrite B-4's memories, but to enhance him, to improve him as a fellow android to a level comparable to Data.

I don't think it was really ever Data's intention to 'kill' B-4 at all; it seems more to me his intentions were pure. After all, Data's memory banks aren't completely filled, so it was reasonable to think that B-4 may also have had sufficient room for storing Data's memories without wiping his own.

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    Indeed, good point. And yet copying your personality onto an older, inferior model was never going to end well. Apparently Data was either naive or did not think it through. Apr 28, 2016 at 8:39
  • @Wikis it'd be like trying to dual boot Windows 10 and Win 98 on a machine designed for Win 98; it might work, but probably not too well. I guess the point I'm trying to convey with this analogy is that the intention obviously isn't to overwrite Windows 98 with 10 because otherwise you wouldn't have set it up to dual boot in the first place. Apr 28, 2016 at 8:41
  • It was dataslaughter
    – iMerchant
    Dec 19, 2016 at 6:01
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Think of it as providing a larger dictionary of reference material to an older computer. If the computer had enough storage capacity to store the new reference material then you can do more with the old machine. We still use RS232 interfaces in robotics, we just use them better now because we know more. He wasn't trying to kill him. He was trying to give him a much needed upgrade. He wasn't 200 years older than DATA, and this is the future we're talking about here.

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  • Sure, but he did kill him, right?
    – Adamant
    Dec 19, 2016 at 5:51

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