Blurred Lines - Part 1
If you're like me and grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation, you're probably excited to see the newest Trek show Picard in order to revisit all of the themes and characters that shaped your early years, and perhaps even your relationship to computers and technology. Set 30 years after TNG, one of the things I hadn't considered when waiting for Picard to debut is how much technology has changed since The Next Generation was in production between 1987 and 1994.
Without giving any spoilers, it’s safe to say that the new show Picard on the surface is supposed to be reflecting deeply upon the relationship between the character Picard's Borg (who are collectively a wide area network of integrated individuals, cybernetically connected) past and conflicted relationship with androids, and in particular his past friendship with the android Commander Data. These are themes Star Trek has delved deeply into before, with Data's exploration into what it means to be human, and his advanced programming allowing him the ability to question his consciousness and in turn caused humans to question the blurred lines between technology and their own consciousness. Who would they be as humans without the computers to assist them in their daily lives? Are these computers devices and technologies a part of their identities? At what point do flesh and machine differentiate when looking at function vs consciousness, man vs machine, and where does consciousness lay within that?
Data’s search for the elusive answer to “what is humour” as he tried (and failed spectacularly) to make jokes was a subplot that reflected directly on the programing we see currently on Alexa, Siri, and Google Home.
Questions of how we speak to Alexa, Siri and Google Home and if we should be polite to them were also explored with the character of Data. Whether or not a relational machine has 'feelings', if that is even important to the programming, or is it just a human quirk. These were questions constantly being asked in the Next Generation, and have the potential to be explored more deeply along with many other questions that we have with regard to new technology in Picard. The relationship between humans, the Borg, and androids in Star Trek has always been, let‘s say...tense, but the show Picard seems to be missing an opportunity, thus far, to examine what makes us more similar than different to each other.