Friday, July 29, 2016

Star Trek Thinking versus Feeling

The Star Trek series always had a running theme of what it means to be human. Data an android, or Spock a Vulcan, struggled to understand humanness.

I think I know their mistake. They always connected humanness with feeling, in one way or another. With Data, two different ideas for the same word, "feeling" got conflated. There is feeling emotion, and there is sense experience feeling. Those are two completely different things.

To digress, to be human is not to feel. Animals feel. Feeling is not unique to humanity. What is unique to humanity is actually what Spock and Data did so well; think.

The use of reasons is unique to humans. Animals don't do it, though perception and instinct can sometimes mimic logical behaviors. Computers don't do it. They don't attach meanings to things and use those meanings to come to beliefs. They stream the input/ output algorithms we tell it to, which can mimic logical behavior. But they do not actually think.

The false dichotomy between feeling and thinking intrudes on the philosophy of the Star Trek brand. We don't have a choice between thinking and feeling. What we think effects how we feel. And how we feel effects how we think. So there is a genuine tension between which of these two things ought to be pulling the wagon (thinking). But to give one supremacy doesn't mean to somehow discard the other.

That would be clear if we spend more time thinking about it rather than being tied up in Star Trek's emotional drama.