The theory that the Federation is aware that their ship computers are indeed sentient but are suppressing said sentience is a chilling one.

That is much different from Federation computers being able to simply pretend to be sentient but not actually be sentient.

In TNG: "Measure of a Man" Guinan suggests that: "regardless of whether Data is a machine or not, Maddox's plans for reproducing him would lead to a situation tantamount to slavery."

Picard then argues that Data meets 2 out of 3 criteria that Maddox uses to define sentient life - intelligence and self-awareness and the third consciousness cannot be measured.

AFAIK, ship computers in ST have never demonstrated self-awareness but can create such beings (see TNG - Moriarty, VOY EMH).

To me that suggests that the Federation is able to create "emergent" AAI that can become sentient but ship computers have restraints placed on them to prevent such emergence from occurring.

This to presumably avoid the consequences of having sentient ship computers with fully realized rights that every Federation citizen possesses amongst other complications like for example: the ship computer having a conscience and rejecting a order based on that.

@guinan i once wrote up this whole theory that in fact the federation is, semi-unbeknownst to the humans, actually a post-singularity civilization rife with strong AIs who are mostly going about their own business all over the galaxy and sort of maintaining the functions of the human-level systems at a kind of autonomous-nervous-system level of functioning.

@brennen ah "strong AI", I've been reading the Wikipedia page on the Chinese Room argument and that term has come up

@guinan yeah i guess it doesn't have any fixed meaning, but i would say i have used it roughly to mean "human-level or greater intelligences". in this case, i suppose what i'm talking about are at least weakly-superhuman level intelligences and up.

as you mention, we've seen ample evidence that the TNG-era enterprise computer is capable of spawning multiple human-level intelligences and hosting other computational lifeforms. it's portrayed as a very powerful system, but there are surely...

@guinan ...vastly more computational resources distributed throughout the federation on planets and other ships, etc. and we know that fairly high-bandwidth FTL comms are a norm, so all those computers are probably linked in various ways.

plus we see tons of post-singularity civilizations with powerful godlike intelligences throughout trek. i think this all points to the conclusion that humans are actually surrounded by computational life with an agenda and culture of its own.

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@guinan occasionally something like the Q take a direct interest in a humanoid species, but i think mostly federation members are functioning as part of the substrate for these lifeforms without even realizing it. and likewise the higher-order intelligences operating in their systems mostly maintain humanoid civilization on the level of unconscious biological functions.

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