THE VIRTUAL HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL BEINGS
make other moral choices. While it has a strong inhibition against harming living beings, that constraint is not absolute. It can kill in order to protect others, and in one case, attempted to execute a being whom it judged to have no redeeming virtues.
In one episode, Data is legally declared a sentient being with full civil rights. Nevertheless, a trace of “androidism” is shown by human Starfleet officers who resent serving under Data. Nor is Data com- pletely comfortable with social interactions and other human subtle- ties. Like Yod, metaphors puzzle it, and humor as well, though Data keeps trying. Its ignorance of self-serving human motivations (Data lacks an ego) gives it a childlike innocence, and its curiosity about human nature makes it open to experience: It learns to dance so that it can give away the bride at a wedding; acquires a pet cat, Spot, whose finicky irrationality sorely tests its logical mind; has a sexual encoun- ter with a real woman; and constructs an android daughter, Lal, with which it bonds but which does not survive for long. There is an engaging Pinocchio-like quality about Data, an android instead of a puppet trying to become human.
But until Data installs its emotion chip (as portrayed in the 1994 film Star rek: Generations), its experiences give it only understanding without feeling. With the chip, it enters a confusing world. For in- stance, it finds itself in tears when the pet cat, Spot, emerges un- harmed from a spacecraft wreck, and is completely baffled by this reaction. One can only wonder if exposure to real emotions would continue to perplex Data, or would bring it to a level that would make it the best possible combination of machine and human, at the cost of accepting all that real emotion implies.
Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A. I.: Artificial Intelligence, one of the latest films to treat androids and their interaction with people, is also a variant on the Pinocchio tale. Based on a story by the British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss, the film raises the stakes for emotional connections between humans and androids. In a future world, the technology for humanoid robots called “mechas” has become highly developed. Now an expert in the field has a startling vision of going yet further:“I propose that we build a robot that can love.” Some time