Redemption - a data allegory

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The manuscript for Trust Me, PR Is Dead is now safely in the hands of the publishers, Unbound. We will of course let you know publication dates soon - please rest assured that the book's supporters will receive the first copies. My original manuscript ran to about 110,000 words (too long; I was excited) which the brilliant Phil Connor and Isobel Frankish have now reduced to a more compact,  digestible (and hopefully rather enjoyable) 66,000.

Sadly, some excerpts remain on the cutting room floor - but one of the many beauties of the shed is that it allows us to share vignettes among friends. Last week, I posted on forgiveness and The Road to Jericho (another victim of Isobel and Phil's expert snip). This week, we are boldly going where no one has gone before....

For those who have been following the genesis of Trust Me, PR Is Dead, you will of course recognise these words.:

"In an age of data, PR is almost creationist in its thinking".

But Data can still be human.

* * *

Redemption - An Allegory

Liam Faulkner is a hugely talented web designer. He helped develop the Jericho Chambers brand – and it was at his suggestion that we used the image of the eighteenth century radical typesetter, John Baskerville. It turned out that Baskerville was in fact a distant relative of my Jericho co-founder, George Pitcher.

Liam is also a huge Star Trek fan, something we very much have in common. When I mentioned I was writing a chapter epilogue entitled Brent, he knew exactly where I was heading: Data.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lt. Commander Data is played by Brent Spiner.

Over to Liam for this short morality tale:

 “In an episode called “Redemption”, Lt Commander Data (a sentient android) is given command of his own starship. In a time of dire need, his rank within Star Fleet places him directly in line to assume this post.  Initially overlooked for the position, Data points out the apparent discrimination from Captain Picard.  Picard immediately sees his error (of course he would), and appoints Data to the post.  

“During the episode Data battles more discrimination and mis-trust from his appointed first officer (on the basis that he is not a biological being but an automaton), and has to act against direct orders from Picard to ensure the safety of the Federation and ultimately save the day. Apologising for acting against orders and expecting a reprimand for his actions, Data is addressed by Picard:

“The claim, 'I was only following orders' has been used to justify too many tragedies in our history. Star Fleet does not want officers who will blindly follow orders without analysing the situation. Your actions were appropriate for the circumstances, and I have noted that in your record."

“Data may be the embodiment of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. Under what imperative does an autonomous being have to act in a good way? Why do good at all? The answer may lie in his ultimate commandment of logic and reason, from which his sense of duty ultimately derives.  Data is apparently capable of discerning what is right and wrong without needing to rely on outside authorities, including higher-ranking Star Fleet officers. Throughout the history of Star Trek, Data is a character who offers an outsider's perspective on humanity.

“Data was built with an ultimate storage capacity of eight hundred quadrillion bits, a total linear computational speed rated at sixty trillion operations per second, all within a positronic brain: a little more analytical ‘power’ than most.  Without his peerless foresight he would have ultimately followed his orders ensuring the destruction of humanity.  Acting without regard for himself, Data had the ability to act according to the outcomes only a purely logical and analytical mind could foresee.

“Often surpassing other characters in his capacity to act in a moral, albeit entirely logical way, Data is ultimately peerless. He’s a unique being potentially alone in the universe, and Data’s sense of duty to humanity is seemingly an extension of his relentless logical nature.”

So there you have it. HT Liam. Respect Picard. Appreciate Data.

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Publication date: June 2015
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