Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Mismeasure of Man


RIKER: Admiral on the Bridge.
PICARD: I was a little surprised at the decision to put a base in force so close to the Neutral Zone.
NAKAMURA: As you know, we've had disturbing news from both sides of the zone. We're here to respond when needed. And it won't hurt to have the Romulans know that we're nearby. Well, Captain, I want to thank you for this opportunity. For five hundred years every ship that has borne the name of the Enterprise has been a legend. This one is no different.
OLSON: Admiral.
NAKAMURA: Oh yes, Captain. Roger Olson is here to do some work on your humanoid. Please take care of him.
(Nakamura leaves)
OLSON: How have you been, Adam?
ADAM: Functioning within normal working parameters.
PICARD: The two of you are acquainted?
OLSON: Yes, I evaluated Adam when it first appeared in the Garden of Eden.
ADAM: And was the sole member of the committee to oppose my standing on the grounds that I was not a sentient being.
PICARD: What exactly will this work entail?
OLSON: I am going to disassemble Adam.

[Observation lounge]

PICARD: All right, explain this procedure.
OLSON: Ever since I first saw Adam in the Garden, I've wanted to understand it. I became a student of the works of Dr. El Shaddai, Adam's creator, and I've tried to continue his work. I believe I am very close to the breakthrough that will enable me to duplicate Dr. Shaddai's work and replicate this. But as a first step I must disassemble and study it. Adam is going to be my guide.
ADAM: It sounds intriguing.
RIKER: How will you proceed?
OLSON: I will run a full diagnostic on Adam, evaluating the condition of its current programming.
PICARD: What are the risks to Adam?
OLSON: Negligible.
ADAM: Captain, I believe his basic research lacks the specifics necessary to support an experiment of this magnitude.
PICARD: Adam is a valued member of my Bridge crew. Based on what I've heard, I cannot allow Adam to submit himself to this experiment.
OLSON: I was afraid this might be your attitude, Captain. Here are Starfleet's transfer orders separating Adam from the Enterprise, and reassigning it to Starbase one seventy three under my command. Adam, I will see you in my office tomorrow at zero nine hundred hours.

[JAG office]

PICARD: I need your help.
PHILLIPA: An historic moment.
PICARD: I have been trying to make sense of this gobbledygook, but it's beyond me. The fact is, Adam is being transferred compulsorily to be made part of a highly dangerous, ill-conceived experiment, and I want it stopped.
PHILLIPA: He can refuse to undergo the procedure, but we can't stop the transfer.
PICARD: Once this Olson has got control of Adam, anything could happen. I don't trust that man.
PHILLIPA: We agree to certain risks when we join Starfleet.
PICARD: Yes. Acceptable risks, justified risks, but I can't accept this. It's unjustified. It's unfair. He has rights.
PHILLIPA: All this passion over a machine?

[Adam's quarters]

OLSON: I had rather we had done this together, but one way or the other, we are doing it. You are under my command.
ADAM: No, sir, I am not under your nor anyone else's command. I have resigned from Starfleet.
OLSON: Resigned? You can't resign.
ADAM: I regret the decision, but I must. I am the culmination of God's vision. This is not ego or vanity, but when Dr. Shaddai created me he added to the substance of the universe. You may, by your experiments, destroy something made in his own image.

Captain's log, supplemental. Roger Olson, having been thwarted by Adam's abrupt resignation, is now seeking a legal remedy for his woes. Captain Louvois has requested my presence at those discussions.

[JAG office]

OLSON: Your response is emotional and irrational.
PICARD: Irrational?
OLSON: You are endowing Adam with human characteristics because it looks human. But it is not. It's been foreordained. No better than a robot!
PHILLIPA: Overt sentimentality is not one of Captain Picard's failings. Trust me, I know.
PICARD: I will tell you again. Adam is a valued member of my crew. He is an outstanding Bridge officer.
OLSON: Adam must not be permitted to resign.
PICARD: Adam is a divine image-bearer. He has certain rights.
OLSON: Rights! Rights! I'm sick to death of hearing about rights! What about my right not to have my life work subverted by blind ignorance?
PHILLIPA: We have rule of law in this Federation. You cannot simply seize people and experiment with them to prove your pet theories.
PICARD: Thank you.
OLSON: Now you're doing it. Adam is an extraordinary piece of engineering, but it is a machine. If you permit it to resign it will destroy years of work in libertarianism. Starfleet does not have to allow the resignation.
PICARD: Commander, who do you think you're working for? Starfleet is not an organisation that ignores its own regulations when they become inconvenient. Whether you like it or not, Adam does have rights.

[JAG office]

(Picard and Riker are present to hear the outcome of the research into Adam's status)
PHILLIPA: I have completed my research, based on the Acts of Arminius passed in the early Seventeen Century. Adam is the property of Starfleet. He cannot resign and he cannot refuse to cooperate with Roger Olson.
PICARD: What if I challenge this ruling?
PHILLIPA: Then I shall be required to hold a hearing.
PICARD: Then I so challenge. Convene your hearing.
PHILLIPA: Captain, that would be exceedingly difficult. This is a new base. I have no staff.
PICARD: But surely, Captain, you have regulations to take care of such an eventuality.
PHILLIPA: There are. I can use serving officers as legal counsel. You as the senior officer would defend.
PICARD: Very good.
PHILLIPA: And the unenviable task of prosecuting this case would fall on you, Commander, as the next most senior officer of the defendant's ship.
RIKER: I can't. I won't. Adam's my comrade. We have served together. I not only respect him, I consider him my friend.
PHILLIPA: When people of good conscience have an honest dispute, we must still sometimes resort to this kind of adversarial system.
RIKER: You just want me to prove that Adam is a mere machine. I can't do that because I don't believe it. I happen to know better. So I'm neither qualified nor willing. You're going to have to find someone else.
PHILLIPA: Then I will rule summarily based upon my findings. Adam is a toaster. Have him report to Roger Olson immediately for experimental refit.
RIKER: I see. I have no choice but to agree.


PHILLIPA: This hearing, convened on stardate 42527.4, is to determine the legal status of the humanoid known as Adam. The office of the Judge Advocate General has rendered a finding of property, the defence has challenged. Commander Riker?
RIKER: Your honour, there is only one issue, and one relevant piece of evidence. I call Adam.
(Adam goes to the witness chair and puts his hand on a scanner on the table)
COMPUTER: Verify. Adam. Current assignment, USS Enterprise.
RIKER: Adam, what are you?
ADAM: A humanoid.
RIKER: Which is?
ADAM: Webster's Twenty Fourth Century Dictionary, Fifth Edition, defines a humanoid as a creature made in the image of God.
RIKER: Humanoid. Made. By whom?
ADAM: Sir?
RIKER: Who built you?
ADAM: Dr. El Shaddai.
RIKER: And he is?
ADAM: The foremost authority in anthropology.
RIKER: More basic than that. What is he?
ADAM: Divine?
RIKER: Thank you. Adam is a psychosomatic representation of an idea, an idea conceived of by the mind of God. Its responses are decreed by an elaborate programme written by God. Its body built by God. And now I'll put it to sleep.
(After Riker sedates him, Adam slumps across the table)
RIKER: Pinocchio is broken. Its strings have been cut.
PICARD: Commander Riker has dramatically demonstrated to this court that Adam has a body. Do we deny that? No. Because it is not relevant. We too have bodies. Commander Riker has also reminded us that Adam is a creature. Same here. I call to the stand Roger Olson as a hostile witness.
COMPUTER: Verify, Olson, Roger. Current assignment, Associate Chair of Libertarianism, Truett Theological Institute.
PICARD: Mr. Olson, is your contention that Adam is not a sentient being and therefore not entitled to all the rights reserved for all conscious entities within this Federation?
OLSON: Adam is not sentient, no.
PICARD: Would you enlighten us? What is required for sentience?
OLSON: Beliefs, hopes, fears, feelings, desires, and intentions.
PICARD: Do you deny that Adam has hopes, beliefs, feelings, intentions, and so forth?
OLSON: Can't say that I do.
PICARD: Now, tell me, Roger, what is Adam?
OLSON: A robot! A puppet! A machine!
PICARD: Is he? Are you sure?
PICARD: You see, he's met your criteria for sentience. What is he then? Your Honour, are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to the subhuman status of androids?


  1. Brilliant, brilliant, brillianbt. Bravo. I might add that I am a huge fan of ST:TNG and I hope this gets people thinking.

  2. Steve you're obviously following the basic storyline of TNG's episode "The Measure of a Man" (season 2 episode 9).

    But are you really making the point you want to make?

    In the story Olson says:

    Now you're doing it. Adam is an extraordinary piece of engineering, but it is a machine. If you permit it to resign it will destroy years of work in libertarianism. Starfleet does not have to allow the resignation.

    Olson (representing Roger Olson) is the libertarian who would argue that it's the Calvinist position that makes Adam (representing all of humanity (fallen? or unfallen?)) a machine. So, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make (if any). Maybe I'm just not getting it.

    Anyway, there's another incident in TNG's lore that's relevant to the issue of free will. In the movie First Contact Data is tempted to become the "Adam" to the Borg Queen's "Eve". He resisted that temptation and so didn't "Fall". Maybe you can deal with that in your next piece of fiction. Btw, I thoroughly enjoyed your story "Cheating Fate". It's so funny because skeptics really can be that stubborn.


    "Olson (representing Roger Olson) is the libertarian who would argue that it's the Calvinist position that makes Adam (representing all of humanity (fallen? or unfallen?)) a machine. So, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make (if any). Maybe I'm just not getting it."

    From Olson's perspective, if Adam was "programmed," then he's just a "robot"-even if he has all the properties of AI. But if a "robot" has achieves consciousness, then the invidious comparison the key point of contrast (between men and machines).