In the 9th episode of the second season, named “The Measure of a Man,” Lt. Commander Data’s fate has been put on the line to determine if he has the right to choose his future. Data is a highly intelligent Android who can perform all the tasks on the enterprise. However, a surprise visit from Commander Bruce Maddox could’ve been the end of Data. Starfleet, the organization who made Data, sent Maddox to the starship to inform Data that he is being taken back to Starfleet so he can get disassembled, which will help Starfleet to copy Data’s parts and create more intelligent androids like him.
As reasonable as it sound, but the risk of this process will kill Data, which Data immediately refused. However, Maddox argued that Data is just an android, and he doesn’t have the right to choose his destiny. This problem raises the question: what makes a person, a “person?” is it just because that we’re humans makes us the only conscious and sentient creatures in this universe?
Looking at it Philosophically, what really makes the person a “person”, is being conscious and sentient.
Lt. Commander Data has the right to choose his destiny and future, and Data is indeed conscious and sentient. The theory of Physicalism suggests that everything that is and exist in this world is physical. Everything you see, touch and feel does exist in this world. That does applies for the person too. The person does exist in this world, he can be seen and heard.
The person can be touched, and also he can get hurt. In his second meditation “Concerning the nature of the human mind: that it is better known than the body”, René Descartes talked about what makes the human exist in this world. He argues that if he is getting deceived deliberately, whether a God was deceiving him or anything else, then there is no doubt that he exist physically in this world . Data can be seen, can be touched and can be heard. and Data also can be deceived.
In the begging of the same episode, the enterprise crew were playing poker. Although Data seems to be really smart while playing the game, he was easily fooled by Commander Riker in the game, which resulted in him losing the game. Data is highly intelligent android, but he couldn’t see through Riker’s plan. Creature Consciousness is a property possessed by a creature or a person who are awake and sentient in this world. Is Data awake? Yes. Is he sentient? Yes. The Creature Consciousness theory does apply on Data. He is a creature who can have a life and can moves but with a different powering technique that is different than humans. The famous comedy tv series The Big Bang Theory, talks about Theoretical Physicist; Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a highly intelligent man who got into college while he was only eleven years old.
It’s showed in the series how much of a genius he is when he solves a math problem or solving something related to his field of study. However, the series shows the way he behave in his daily life, which kind of looks like a programed life. He wakes up at the same time every day, eats a different breakfast every day depending on a list he made, goes to the bathroom at the same time every day, and sleeps at the same time also. While looking at Sheldon’s life, you can tell that he lives like a robot, even his friends were doubting if he is indeed was robot in one the episodes. While Comparing Data to Sheldon, there not much of a difference between them, except that Sheldon is a human, and Data is an android. But they both exist, they both are conscious, both are sentient, and both of them can be deceived.
Like the poker game Data lost, equivalently Sheldon was fooled in another episode of The Big Bang Theory too. Sheldon was playing a game of cards against Wil Wheaton-playing himself in the series- in one of the episodes. During the game, Wheaton easily fooled Sheldon to win the game. So, to use a philosophical criterion here: Sheldon is conscious creature who can be deceived, and Data is significantly similar to Sheldon, then undoubtedly Data is a conscious creature. Functionalism is a theory that illustrates that mental states are identified by what they are, and what they can do, rather than what they are made of. The normal creature possess three main mental, intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness.
Data possess all the of the previous mental states, which makes him a person who has the right to choose his own fate. It has been shown throughout the episode that Data has emotions to his fellow members on the ship, and also while he was packing his stuff, he packed some gifts that he received during his tenure on the enterprise. Packing gifts is a significant evidence that Data has emotions and do appreciate the love and respect he earned from the people who gave him presents. In conclusion, Lt. Commander Data has the right to choose his destiny and future. Data is conscious and sentient, and those two factors makes any creature a person. Lt. Commander Data has a physical body that can be seen, touched, and felt by any other physical object. Data also is intelligent, has self-awareness, and can deceived like any normal human being who exist on this earth.