Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

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Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Zor » 2018-07-23 09:35pm

One concept which comes up in fiction from time to time is the idea that I'm going to call Uninventiveness. The idea of which was shown in Star Trek: TNG with walking encyclopedia Data in his quests to learn about the human condition by making clay sculptures with children. The kids were making various things while Data was unable to to come up with anything to make. To break his stall he's told to make something based on "music", what he made was a clay sculpture of a G-Clef...
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...a symbol commonly associated with Music. Other species have been depicted as having a great ability to copy what they are presented with, but have no ability to improve or modify it. If you show them a pocket watch or a 17th century sailing ship they'll be making identical pocket watches and sailing ships centuries down the line and so forth, never adjusting or modifying things.

To me this represents a common flawed understanding of the nature of creativity and innovation. Many people think of creativity as being to the effect the ability to have a sudden spark of brilliance in their mind in which everything comes together and they have idea that ultimately becomes what's created in the end, with maybe larger projects involving a mind a race to get said initial vision down. This is not how it goes. In truth a lot of creativity is basically re-combining existing knowledge and making adjustments to what has come, generating new knowledge in the process. For example...
  • An individual in a tribe of hunter-gatherers who is somewhat frustrated with pulling out duds and has a surplus of time better to do decides to clear out uneatable plants growing in a patch of eatable tuber plants, collecting the tubers and replacing the plants. When she returns to the same patch the next year, she finds that the tuber plants have grown back thicker than they had been. She tells her fellows of this, who do the same leading to an increase in the amount of food. Future hunter gatherers over the span take this principle and refine it, cutting down trees near patches of food plants, seeding areas with food plants as they move on, favoring the largest most productive food plants and as time goes by begin to spend time in certain locations and taking an increased role in tending patches of food plants before eventually clearing out large fields for food crops. Said transition took thousands of years and dozens of generations with no one generation being aware of the changes beyond minor refinements in method.
  • In an early semi-agricultural culture someone takes notice that clay at the bottom of a camp fire becomes hard. Said individual (or someone else that said individual shares the information with) then decides to put a small lump of clay into a campfire one day and finds a hard lump. Taking this into consideration said individual (or another that has received said information, which applies ) shapes the clay into a rough convex shape and makes a simple bowl similar to coconut shells. A forth cycle involves said individual making a basic kiln out of dirt and rocks to make better use of the fuel based on the knowledge that walls hold in heat. The same basic set up with some tweeks is also found to be useful for cooking and melting down metals from ores.
  • in a simple civilization which has comparatively recently learned that if you take copper and tin and mix them together you get bronze, which can be used to make a variety of tools such as spearheads and daggers used in combat. Some bronzesmiths decide to extend spearheads (while gradually cutting down on the shaft) and dagger blades over time, eventually resulting in 60cm long swords.
  • Bronze is a useful thing for making swords, sickles, helmets, armor and whatnot, but it is also expensive as you need copper and tin, generally needing to import one or the other. Despite this iron is known both from a few examples of meteoric iron (a prestige item), which is is also made as a waste product from smelting copper and other such metals. Furnace designs are refined and improved with new systems such as bellows to more efficiently smelt copper, gold and so forth leading to more incidental iron processing as lumps of semi-molten iron form at the bottom. Bronzeworkers begin working these lumps of iron and modify their furnaces to re-heat lumps and begin forging them. Since iron ore is more common than bronze, iron overtakes bronze in many fields.
Even accidental happenstance or benign error in copying information can be a welcome aide towards refinement. Errors that are useless get deleted, errors that are useful are retained. Some societies and cultures are more conducive to innovation and working out new means and methods and others are more conservative and are less receptive to new ideas when they come up. Even so, to assume that an intelligent species that can understand what it does would be so inventive that it could only copy complex designs seems to be flawed to me.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by madd0ct0r » 2018-07-24 07:24am

Three types of creativity : https://www.cs.helsinki.fi/webfm_send/1682
(Boden 1992)

1. Combinational: new combinations of familiar ideas
2. Exploratory: generation of new ideas by exploration of a space of concepts
3. Transformational: involves a transformation of the search space so new kinds of ideas can be generated.


and Gary Klein in Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, proposes stratgies or tactics that might generate cretivity in one of those types:
“Intuition is the use of patterns they’ve already learned, whereas insight is the discovery of new patterns.”
“We can increase insights by exposing ourselves to lots of different ideas that might help us form new connections.”
“Martin Chalfie is a perfect example of the experience most people have of “connecting the dots” and solving a problem by being exposed to more ideas. Like Chalfie, we get a new piece of information that combines with other information we already have, and, presto, we make a discovery.”


“Gottlieb’s insight was to see the pattern, as opposed to Chalfie, who spotted an opportunity to combine seemingly unrelated ideas, and Markopolos and the young cop, who both homed in on an inconsistency.”

---

I don't think anyone would have trouble imagining Univentive Data running through Combinatorial or Exploratory models to resolve a problem in a computer or learn a new language he has only a partial word set for. In some ways it just shifts the burden of creativity into the Transformational type.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Zixinus » 2018-07-25 12:10pm

It should be noted that it may be that Data is uncreative by human standards. And to human conceptions of creativity. He is creative but in a way that a radically different brain and mind would grant.

It is also possible that Data deliberately does stunts like this because he noticed that such attempts and logic causes people to like him.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Khaat » 2018-07-25 12:28pm

I think there is also the element of Data doesn't make mistakes. Mistakes often lead to compensation, which can (and often does) lead to innovation in efforts to "course correct". If you never make mistakes, you don't learn to adjust your problem-solving skillset.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-25 12:43pm

Khaat wrote:
2018-07-25 12:28pm
I think there is also the element of Data doesn't make mistakes. Mistakes often lead to compensation, which can (and often does) lead to innovation in efforts to "course correct". If you never make mistakes, you don't learn to adjust your problem-solving skillset.
To take another look at this though-- creativity is subjective to a certain degree, so you can't really make 'mistakes'. You just are either good at it, or you're not. A lack of artistic skill can be improved to a certain degree with practice, but won't be developed the same way as someone who's naturally creative would grow.

I think a lot of the issues with depicting creativity from alien perspectives is that it's much easier to write an analytical mind than it is a creative one. A mind that works along logical, basic principles, is focused on factual hard sciences and such, is easier to depict because you can just keep to the facts. To put it in human terms, it's like, say, Roman math is rather different from modern mathematics, but it operates along the same principles, it's only a different way of expressing those principles.

Art and creativity on the other hand, are things that are much harder to put into words because everybody approaches it differently. It's not something that you can input x data in and get y result predictably. Some people visualize things mentally; other people write it down; some will just get started and see how it goes; etc... there is a place for data in creativity, notably in building up sort of a mental library or scrapbook of what's been done before, improving one's knowledge of what they are doing, drawing inspiration from research. But ultimately the product of creativity is (hopefully) fairly original either in method, material, or form, whether it be Stairway to Heaven or the Mona Lisa.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Jub » 2018-07-25 12:51pm

Even making something as simple as a G-Clef out of clay is to some extent creative. What dimensions do you make it? Which font do you render it in? Why the G-Clef over another symbol which is equally linked to music?

Just in making those choices there is some level of creativity. At least there is if we assume he wouldn't make the exact same choices each time.

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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-25 12:58pm

^As far as I recall, the only 'creative' thing we consistently see Data doing is either painting or playing his violin. Everything else is an one-off, from what I remember. So there's no way to tell whether he's making the same choices every time or not. One can hope he at least knows he doesn't NEED to make the same choices each time.

I want to say though that Data's violin playing is consistently commented upon as 'technically perfect' (again IIRC; it's been a while since I watched TNG), so it's not a matter of technique, which -is- something that can be perfected via objective standards. I cannot recall whether he attempted original compositions or not, but I think he did; the problem is I don't recall the response to them...
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Khaat » 2018-07-25 01:15pm

Yes, but in realizing that creation, there is no error in execution (a slip of the hand or tool), which for someone else, may have led to a less dogmatic representation, and "more creative" by means of changing the result. Data sets a goal, he "prints" that goal. There is no "happy accident", there is no continued processing over fabrication time, there is no revision accounting for error in execution or shifting desire. The passage of time in execution is effectively zero, once the product is chosen for Data.

Selecting "font a", "scale 45", "medium R" is a minimum creativity, possibly even removed in that he's biased (the class was using clay, so he uses clay, the role model is human, so he uses human culture as the symbolic basis, etc.) All contemporary primary school decisions.

For a being capable of billions of processes per [insert random time chosen by writers], Data is an under-developed character by reducing him to human time scales of learning. Data burns a bunch of time over-analyzing his failure, presumes he's faulty somehow, but has to hear from Picard to pick it up again: "It is possible to make no mistakes and still fail"

Data has the sum of Federation history at the tip of his positronic connections, how can he not already know this? Well, so Picard can be the wise mentor to the student who should already know all of it and process the personal character (or possibly multiple) derived from it in hours (?) at his processing capacity.

Granted, Data, introduced 15-odd years into a Starfleet career in season 1, was wooden on purpose (thanks, writers!)

Edit: Data chooses to emulate humans (creator bias), but consistently fails to allow imperfections in execution that would make him more human.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by B5B7 » 2018-07-26 02:50am

Yeah, there is a major problem with Data as conceived in ST:TNG. He has the rank of Lieutenant Commander, which means he had to rise through the ranks, which requires exhibiting ability to interact with others, to show command ability and be able to have a functional understanding of what others say means.
But as shown in ST:TNG he behaves as if all this human stuff is new to him. It would have been better if he was a simple crewman, but then of course he couldn't be the Spock analogy that he is cast as. The show creators put themselves into a bind here.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Zixinus » 2018-07-26 12:04pm

The other explanation is that he previously worked in an all-alien crew or better, with an all-Vulcan crew, which would explain much.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Tribble » 2018-07-26 02:34pm

In universe it may also have been influenced by some programming on Soongs part; IIRC he had wanted Data to take his time when it came to human understanding as he felt that he had rushed things with Lore.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-26 04:46pm

Tribble wrote:
2018-07-26 02:34pm
In universe it may also have been influenced by some programming on Soongs part; IIRC he had wanted Data to take his time when it came to human understanding as he felt that he had rushed things with Lore.
15 years though?!

I could see say 5 years or so, sure. And I have no reason to assume that Soong didn't pre-program Data with some basic rules like wear clothes in public, use a napkin when you eat, and so forth. He still exhibits some basic failures, though many of them are situational (if you think about it, Riker vanishing the plank from under Worf was as much of an dick move as Data shoving Deanna into the holo-water, in Generations-- the only difference was context).

Part of the problem, I suppose, is that Data isn't "growing up" in a normal setting-- he's found by Starfleet (IIRC), I don't recall whether they activated him or if he had already been activated on that random nowhere planet. Then he spends his entire life in Starfleet, going to the Academy and all, then serving aboard various ships for the next 15 years before being assigned to the Enterprise.

When your life every day for ~15ish years is basically getting up, going on duty, acting in an official capacity for eight hours (or however long a watch is), then knocking off and dicking about in one's room or awkwardly being social in the common areas, then entering a rest period for eight hours even though you're not required to... yeah, I can see how that might be weird. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if he -did- get assigned to a Vulcan ship over much of his early career, he would have fitted in okay there as social conventions in Vulcan culture are fairly well structured and (obviously) logical, and Starfleet HQ probably would have felt that it would've been a better place for him to start his career than committing a lot of gaffes in a human-majority ship simply by being himself.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-07-27 07:57pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-07-26 04:46pm
Tribble wrote:
2018-07-26 02:34pm
In universe it may also have been influenced by some programming on Soongs part; IIRC he had wanted Data to take his time when it came to human understanding as he felt that he had rushed things with Lore.
15 years though?!

I could see say 5 years or so, sure. And I have no reason to assume that Soong didn't pre-program Data with some basic rules like wear clothes in public, use a napkin when you eat, and so forth. He still exhibits some basic failures, though many of them are situational (if you think about it, Riker vanishing the plank from under Worf was as much of an dick move as Data shoving Deanna into the holo-water, in Generations-- the only difference was context).
Funnily enough, Soong and his wife had to install a modesty program, as Data would walk around the colony naked as a jaybird because it made no difference to him. The other way they tried to help Data socialize was by making him the repository of everyone in the colony's journals, logs, etc. Any progress they made with socialization was stopped by the Crystalline Entity. A giant space monster coming to eat your colony kind of halts your attempts at teaching. Funny that.
Part of the problem, I suppose, is that Data isn't "growing up" in a normal setting-- he's found by Starfleet (IIRC), I don't recall whether they activated him or if he had already been activated on that random nowhere planet. Then he spends his entire life in Starfleet, going to the Academy and all, then serving aboard various ships for the next 15 years before being assigned to the Enterprise.
The Starfleet team activated him(or he was set to activate when people approached him, whichever). And like a small animal, Data started following them around as if they were his mother. And he tells Soong as such, that he joined Starfleet because he was found and rescued by Starfleet officers. Those times were rather hard for him:
DATA: The first months following my activation were a difficult period for me. There were many problems associated with my becoming sentient.
LAFORGE: Because your neural net was still forming.
DATA: As I acquired new skills, neural pathways would form replacing other less complex pathways. It was very disorienting.
LAFORGE: I bet.
DATA: As my systems grew in complexity, it became increasingly difficult to integrate new pathways into my existing neural net. The probability of cascade failure grew with each additional pathway. I came to the conclusion it would be safer and easier to shut myself down and start again.
LAFORGE: Yeah, but if you had done that, you wouldn't have remembered any of the things that had happened to you.
DATA: In a way, it would have been like committing suicide.
LAFORGE: So what did you do?
DATA: I decided against the procedure. I chose instead to treat the problems I was having with my systems as challenges to overcome, rather than obstacles to be avoided.
So, Data had trouble even functioning for his first year post-rescue.
When your life every day for ~15ish years is basically getting up, going on duty, acting in an official capacity for eight hours (or however long a watch is), then knocking off and dicking about in one's room or awkwardly being social in the common areas, then entering a rest period for eight hours even though you're not required to... yeah, I can see how that might be weird. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if he -did- get assigned to a Vulcan ship over much of his early career, he would have fitted in okay there as social conventions in Vulcan culture are fairly well structured and (obviously) logical, and Starfleet HQ probably would have felt that it would've been a better place for him to start his career than committing a lot of gaffes in a human-majority ship simply by being himself.
Apparently he did well scholastically, but was rather bad at knowing when things applied. This hindered him doing anything emotionally or recreationally. He was the subject of many pranks at the Academy. I think part of the solution to Data maturing, was that he had people like Geordi who treated him more of as a person than a piece of equipment, and helped navigate him through the social niceties.

So, imagine that for 15 years of service, Data had been excelling in all work functions once things were explained to him, but couldn't grasp beyond that, because there was no example to follow. AIs have similar troubles in real life as well. This, compounded with his struggle to function at risk of cascade failure(something that happened to Lal), and he may have just decided to take it slow, for fear of blowing his systems.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-07-27 08:35pm

Also we should remember that for this purpose, Starfleet is a military organization so while on-duty Data could use the Starfleet regulations to avoid social situations he didn't understand. After all we know there's humans and vulcans serving on the same ship without there being a constant need to seperate those crewmembers so it's doutful that Starfleet regulations don't insist on social interactions unless the officer in question desires so.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Batman » 2018-07-27 09:11pm

Um-if the officer in question desires so, it's not Starfleet insisting, it's the officer choosing to. I think you mean them not making it 'mandatory'. So not 'rules say you have to come so you come or we'll discipline you' vs 'We would really appreciate it if you came, but if you're adamant about staying away, that'y our choice'
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-07-28 06:39am

Batman wrote:
2018-07-27 09:11pm
Um-if the officer in question desires so, it's not Starfleet insisting, it's the officer choosing to. I think you mean them not making it 'mandatory'. So not 'rules say you have to come so you come or we'll discipline you' vs 'We would really appreciate it if you came, but if you're adamant about staying away, that'y our choice'
Exactly, should fine Data (or any other officer for that matter) want to join in social activities fine, but starfleet isn't gonna force you to join or punish you if you don't. I mean starfleet is such a large and diverse organization that there's bound to be species who would like avoid social interactions for what ever reasons.

That said I can see why my wording might have been confusing.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Zixinus » 2018-07-28 02:46pm

The question then would be how did he become an officer? Officers are by definition required to handle subordinates, ergo people, ergo he needed to develop SOME social skills to effectively manage them.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Jub » 2018-07-28 02:57pm

Zixinus wrote:
2018-07-28 02:46pm
The question then would be how did he become an officer? Officers are by definition required to handle subordinates, ergo people, ergo he needed to develop SOME social skills to effectively manage them.
The same way very unsocialized Vulcans deal with it. Using logic, Starfleet rules and regulations, and occasionally advice from others to achieve a very regular outcome when it comes to his duties. He'd be stiff as hell but his assigned tasks would get done and everything would be well documented which military brass tends to love.

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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-07-28 05:29pm

Jub wrote:
2018-07-28 02:57pm
Zixinus wrote:
2018-07-28 02:46pm
The question then would be how did he become an officer? Officers are by definition required to handle subordinates, ergo people, ergo he needed to develop SOME social skills to effectively manage them.
The same way very unsocialized Vulcans deal with it. Using logic, Starfleet rules and regulations, and occasionally advice from others to achieve a very regular outcome when it comes to his duties. He'd be stiff as hell but his assigned tasks would get done and everything would be well documented which military brass tends to love.
Also Data is the Enterprice's Operations (and Science officer?), so he's in technical branch rather then the command branch, which would help futher as the mechanics of the ship don't care if you're a social person or you either use them correctly or not.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-28 05:43pm

^That is what I was thinking as well, just being an extremely by the book officer is something that people can work with. You don't have to have the best social skills in such a situation, just a bit of a sense for when to step back and ask for advice in situations that require a bit of tact. I have no doubt that after the first negative incident or two, Data's first CO probably took him aside and had a quiet talk to the effect of "if you aren't sure how to apply the rules ASK US".

TNG era Starfleet obviously had no problem with the occasional bit of moralizing, so I have no doubt they would not have been averse to occasional pedagogy when it came to Data.
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Jub » 2018-07-29 05:13am

I also feel like Data would be very good at clear information transfer. He never misspeaks, miss-quotes, or miss remembers. If he has information to pass along he can say exactly what he needs to say and has every word in the thesaurus to re-explain something that doesn't land in the original wording. That's an underrated skill in a technical field.

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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by B5B7 » 2018-07-29 06:34am

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-07-28 05:29pm
Jub wrote:
2018-07-28 02:57pm
Zixinus wrote:
2018-07-28 02:46pm
The question then would be how did he become an officer? Officers are by definition required to handle subordinates, ergo people, ergo he needed to develop SOME social skills to effectively manage them.
The same way very unsocialized Vulcans deal with it. Using logic, Starfleet rules and regulations, and occasionally advice from others to achieve a very regular outcome when it comes to his duties. He'd be stiff as hell but his assigned tasks would get done and everything would be well documented which military brass tends to love.
Also Data is the Enterprice's Operations (and Science officer?), so he's in technical branch rather then the command branch, which would help futher as the mechanics of the ship don't care if you're a social person or you either use them correctly or not.
Incorrect, he is also in the chain of command - he is the second officer, only Picard and Riker are above him.
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Lord Revan
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-07-29 08:26am

B5B7 wrote:
2018-07-29 06:34am
Lord Revan wrote:
2018-07-28 05:29pm
Jub wrote:
2018-07-28 02:57pm


The same way very unsocialized Vulcans deal with it. Using logic, Starfleet rules and regulations, and occasionally advice from others to achieve a very regular outcome when it comes to his duties. He'd be stiff as hell but his assigned tasks would get done and everything would be well documented which military brass tends to love.
Also Data is the Enterprice's Operations (and Science officer?), so he's in technical branch rather then the command branch, which would help futher as the mechanics of the ship don't care if you're a social person or you either use them correctly or not.
Incorrect, he is also in the chain of command - he is the second officer, only Picard and Riker are above him.
correct term here would be inaccurate as nothing I said is wrong, I just forgot something, besides you're missing my point, my point was that Data didn't rise thru the ranks from the command branch but rather the operations branch in fact he's still considered part of the operations branch rather the command branch hence the gold uniform instead of the red of command branch.

Unlike Picard (the ship's commanding officer) or Riker (the ship's executive officer) Data's primary duties don't exactly demand him to be a "people's person", yes technically being a CO or XO don't demand that either but if you're not good with people in that position the ship won't function as well as it does.
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B5B7
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by B5B7 » 2018-07-29 09:14am

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-07-29 08:26am
B5B7 wrote:
2018-07-29 06:34am
Lord Revan wrote:
2018-07-28 05:29pm

Also Data is the Enterprice's Operations (and Science officer?), so he's in technical branch rather then the command branch, which would help futher as the mechanics of the ship don't care if you're a social person or you either use them correctly or not.
Incorrect, he is also in the chain of command - he is the second officer, only Picard and Riker are above him.
correct term here would be inaccurate as nothing I said is wrong, I just forgot something, besides you're missing my point, my point was that Data didn't rise thru the ranks from the command branch but rather the operations branch in fact he's still considered part of the operations branch rather the command branch hence the gold uniform instead of the red of command branch.

Unlike Picard (the ship's commanding officer) or Riker (the ship's executive officer) Data's primary duties don't exactly demand him to be a "people's person", yes technically being a CO or XO don't demand that either but if you're not good with people in that position the ship won't function as well as it does.
OK, fair enough points. :)
TVWP: "Janeway says archly, "Sometimes it's the female of the species that initiates mating." Is the female of the species trying to initiate mating now? Janeway accepts Paris's apology and tells him she's putting him in for a commendation. The salamander sex was that good."
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Re: Creative Sterility/Uninventiveness

Post by Zixinus » 2018-07-29 01:44pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-07-28 05:29pm
Jub wrote:
2018-07-28 02:57pm
Zixinus wrote:
2018-07-28 02:46pm
The question then would be how did he become an officer? Officers are by definition required to handle subordinates, ergo people, ergo he needed to develop SOME social skills to effectively manage them.
The same way very unsocialized Vulcans deal with it. Using logic, Starfleet rules and regulations, and occasionally advice from others to achieve a very regular outcome when it comes to his duties. He'd be stiff as hell but his assigned tasks would get done and everything would be well documented which military brass tends to love.
Also Data is the Enterprice's Operations (and Science officer?), so he's in technical branch rather then the command branch, which would help futher as the mechanics of the ship don't care if you're a social person or you either use them correctly or not.
Except that for something as large as a starship, you won't be just dealing with the machines but other people dealing with machines, as no one person can know and do everything (not even Data). I don't think he'd be fully knowledgeable but under 15 years, he must have developed extensive social experience and protocols for at least working with everyone day-to-day.
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