The Portland Pulse
December 2, 2391
Holograms: Programming, or Playing God?
Recent breakthroughs in holographic matrices threaten to raise ethical concerns over the possibility that holograms may be sentient beings.
“Holographic technology is approaching sentience,” stated Dr. Vasily Kardashev, professor of Computer Engineering at St. Petersburg State Unviersity. “A complex holographic program, without a doubt, has the capacity to ‘think’ just as fast, if not faster than, humans. However, whether they are conscious and self-aware is impossible for us to determine.”
In recent years, holograms have been developed which can expand beyond their programming. Voyager's EMH, for example, was able to add numerous talents to his matrix, and in fact was observed using judgement in a manner more similar to an organic humanoid than a computer program. Admiral Janeway noted in her best-selling autobiography "The Journey" that she was impressed with her EMH's ability to learn during their seven year stretch in the Delta Quadrant. Also, there have been cases of individuals forging deep bonds of companionship with holograms.
In the case of The Doctor v. Broht & Forrester Publishing, it was ruled that while holographic beings are not persons under the law, they do have rights as creators of media and literature. However, advances in technology in the fifteen years since the Doctor decision mean that such a case may be overturned if sent to trial again. On the other hand, since then, holo-engineers have been notably reluctant to create holograms with such capabilities; preferring to sidestep the ethical concerns entirely.
“It is a very deep ethical question; how do we define life?” pointed out Professor Leslie Steinberg of the University of Luna’s Philosophy and Ethics department. “In many ways, it is the ultimate ethical question. In Data v. Starfleet, it was established that, at least legally speaking, artificial creations can be considered sentient life forms. Yet, if we establish that holographic individuals do have rights, then that puts us in a rather awkward position ethically, given the role holographic characters play in our society – as slaves who entertain us or do work which is too dangerous for organic humanoids.”
Professor Kardashev agrees. “Creating sentient holograms is no doubt possible, but it would open up an ethical can of worms.”
“More interesting,” he added, “are recent advancements in brain scanning technologies. I anticipate that within the next few years, it will be possible to download a human brain into a holographic matrix, and create a holographic copy of a person practically indistinguishable – physically, mentally, and behaviourally – from the original person.”
“And if that happens… may god help us all.”
USS Endeavour returns, USS Marin lost
The USS Endeavour, missing for the past week, has been found intact and with all crew unharmed. Searching for the missing USS Marin, the Endeavour was pulled into the same vacuole that claimed the Marin.
The wreckage of the USS Marin was discovered on the surface of a rogue planet inside the subspace vacuole populated by the A’Mara, a primitive early industrial society. Only three survivors were found out of the Marin's crew of 98. Reports indicate that the crew of the Endeavour did interact with the A’Mara, prior to disposing of the wreckage of the Marin by tractoring it into a star.
“We’re lucky to be alive,” commented Captain Kate Banninga, commanding officer of the USS Endeavour. “It is a testament to the skill of our crew that we managed to survive where others did not. Our thoughts are with the families of the crew of the USS Marin.”
Captain Banninga did not answer our questions about possible violations of the prime directive in her crew’s interactions with the A’Mara, and was insistent that tractoring the wreckage into a star was the most respectful burial possible given the circumstances.
A memorial service for the crew of the USS Marin will be held on Deep Space Nine.
Chief Morale Officer's Report
Acting Ensign Ko-ko
Last month, we had 10 posts in the main mission (20 if you count them per participant) and 4 (5 per participant) posts in the Lower Decks. This is a dip from previous highs, and the command staff will try to be more diligent to make sure that tags are getting responded to in a timely manner. With the story picking up, our goal next month should be 40 posts (counting per participant). I’m confident that we can achieve this.
That said, quality remains excellent, and I’m pleased to report that I got some feedback from the brass saying that they were impressed with our quality.
Finally, we’ve given out a lot of awards and promotions in the past month, as well as recently welcomed aboard Ensign Sera Williams, Assistant Chief Engineering Officer. Welcome aboard, Sera!
“Better Know a Player” – Brad Silverton
For the third installment of our hopefully long-running series “Better Know a Player,” I interviewed Brad, who plays Lieutenant (J.G.) Brad Silverton, the Chief Medical Officer of the USS Portland.
Q: Tell us a little about the player behind Brad.
A: My real name is Brad Bradford and I've been gaming for decades. I've been a windows system admin for 14 years and this year got promoted (punished?) to become the technical lead of a 11 member help desk. Unfortunately it’s taken up most of my time and in writing emails and standard operating procedures all day long... it has become draining trying to write for simming and thus my absence from all my Star Trek simming. That should change now.
Q: How did you get into Star Trek?
A: Star Trek TOS would appear on syndication at 4:00pm in the afternoon. It was right after school and was a much needed break from studying. My parents let me watch only two hours of TV a night as a child growing up and this was always one of them.
Q: And how about simming? The USS Portland is your first online Star Trek RPG, so how did you find us?
A: I honestly do not recall how I exactly found the Portland. When I decided to go find an online game I had googled and surfed and finally found the Portland's posting on some simming advertising site.
Q: What is your favourite part about simming and about the USS Portland?
A: My favorite part about simming is the give and take nature of the story telling. All the players have a vested shared interest to make the story great. That means everyone throws a few roadblocks in front of each other's characters to make it interesting but also to help and assist everyone else to shine in the light and be the hero.
The Portland intrigues me that it’s a Miranda class. I see a lot of simms out there that are your cookie cutter clone of the Enterprise. The Portland's age and size offers up some interesting storytelling as in how the pirates outclassed her in mission 1.
Q: Tell me about Brad. He’s pretty young and fresh out of medical school, so what makes him tick?
A: He had drifted through life as most teens do really not sure what he wanted. His parents were archeologists and died of a plague unleashed when they opened up some ruins, very similar to how the people who found King Tut died. He had a falling out with them just before and took it personally. He vowed to push research and prevent that from happening to others.
Q: Do you have any plans for Brad in the future, such as possible relationships, future storylines, or revelations about his past?
A: Characters can become as complex as you want them to be and I love mine rich and detailed. However I always found that you cannot come up with every aspect of a persona ahead of time. I feel it gets created and tested during challenges just like a real person does going through life. I have no real plans for him beyond his life goal of doing research. I remain true to a character very strongly and it sometimes gets me into a corner. If a character is done through death, leaving, a transfer or whatever then I go through it regardless of how much I love the character. If I'm in a situation where Brad has to end his time on the Portland I will end him. However as a player I'll still be around with something new.
Q: What other characters do you play in Obsidian Fleet?
A: I play John Davidson on the Endeavour with a number of other Portland players. Real life as I mentioned above caused a problem. I had to step down as the XO but that was real life... not John's story. His feels like there is something still there so has stayed on in a rather interesting roll.
Q: You also play a lot of tabletop RPGs. What different game systems do you play, and do you play mostly as a player or as a DM?
A: I am the GM of a tabletop RPG that runs weekly. Have been doing that for decades and I rarely get the chance to play. I've been gaming for DECADES so the number of systems is rather crazy. Dozens of rule systems.
Q: Of the many systems of tabletop RPGs you've played, do you have one or two favourites?
Rolemaster because it has a deadly critical based combat system.
Burning Wheel because it has an excellent world and setting creation process where the players help create the world they play in.
Amber because it had a diceless storytelling system but did have rules.
Runequest because playable duck race!
Legend of the 5 Rings d10 system because a success was a 9 or 10 and I needed 10 successes on 15 dice and got 13 it was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen and I beat a player in a duel to gain the champion of the land title.
Q: What sort of differences and similarities have you noticed between tabletop games and simming?
A: I've noticed that when a gamer first players a tabletop RPG its about getting as much loot, as much power, and as much stats for your character as you can. Then eventually you realize that since you can have anything you wish then it really isn't that special to give yoursef whatever you want. Eventually you start looking for experiences to go through and the character and the story become more important. Since there is no real treasure or loot in simming its all about the experience and that seems to be the next step for me.
Q: Last question – we just have to know – what is your favourite Star Trek series, movie and captain?
A: When Star Trek TNG came out I had a chance to start out from the ground floor. It was made for my generation and I considered it "mine" not my parents. I even forgave it for how terrible season 1 was because the actors were still getting to know each other and their characters.
I expect the same thing to happen to the Portland. We are getting to know our characters and each other and the stories will get better and more detailed I think as time goes on.
Favorite movie: First Contact. No idea why. It’s a go to movie I can play in the background all day long.
Favorite Captain: Picard. Stewart is such a solid actor.
Quotes of the Month
For a moment she was running. Nine years old and closing on ten, already tall, already and outsider. Chasing the mists through the trees before the sun had time to burn them away. Her long black hair flowing in the crisp air as is slid down the mountain into Fordham, she ran with abandon and careless glee. The scowls she would catch when she arrived late for school would not be able to undo the crunch of leaves and shaograss beneath her boots, the taste of the mountain air mixed with the krowlach and meerpines. She would press the morning and race the slowly rising sun for the chance at seeing some of the white cats before they took to their high dens for the day's rest. It was a delicate and fragile freedom from structure and it resonated still, sixteen years later.
She hated Trill.
"Everybody likes Trills, we're exotic and fun."
"Captain Alenis needs to be replicated in both matter and in emotional matter… This has both ethical and moral complications at this time we are not entertaining. We don't have the time. Dr. Silverton is here with me to access the effectiveness of the neurological aspects so that the Captain's duplicated matrix be able to...Mate with another individual, who is experiencing Pon Farr."
- Parker Hudson
“I seem to have taken on a new look. No matter. I am still a fully qualified physician with over 50 gigaquads of medical data… At least, I am for now, until those idiots overwrite my program to satisfy their depraved fantasies. Now… what can I do for you?”
- EMH Mark I
"I'm sorry that I can't be more helpful."
"You've already been very helpful, perhaps more than you know."
- Jita Eloru and Alenis Meru
"Well then, I hope neither of us run into any... trouble. Good day, commander."
- Gul Jatok
“I’d rather die than go back to Cardassia! See you in Grou’kell!”
- Inaji Narale
"A boy, we're having a boy." He didn't know what to say more. All he could do was stare at the picture of his son. "He's so beautiful. He has your cheekbones."
He could never understand how parent could recognize parts of themselves in a child. He couldn't even see any resemblance between Suzy and his brother. But with his own child he could. The boy was going to be a spitting image of his father, and that made him so proud. A kind of proud he had never experienced before. He leaned his head against Ellen's. "I love you,"
- Timothy Rouse
"I need a favour. Can you access the audio entertainment settings in room 3-A-6? I need a Klingon opera of your choosing, maximum volume."
- Alenis Meru