Some people needs killin’

Some people are going to laugh at me, but I am going to confess, anyway. I watch Star Trek: Voyager here in Japan. I’ve never been a Trekkie, but I did enjoy the original series when I was a kid. There’s not a terribly big selection of American shows here in Japan, so I watch some shows here I wouldn’t normally watch if I was in the US. Voyager is one of them.

If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s Star Trek for women. The captain is a woman, and the stories tend to have some kind of emotion-exploring theme (the episode where the captain fell in love with a hologram was particularly laughable). It’s quite silly, but I can sit through it, unlike shows like Charmed or LAX.

Anyway, the other day they were doing an anti-death penalty episode. There were some violent murderers on their way to execution, and their ship got damaged or something, so Voyager took the crew and prisoners aboard. Many among Voyager‘s crew expressed misgivings about delivering the murderers to the executioner.

At one point, the doctor (who happens to be a hologram–I’ll never understand how he’s able to pick up physical objects, by the way) says, “Killing is wrong. No matter who’s doing it.” I just had to laugh, because Voyager routinely fires on hostile ships. Are we really to believe that no one ever dies as a result of that? Does the doctor really believe that it is wrong to kill in self-defense? I wonder if he would object to a security officer killing a hostage taker. Once we admit that there are cases where the state (or governing authority) is permitted to kill, we have to debate when killing is justified. It is no longer possible to say that it is always wrong.

To be truly consistent, abolitionists who argue that it is always wrong to kill must also object to killing in self-defense and killing aggressors to save the lives of victims. That’s just silly, though, because this world ain’t perfect, and some people just needs killin’.

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17 Responses to “Some people needs killin’”

  1. Isaiah says:

    Great food for thought, Casey.

    On Star Trek… I have never been a Trekkie, mainly because it’s so emo, and there’s always this “trying too hard to be politically correct” theme running throughout.

    C’mon, get some fights on, do some nasty things. Sure, it’s un-Christian of me to expect so, but it’s a show and I want to see some lasers traded. Uh, yea, that’s my flesh talking out loud. :D

  2. casey says:

    Yeah, “politically correct” is another good word to describe Voyager. I don’t remember the original series being like that. Of course, it’s been several years (decades? :o ) since I saw it.

  3. Kansas Bob says:

    Star Trek.. the great TV teacher :)

    I am a trekker and like you find it interesting how much of it is built around unexplained concepts like the holo-doctor.

    I don’t watch Voyager much but did catch the captain’s affair with the hologram.. Star Trek for chicks.

    I think that you raised an issue that many are inconsistent about.. seems that you are either a pacifist or not.

  4. casey says:

    Trekker, huh? I think I saw on Wikipedia or somewhere where they were debating which was correct, “trekkie” or “trekker.” I always thought it was “trekkie.” Or maybe that’s what people who aren’t “trekkers” call them…

  5. Kansas Bob says:

    ..I suspect that you are a Trekkie (a closet Trekker) Casey :)

  6. casey says:

    Ha, ha. Well, the last episode of Voyager comes on next week. After that they’re going to start showing Star Trek: The Next Generation. I guess I’ll give that a try, too. :)

  7. Mo says:

    Lived in Japan years ago – the only ‘American’ show that was available was ‘Gunsmoke’ – dubbed in Japanese. What a hoot. I’m a quasi-trekkie – but didn’t watch Voyager that much.

  8. Ash75 says:

    >Lived in Japan years ago – the only ‘American’ show that was >available was ‘Gunsmoke’ – dubbed in Japanese.

    That’s funny. My mom lived here (Japan) over 40 years ago and said the same thing.

  9. Danny Lowe says:

    I find it laughable when any show (especially a science fiction show) climbs up on its soap box and preaches (hey, if a doctor can be a hologram then a show can climb on its soap box). I live in America, with tons of choices but still, for some reason, I watch CSI: Miami. In every episode some character goes on some kind of political rant.

    On a side-note, its funny that Japan has such strict gun laws yet “Gunsmoke” was so popular there.

  10. casey says:

    I watch CSI: Miami, too, Danny. :D

  11. Scott says:

    The original Trek was pretty preachy, but I love it anyway.

    “I’ll never understand how he’s able to pick up physical objects, by the way”

    It’s like the holodeck, I imagine it involves tractor/pressor beams.

    And no it’s not always wrong to kill, we just need to be more careful when deciding who’s deserving.

  12. casey says:

    Okay, so the picking up part involves a separate technology. I was trying to figure out how light could do what he does. Last night’s episode was about granting human rights to holograms. That was pretty funny, too.

  13. Scott says:

    Well if it was the doctor then he’s also an AI based on an actual human being’s brain. That’s one thing I like about Trek. Maybe it’s preachy but it makes you think. When we get to the point where AI’s exist, should they have “human” rights?

  14. casey says:

    Yeah, it was the doctor. Would you ever really be able to prove that the AI was acting outside the programmed parameters? Is it even possible for humans to create such a thing? Wouldn’t something have to be alive for it to be given rights? We’d have to redefine life, too, wouldn’t we? I don’t know. I find debates on hypotheticals entertaining at best, pointless at worst.

  15. Scott says:

    Well we’re already developing limited AI’s. It’s only a matter of time imo before we develop a fully functioning AI. As for telling if it;s operating outside “programmed parameters”, don’t we have “programmed parameters”? We need to eat, sleep, breed, those are all desires hard wired into our brains.

    There are tests like the Turing Test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test) which strive to answer those very questions. As far as redefining life, we’re constantly doing that as is. If you mean should something be biologically alive to have rights then I’d say not necessarily. If something were intelligent in the way we are (though not necessarily in exactly the same way) then it should have some rights.

    I like debates on hypotheticals provided we understand that at this point it is just that and don’t get too tied up in it. Of course I think it would be a good idea to discuss things like this before they are needed.

  16. casey says:

    Obviously I haven’t spent much time on the subject, but if the AI’s we develop operate according to our programs, doesn’t that mean that they lack sentience? Without sentience I don’t see why we would treat them any different than automobiles. If we create them for a specific purpose, it seems morally justified (or morally neutral) that they would perform that function.

  17. Scott says:

    At this point that’s largely true, our AI’s are pretty crude. The thing that makes all of this possible even likely are two things. One, programs are now able to learn. You can see this in things like speech recognition and Big Blue, the chess computer from IBM. The second is advances in hardware. The storage and processing necessary to have an AI is becoming possible.