A lot of futuristic science fiction puts forward several ideas of what an android would be like. Data from Star Trek (TNG) is an intriguing character who tries very hard to understand what it is to be human. He imitates great violinists, actors and artists of the past and integrates their styles to try and be more human. He programs the Holo-deck to try out his skills at making jokes. He refers to his seemingly infinite memory to acknowledge certain idioms and phrases and takes time to explain their history, origin etc. He need not sleep or eat or feel any emotions and yet he can learn and store any amount of information.
In the Original Series of Star Trek there was one episode ‘What are Little Girls Made of?’ where Nurse Chapel was on board for the first time to look for a famous exobiologist who was, at some point, her fiance. He had discovered a machine left behind by those who inhabited the planet before which could make android bodies with all the memory of the original human and even transfer consciousness into it. The scientist explained how this would make immortality possible since there would be no more sickness, aging or need for organic resources for food etc.
A final example before I begin weighing the pros and cons. In season two of the Original Series, the episode ‘I, Mudd’ reveals a con man they had previously encountered ruling a planet of androids. There were some models which he had made very many copies of. This is one of my favourite episodes because of the method used by the landing party to put the androids, who were capable of only logical thinking, into a state of infinite contemplation of various paradoxes so that they could escape.
These kinds of episodes get me thinking about what it would be like to be an android. Of the three types, the most human-like would be that from ‘What are Little Girls made of?’ because consciousness, humour, and all human like behaviour is still present with the advantages that come with android life. But this was considered dangerous just as it was for an automated system to captain the Enterprise in the episode ‘The Ultimate Computer’ where the supercomputer was given to human like irrational behaviour that of it’s creator who left his imprint on it to give it a human touch. A similar blend of technology with a human touch is explored in the episode ‘Data Lore’ where Data’s ‘brother’ is put back together and found to be indeed capable of humour, emotion and even deceit. Since these types are always destroyed because of how advanced in being like humans they are, I would see Data as the highest achievement that is possible to accept without fear.
I have already outlined the advantages of being like Data but let us revisit them:
1) No need to eat or sleep
2) Strong (sometimes even more so than a Worf, the Klingon)
3) Infinite memory for acquiring infinite skills and knowledge at a rapid rate
4) The Emotion chip that he gets later can be switched on and off at will
5) No aging, sickness or death (but he can be switched off and malfunction when exposed to electrical charges)
6) Unaffected by poisonous gas as he doesn’t need to breathe
But here is what I think I would miss about being a human.
1) Eating, breathing and sleeping can be pleasurable
2) I would miss dreaming
3) My character would be a result of programming alone instead of from my upbringing and personal choices
4) I would miss the feeling of vitality which is to be alive
5) Most importantly, I would no longer be a product of nature so I would feel incredibly disconnected
Although it may be most rational to give up some pleasures for almost-immortality and ability to learn infinitely without the inconvenience of maintaining a biological body; needing food, a toilet, love, social contact and battling age, I would much prefer to live a mortal life in a human body and have individuality, feeling and connection.