More Quantum Leaps
The unit ends with a futuristic exploration. herein students read The Darwin Chip - Evolving a Conscious Computer (Discover Magazine, June 1998), and will view and discuss a Star Trek, The Next Generation episode titled, The Measure of A Man, which focuses on the civil rights of an android.
The Measure of A Man
In this Star Trek, The Next Generation episode, Captain Picard of the Federation starship, Enterprise, represents Data, an android, in a court case to dispute a three-hundred-year-old law that as an artificial life form, Data is, in fact, the property of Starfleet (the military branch of The Federation). The case is precipitated by the request of a Starfleet cyberneticist who plans to disassemble Data in order to study him and make duplicate models. In the course of the trial, the evidence against Data seems overwhelming, but Guinan, ship’s barkeep, in her ever sagacious way, advises Picard that an army of Datas without rights sounds all too familiar. Picard realizes that she is speaking of slavery and that idea becomes the linchpin in Data’s defense.
While this is of course fiction, the idea of determining whether a sentient being is either an individual or property is not so far removed from us as our work thus far has shown. The story of Cinqu and the slaveship, The Amistad, should tell us as much. After living for three years in captivity while American courts in the course of five separate trials to determine whether he and thirty-five other Africans were actually the property of Portuguese slave traders, or in fact, human beings due their freedom Cinqu and his people were able to return home in 1841. (Learning Through Drama by Jeannette Gaffney; 1990 YNHTI, Vol. 2.)
Coming into the next millennium, we may have no safe choice but to get along with each other, both nationally and internationally. With six billion people currently inhabiting our world and a projected nine billion by the year 2050, the viability of human life on Earth is questionable; questionable now with such daunting issues as world hunger and global warming; and questionable with these problems increasing exponentially in the future. As the world grows bigger in population and smaller or more intimate through a global telecommunications and economic network, hope looms on the horizon for a planetary civilization. Glimpses of that hope can be seen in some of the international efforts to reduce CFCs and prevent global warming, e.g.: The Montreal Protocols (1987), the UN-sponsored Earth Summit (1992), and the UN 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control. (Exploring American History, pp. 664-669.)