A friend writes back regarding Star Trek’s (literal) computer geek Commander Data, whom we referenced here, trying to train a cat (a feat few humans have ever achieved*). Our friend offers,
If I may add another thought, or rather, expand upon what I’d previously said …
The thing about Commander Data is that he’s a person only pretending to be a computer program. I don’t mean the obvious point that the actor who plays the character is a person, I mean that the character Data is a person in just the same way that every other character in literature is a person — and a human person, at that (human persons being the only sort which which human beings are familiar).
That the author of Watership Down calls ‘Fiver’ a rabbit doesn’t make him a rabbit; he’s a human person pretending to be a rabbit. Likewise, that the writers of Stak Trek call Commander Data a computer program doesn’t make him one; he’s a human person pretending (and not very well, at that) to be a computer program.
Here’s Data reciting a “poem” about the cat:
Here’s Fiver of Watership Down:
* the cat is a special case because 1) he is observing you 2) he knows what you want 3) he doesn’t care what you want 4) he does what he feels like 5) he intends to go on living off you anyway. 6) he doesn’t see why you should mind. 7) he’s right; you don’t mind.
That is what makes cats so charming to those who like them.
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