Lt. Cmdr. Data
Portrayed by actor Brent Spiner during the 1987-1994 run of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Data was the chief operations officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise starships and possessed both super-strength and an encyclopedic memory.
But these capabilities ultimately had little to do with Data’s selection for the Robot Hall of Fame. Rather, Data endeared himself to fans because he often was the centerpiece for existential questions about what it means to be a robot and, ultimately, what it means to be human.
“Data played a pivotal role on questions of robot ‘right to life’ matters and human/machine philosophies,” said juror Ray Jarvis, director of the Intelligent Robotics Research Centre at the Australian National University.
His fellow juror, Anne Balsomo, managing director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at the University of Southern California, was similarly impressed by how Data caused people to reconsider what it means to make our technologies intelligent:
“In one episode, Data is put on trial to determine whether he has the right to refuse to submit to a procedure that would disassemble him. During the trial, it is determined that Data is not ‘property,’ like a computer or a toaster, but rather a sentient life form entitled to rights of self-determination."