Section 8: HOLODECKS
Holodecks (hereinafter HDs) are less relevant to my theme, being
an added rather than inherent flaw in Star Trek Universe
plausibility, but I like lambasting them anyhow. Now, given
highly advanced forcefields, holography, and continuous use of
imperceptible transporters, controlled by a super-AI, I'll
swallow the HDs as a feasible technology. The obvious
spin-off applications are, as always, what make it
preposterous. HDs are too close to omnipotence, which (like
Utopia – see 9.4) makes for
Objects created by the HD are supposedly made of pseudomatter,
which evaporates when removed from the holofield.
Pseudomatter is real enough to eat; real enough to fool Geordie's
vizor; to reflect Krieger waves (
A Matter of Perspective,
ST:TNG3); to feel wet; to kill you; even to step out
through the doors (
The Big Goodbye,
ST:TNG1)… but it's not
real. Yet we know that orthodox Star Trek replicators could
build a visually convincing
puppet from spam! Add
holograms for detail, move it with forcefields and transporters;
if it runs away, it drops dead. So who needs the extra
quasiscience involved in the idea of pseudomatter?
Porn – the obvious use for the HD, though I
would expect standard HD etiquette to involve (A) conventions
and/or restrictions on the simulation of real people, (B) security
codes so nobody else who sneaks in can sabotage your program, and
(C) a Vacant/Engaged sign.
Horror – program it with the collected works of
Cronenberg, Lovecraft, and Giger, then let it improvise.
Whatever you do, though, don't go in.
Mindwarp – try the collected works of Sheckley,
Watson, and Philip K Dick. If you enter, don't expect ever
to be sure you've got back out again… unless of course you
realise you are evaporating. I suspect this is where the
twenty-fourth century's SF fans have gone, leaving nobody who
can recognise and short-circuit the sci-fi-cliché plots
the Enterprise runs into.
Banquet – have a slap-up meal; come back
outside; and keel over dead as the food evaporates from your
innards, and your metabolism goes crazy.
Dog bite – if a holo-simulation rabies virus
simulatedly invades and reprograms one of your cells, you
are left with genuine hydrophobia.
The Great Zombini – simulation hypnotists are
likewise a bad idea.
Torture chamber – you get the picture.
Fraud – fabricate any evidence you want.
The premier abdicating in your favour, your enemy molesting
children, you walking on water…
Memory extension – if the ship runs low on
memory capacity, you can create vast upgrades made out of
pseudomatter on the HD. (?!)
Brains trust – simulate Lao Tze, Bacon,
Einstein, Surak etc. Either (A) actually take their
advice or (B) throw custard pies at them.
Turing test – tell the computer to simulate Alan
Turing, then ask him whether he really is an intelligent being
just a simulation.
Moriarty – remember ST:TNG2's
Elementary, Dear Data, swiftly followed by
Man? The NCC1701D's databanks held (A) a
sentient mind seeking a body and (B) Dr Graves' expert-system for
transcribing sentient minds into android bodies. Another
reason for replicating Data (cf.
7.2). And I wonder: has Moriarty
got a pseudomatter brain? Or is his head hollow and his
neurochemistry purely a HD emulation?
8.3 MILITARY APPLICATIONS
If even Starfleet's guaranteed-safe recreational HDs can kill,
imagine the potential of a battleship with a HD built onto its
hull: Holocaust class. This
openplan HD could easily
Guns – any size at all: they may be illusory,
but the effects aren't.
Camouflage – forget mere
devices; this can disguise you to the eye, to radar, or indeed
to the touch as anything or nothing.
Armour – any type, any amount, right in the way
of incoming missiles.
Or if you can't swallow
openplan HDs, how about…
Holoheart class. Gut a ship of all its contents bar HDs,
then simulate the absent rooms. Use the saved space
for extra-huge engines, computers, and guns; the crew (if not the
Away Team) can contain as many geniuses and heroes as you
like. No need to tell them what's really going on…
Pseudomatter is my own term, but the concept is clearly
established in ST:TNG1 (it took several seconds for
that holo-gangster to evaporate), and come to that in
Practical Joker (ST:TAS1 – ha, you
thought I'd forgotten the animated series!)…
As the holo-Turing would soon realise, a computer capable of
emulating specific geniuses (!) deserves to be promoted to
I notice HDs are also being changed in midstream to exclude the
concept of pseudomatter, which would be an improvement if they
could bear in mind the point that a purely holographic
machine-gun is no good for shooting Borg with – and
contrariwise, one you can carry out the door is better than a
ST:V hovers on the brink of considering the questions I
raise, but without ever quite managing it.