1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The Prime Directive

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Wreybies, Jul 13, 2009.

    Good morning, bubbies.

    [​IMG]


    For today’s Intergalactic Coffee Talk we have The Prime Directive. Neither very prime, nor seemingly a directive. I mean, hello! So you can drive fast. What’s the big woop? James Dean drove fast and we all know how that ended.

    Give me a moment. I'm farklempt. Poor boy, he was like Romulan buttah.

    Ok, I’m better now. So, if there is one rule that starship captains seem to love to break it’s The Prime Directive. They take technology and leave technology all over the universe like McDonald’s cups tossed out the window of their pretty ships, and yet they call it their Prime Directive.

    That means Rule #1.

    Oh, for those of you who are not up on your Star Trek, The Prime Directive is a rule which states that cultures which have attained warp drive and thus intergalactic travel may not, in any way, interfere with cultures which have not yet discovered warp drive. You’re not even allowed to talk to them or allow them to know of your presence.

    And why should The Prime Directive no longer apply after a culture has discovered warp drive? You don’t just start handing kids phasers just because they have their driver’s licenses? Am I right, or am I right?


    So, three questions:

    1) How do you feel about the fact that starship captains are always breaking the Prime Directive?

    2) How do you feel about warp drive being the arbitrary point at which the Prime Directive no longer applies.

    3) Do you think there should even be a Prime Directive?



    Discuss amongst yourselves.
     
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  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Lol. What a weird thread.

    The Prime Directive always struck me as an odd facet of Star Trek. I believe it would be a fundamentally necessary rule in regards to intergalactic exploration, but it would inhibit the kind of stories Star Trek lived off- which I suppose explains why it was constantly disregarded.

    I agree that discovery of warp drive is a uselessly arbitrary line. In a real world situation, the Prime Directive would be an infinitely more complex system of rules governing when and what exactly can be shared.

    I did note that in the tenth Star Trek film (Nemesis), the film pretty much opens with a complete disregard for the Prime Directive. They find a post-industrial civilization, and promptly engage in a firefight with them... Has to be one of the biggest and most blatant flauting of the Prime Directive in the history of Star Trek, which went completely unaddressed...

    And there we are. I'm feeling contentedly nerdy :p
     
  3. Lavarian
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    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

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    Learn something new every day!

    1. I think it would probably be pretty hard not to in many cases.
    2. Discovering warp drive seems a bit late, in my opinion. I would think that as soon as space exploration begins, it would make more sense.
    3. No, I guess I don't think so. To be honest I didn't know about the Prime Directive until today, so I'm afraid I haven't given it much thought.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Technically, whenever possible, they're not even allowed to interfere with internal affairs of any planet that's not a part of the federation, regardless of warp capability. The rule was expanded to include that in Deep Space Nine. I think it's good to do that, especially with prewarp societies. Many humans may be able to handle it if Vulcans decided to land on Earth before we discover a way to travel they way they do in Star Trek, but not others. We don't know how other species would react. Heck, sometimes when countries interefere with the internal affairs of another country, it goes badly. When it comes to not knowing they're out there and a technology standpoint, just look at how people abuse technology. Or they keep advancing and advancing before they know the consequences of the technology they are using/developing. It's one of those "better safe than sorry" kinds of things.

    As for Starship captains breaking the law, there are always exceptions to the rule, when interfering won't do any damage. Also, it makes for more interesting stories.
     
  5. The Freshmaker
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    The Freshmaker <insert obscure pop culture reference> Contributor

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    I want to add that everyone should listen to "Astro Zombies" by The Misfits while reading this thread. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the title.

    Anywho...since I was a little kid, I always had this daydream of going back in time, to, like, the 17th century and blowing everyone's mind with 20th/21st century style and portable music devices. Silly, I know. But it seems like this whole Prime Directive thing would be kinda like that. The urge to flaunt would be nigh overwhelming.

    And yeah, Warp Drive being the tipping point to exposing young civilizations to alien technology does seem like a rather arbitrary milestone. Like, "You said the secret word! Now here's a whole dictionary of secret words! Show your friends!"

    I do think that there is something to having a Prime Directive, though. It's better to let young civilizations develop space travel technology rather than just handing it over to them. It needs to be appreciated and understood rather than just given like a Christmas gift.
     
  6. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    That picture makes me giggle a little every time I see it.

    I have to agree with Rob here. It seems like it would be pretty difficult to avoid breaking the Prime Directive. I've never been into Star Wars, but the idea behind it sounds similar to the rules in Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card about not showing the piggies anything that might change their way of life. They put a lot of effort into concealing human things from the piggies, but in the end...the piggies found out. Breaking the rule seems almost unavoidable.

    Seems a bit silly to me. If you're going to draw the line there, why not somewhere else? Maybe if there was some logical reason as to why warp drive was the line in the sand...

    On second thought, is there? I wouldn't know...

    I'm gonna have to go with no on this one. I can understand being cautious about changing another planet's way of life, but to make a rule like that just seems like you're setting yourself up to break said rule. Seems like a waste of energy to try and follow it.
     
  7. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the obvious implication is that once a society has warp drive, they have interstellar travel. That means they will start to come across other interstellar species with very advanced technology. So, it would seem like a practical issue, rather than an ethical one. If you don't want these societies to stumble into possibly-world-ending trouble, you try to give them the means to protect themselves.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The warp-drive criterion is chosen as a turning point or milestone that has been revolutionary for member races of the Federation, and one which says, "This society is on a comparable or higher technological level than outr own." That is the point at which a race is no longer considered underdeveloped in comparison with the member races of the Federation, and so no longer likely to be significantly damaged by cultural exchange.

    For the most part, the Trek series after the original have kept the Proime Directive inviolate. Kirk played fast and loose with it, and of course there was no Prime directive during Archer's time (although they began to develop the basis for it).

    So here's a question - how is the Prime Directive interpreted if a society has LOST warp capability, but still remembers contact with other worlds? Obviously, helping them re-achieve interstellar technology would be interference, but what about contact without handing over technological knowledge?
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This was pretty much the theme of Star Trek: Insurrection. The culture in case did not loose warp drive, but gave it up (and pretty much all other advanced technology) voluntarily.
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    True, but that movie was awful on the same level as The Final Frontier...
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yup. It seems like every time Star Trek turns to the metaphysical, it goes awry. :rolleyes:
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the thing in this case is that they aren't exposing them to anything they aren't ready to handle. They know it exists, They just choose not to use it. No reason that seeing it again will hurt them.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's a very important distinction, though. That was clearly not a pre-warp society, it was one which had travelled the path and knew the consequences of their choices.

    A society which has backslid, and lost its technology through disaster or war, probably never developed the wisdom to use its technology wisely. Giving technology to them would tamper with their development, si that is clearly the wrong choice. But what about exposure to an interstellar culture? Would that potentially taint their development back to a warp-capable civilization?
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Strangely, not too many examples I can think of from film or the tele, but many that I can think of prom the printed page.

    In M.Z. Bradley's Darkover novels, you are presented with a world of humans that all descend from a ship which landed on Darkover a couple of thousand years ago and has devolved into a medieval feudal society devoid of nearly all the trappings of modern technology.

    But in this story line, the tables are turned.

    Darkover is eventually recontacted by the the rest of human expansion, but the Darkovans are the ones in possession of a technology which they try and keep from the rest of humanity.

    Magic and the technology of matrix crystals which amplify these powers.

    Even the inhabitants of Darkover have themselves experienced a sort of second backslide in that Bradley gives them a past history on Darkover where the use of these crystals was much more widespread and sophisticated than it is in the present day story line. Bradley gives war and the devastating use of the crystal matrixes in this war as the reason for the second backslide.

    * * *​

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    Arthur C. Clarke

    We all know the famous quote by this great man, and I guess that this is what I was after when I asked about warp drive being an arbitrary line to pick. I just don't see the ability to go out and say hello as a valid marker to denote a culture's ability to deal with the answer once they have said hello.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This has been addressed in at least one Next Gen story, also titled First Contact. That story showed how troublesome that transition can be, from solitary world to one among many. That world's leaders chose tro remain isolated for the time being.

    But why choose that one criterion? It IS somewhat arbitrary, but it is still a very significant milestone that the member worlds agree was the turning point from what they were before to what they are now. This was the line that, once ceossed, made them ready for contact and interaction with other worlds.
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Oh! Oh!

    [​IMG]

    I just thought of another example, but with a very different take on the Prime Directive.

    David Brin's Uplift universe.

    In this future-verse, the exact opposite of the Prime Directive holds sway. In the Uplift universe, there is an intergalactic culture spanning literally billions of years of recorded history where instead of allowing species to crawl away from their home-worlds like toddlers, they are each taken under the wing of a patron species which guides the newcomers into eventual citizenship with the other patron species. Many laws and organizations and complex hierarchies exist to control how this process occurs, but the basic principle is that introduction to galactic society is controlled from the moment a species which has "potential" is discovered. The guidance given by the patron species includes genetic modification and redesigning of body form as needed for the new species. By the rules set down in this series of books, our earliest ancestors, long before we had even evolved into true humans, would have been prime candidates for the Uplift process.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Somehow, inserting Horschack into it doesn't mix well with wise and benign stewardship...
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    He's what my Dave & Busters fun looks like! :D
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But shorter?
     
  20. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I think it's awesome; Star Fleet captains do need rules to break. If they just stuck to the regulations all the time and never had to make a tough choice they wouldn't be any fun.

    Well, if you need to draw a clear line somewhere, that's not a bad place to draw it. The reasoning, I think, is that once a culture goes warp they'll encounter other people anyway.

    Still, I think it should count as a more serious offense to interfere with, say, a medieval-level culture then one that's advanced enough to have its own space program and SETI-type communication arrays set up.

    Sure, but it shouldn't be treated as religion. Starship captains still need to use common sense.
     
  21. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    [​IMG]

    Hello darling, I came, I saw, I just said to myself "gotta post". You like my shoes? Found them in Macy's, I made my meshugana hubby buy, oh dear, where to begin...

    1)The prime directive is an aspect of the Star Trek universe invented to add depth to the universe as well as jive with the way Roddenberry imagined his Federation of planets, with their superior morality. It has since grown out of its past, and has become a part of many plots as every time its mentioned or invoked it becomes part of fan parlance and dogma as much as that of the screenwriters. To answer why Cpatains break it? Conflicts are good for stories, and by breaking the rules, we make conflict. After we misbehave we get to justify it, analyze it afterwards, and introduce so much of the moral/ethical fluff that made Star Trek such a forward thinking and progressive (even at times controversial) show.

    2)I feel that warp drive, as an arbitrary cut off, is about as good as any other arbitrary cut off. If the debate over what made a civilization "civilized" in the eyes of the Federation would vary from encounter to encounter and culture to culture the entire episode would involve a bunch of blue skinned alien tokens arguing "duck season, wabbit season". If you thought most episodes were full of techno/psychobbale before, imagine a philosophical debate on what makes us civlized from the point of view of an alien.

    The warp drive is a cop out and a convenient convenience, they have a story to tell and a limited amount of time to do it, theyre just making it simple for those of us who didnt grow up in a barter economy system. Anyone who ever worked for the government knows that something starting out as simple and cut and dry as the prime directive can end up becoming a three volume two hundred page long core rulebook with hundreds of stipulations and preconditions squeezed between myopia inducing fine print. Such is the nature of buerocracy in all of its anal-retentia. Enter the Vogons.

    [​IMG]

    3)Yes. That was easy. Good night.

    But seriously, history is littered with examples of how cultures in conflict can result in the destruction of the "less civilized". Rhodes and the Rhodesians, Pizarro and the Incas, Cortes and the Aztecs. There is a reason why many indigenous peoples are now extinct, it was accomplished by a culture using advanced weapons against a culture that did NOT. Any culture that can accomplish interstellar travel more than likely has no intention to subvert another intelligent race. Then again, lets not be naive, we are after all human, and to err is human. We are basically primates with pre-frontal lobes much smaller then our adrenal glands. We would like to THINK that we are advanced, history teaches us otherwise. As Thomas Acquinus once said "never put it past a sucker to stab you in the back when its turned"

    but seriously, even the Romans knew about our true natures, that was more than likely what they had in mind when they coined the maxim "homo homini lupus"
    they had the right idea then, and I think that somewhere in Roddenberry's mind was the idea that a people with warp power and phasers and primate brains might become a Pizarro to a people who had never seen a starship before. That was an advanced idea on his part and a credit to his sensibilities, as most often history does tend to repeat itself even as our art imitates our truths. Barbarity is an innate and an inescapability. A prime directive, as bold and as noble, is used by Starfleet Captains as an invocation and an inculcation. We must NOT break this rule, this most prime of laws, for if we do, what may follow may be inexcuable, as we have been warned...

    In that regard, I do not believe that the prime directive is meant to be open to interpretations or extrapolations. It says exactly what it means and makes no exceptions. Captains go against it not at a whim but as a last resort or as a necessity to preclude something that they feel is worse.

    Or, or, to tell an interesting story.

    I have to go polish my nails now hun, it was nice chatting with yuz yentas:)
     

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