- Booster Gold
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
I was in the beginning stages of writing another "People in His Neighborhood" Booster Gold supporting character post about Skeets when I got hung up on a single question: Is Skeets sentient?
It's not an easy question to answer. Putting aside the deeper philosophical and metaphysical quandaries of what reality is and whether anything truly has free will, let's focus on the arbitrarily narrow definition of a sentient artificial intelligence as a man-made creature that doesn't merely simulate human behavior but is functionally indistinguishable from a rational being.
This question is really integral to the development of Booster Gold as a heroic character. When Michael Carter stole his first Time Sphere to flee from the 25th century in Booster Gold volume 1, he forced Skeets to come with him. If Skeets is a glorified security camera, then the action was theft. However, if Skeets was a sentient employee, Booster is guilty of kidnapping.
While Booster has usually treated Skeets as a coach and companion — usually referring to it with the masculine pronouns "he"/"him" — it's telling that Booster's twin sister, Michelle, has always treated Skeets like a second-class citizen. If sentient A.I. exists in the 25th century and Michelle's dismissive attitude is common, how is her behavior any different than the racism and sexism that cause so many societal problems of the 20th century? (If Skeets was a sentient machine forced to work as a slave for the Space Museum, would that make Booster a freedom fighter?)
The biggest obstacle to answering the question of Skeets' consciousness is the relatively few solo adventures it has had. Skeets has almost always been seen acting in service to Booster, who characteristically gives very little consideration to his floating "friend." (This shouldn't be considered as evidence against sentience. Selfishness has always been Booster's biggest flaw.) The only time that the reader has ever been given access to Skeet's thoughts were late in the run of Booster Gold volume 2. Those few panels imply that Skeets was gaining a sentience it was previously denied.
Then came the New 52. Convergence Booster Gold revised Skeets' origin. This time, Booster stole Skeets from its well-armed "corporate overlords" via a briefcase. Once again, the question of sentience remains unaddressed. Theft? Kidnapping? Emancipation? The answers remain vague.
Should Skeets be granted rights equal to any other human being, or should it continue to be treated like any other tool in Booster's high-tech arsenal? What do you think?
This week's poll question: Is Skeets a sentient artificial being? Please visit the Boosterrific Polls page to view results for this week's poll.
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