Picard star Patrick Stewart has no problem chatting with Data. Alexa's another thing

Stewart and other Star Trek: Picard cast and crew talk deepfakes, Crispr and other tech that terrifies them.

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Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
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Patrick Stewart, star of Star Trek: Picard, has never used a digital voice assistant. 


Star Trek is a world of fanciful technology -- transporters, shuttle craft and warp drives. But that doesn't mean cast members of Trek shows are always proficient in tech. Patrick Stewart, who stars in the upcoming Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access, admits he's never used a digital voice assistant.

"I haven't had the courage yet," Stewart said in an interview on Sunday. "I get uncomfortable about it. You think because of what I'd done it'd be easy."

I joked that he's OK with Data, but has a problem with Alexa .

"I'm fine with Data because I happen to know he's Brent Spiner, and that makes everything alright," he quipped.

Stewart isn't alone in his distrust of data. Consumers are starting to wise up and apply a more critical lens to tech companies and how they've been exploiting our personal information. He's not even alone among the show's cast. From AI to gene-editing tech Crispr, here's a lightly edited transcript of my conversation with the actors and showrunners of Star Trek: Picard about what freaks them out.

Star Trek: Picard airs Jan. 23 on CBS All Access. (Disclosure: CBS All Access and CNET are both owned by ViacomCBS.)  

Executive producer and co-creator Alex Kurtzman: For me, the scariest thing is how the internet can be weaponized.

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Michelle Hurd (left) doesn't mind cameras everywhere, but Cristóbal Rios tends to avoid the likes of Siri. 


Deepfake technology also terrifies me. We use a version of that algorithm, but again in the wrong hands, that's just a weapon.

Executive producer Heather Kaden: It gets scary when people have access to technology you're not aware of. Can they see through the camera on my computer or my phone? Are they tracking me?

Kurtzman: The answer is yes to everything you asked.

Kaden: That's really scary.

Alison Pill (Dr. Agnes Jurati): [Gene-editing tool] Crispr is one of the greatest innovations in our time. But it's genetic editing. The idea that we could pick and choose the best type of humans obviously hasn't had a great past. Anytime people say we know how to do this -- we know how to pick the best humans, I'm like, "Oh yeah, I'm worried."


Alison Pill, who plays Dr. Agnes Jurati opposite Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard, gets nervous thinking about the future of gene-editing tools like Crispr. 


Santiago Cabrera (Cristóbal Rios): I stay away from the Siris and Alexas of this world.

Pill: You think you do, but it's in your pocket right now, my friend.

Watch this: Star Trek: Picard cast spills on the tech that freaks them out

Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi): I think [artificial intelligence] is terrifying. I don't understand why people have artificial intelligence in the home. Why? They can listen to you all the time. It just blows my mind. It's generational, because young people who've grown up with technology take it in stride. But old farts like me, I'm like, are they demented? 

Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine): AI is a little scary. It's all a little T2 [Terminator 2] for me.

Executive producer and co-creator Akiva Goldsman: The creation of viruses and the mutation of viruses, and deepfakes are pretty scary.

Watch this: Star Trek: Picard wrestles with AI

Executive producer and co-creator Michael Chabon: Deepfakes are pretty scary. It's a perfect example of not taking the consequences and getting so caught up in the coolness and the amazingness of the thing you just figured out how to do. When you … share something with the world without actually thinking through what it's going to do to the world.

Michelle Hurd (Raffi Musiker): My brother-in-law always hates the fact that there are all these cameras around like Big Brother's watching, but I actually quite like it because I feel like you can track me if anything happens. I first thought that would be a scary thing …  like in London they have so many cameras all over. But I think there's something sort of secure about it that makes me feel a little secure.

Evan Evagora (Elnor): I'd say cybersecurity -- I don't think in terms of where we are moving in terms of the internet that our governments are really up to speed on that. You know, identity theft, credit card -- your digital fingerprint is online forever. And I don't think we all understand the ramifications or impact of that yet because it's fairly new to us. The generation behind me will probably get a better sense of it because they're growing up with the internet being a thing. 

Watch this: Star Trek: Picard cast on the Borg and why this isn't just a TNG rehash

Star Trek: Picard unveils first look at costumes, props at San Diego Comic-Con

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Originally published Jan. 15.