Are We The Borg? An Analysis Of Technology And The Human Condition

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How much are we like Star Trek’s most fearsome baddie? We certainly don’t look the part, but just how much do we have in common?

So who are the Borg anyway? The Borg are a massive collective of heavily cybernetically altered species with no individuality whatsoever, with the exception of one or perhaps more Borg queens who bring order to chaos by controlling the Borg drones. All drones are linked to the ‘hive mind’ the collective sharing of minds into a single consciousness, serving and driving the goals of the entire population. They seek perfection by forcibly ‘assimilating’ other species, technologies and knowledge.

Klingon_Borg_first_Contact_DVD_special

(A drone of Klingon origin, as if they weren’t menacing enough)

It’s a grim thought, being assimilated into gigantic cyber-beehive. Luckily it’s all just pure (science)fiction, but is there even the slightest chance that we’re headed into that direction?

Evolution is the process that has shaped mankind into the species it is today, but with all our technology, “survival of the fittest” and natural selection don’t seem to apply anymore. However human evolution itself has evolved beyond the notion that individuals survive through a beneficial genetic mutation while others without the mutation don’t. Today the physically handicapped can move around in electric wheelchairs and people with bad eyesight can be treated with laser surgery. Even mind controlled robotic prostheses are no longer a thing of the future. It seems that nowadays it’s no longer the survivability of individuals within our species, but that of the species itself that defines evolution. It’s no longer genetic mutations, but technology that adapts us to live longer happier lives.

If the Borg have taught us anything, it’s that technology can go overboard and start to consume a species rather than the species consuming technology. It’s a process that, in our information age era, has already taken it’s first steps, more specifically with the coming of social media like Facebook and Twitter. We use those websites to express our individuality and share our thoughts and ideas with the world. Does that make them hive minds? Those thoughts and ideas aren’t just our own anymore. We adopt them and use them to reshape our own individuality to the point of many people developing a similar identity. It’s still far from the Borg level of a collective conciousness through technology, but much like them we can’t stand being unlinked to it. In a recent Dutch study at the University of Maastricht, they found that a whopping 70% of teens are addicted to their smartphones and showed classic signs of addiction when faced with situations in which they did not have their smartphone with them.

So we are increasingly dependant on computers. The next step in our evolution would logically be to integrate them into ourselves. Google (as always) is already on the case. Google Glass inventor Sebastian Thrun’s vision for his invention is to eventually make it possible to outsource brain functions to the small wearable computer, provided that you wear it 24/7. Transforming thoughts into data is quite interesting(and profitable), as it would allow us to instantly communicate with anyone anywhere, much in the same way the Borg do.

The idea of having all those Borg implants may seem outlandish, but replacing organs with foolproof artificial ones and enhancing our senses with technology is something mankind does strive for in it’s own quest for perfection.

2013-03-14-JeanLucPicardBorgGoogleGlasses

(I don’t think “We are Google, resistance to this ad is futile” would ever really catch on)

So we are actually somewhat like the Borg, but If we don’t want to ever actually become them, we should question technology as it develops, as they’re no longer just handy tools, but a step in our modern day evolution.

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4 thoughts on “Are We The Borg? An Analysis Of Technology And The Human Condition

  1. I love this. I have some thoughts.
    The borg are a modern day frankensteins monster, a symbol for technology without morality. They are indeed more like an ant nest than a sentient being or collection of sentient beings. However in other ways their success mirrors our own. We effectively became cyborgs thousands of years ago, when we started making tools, communicating in language and recording our thoughts in books, wearing clothes, living in houses, ie augmenting our natural abilities with technology. This lead to the explosive success of our species.
    Like us, the Borg are adaptible, allowing them to survive and thrive in many environments, like us. They love to talk, so much so they have melded into a group mind. Perhaps this neednt be as horrifying as it is portrayed; as a hypersocial herd species we also love to have close relationships and also hear what people around the world think.
    Ever since the A-Bomb was dropped and before, people have been suspicious of technology; framing smart phone use as an addiction is typical of this. Would you also say we are addicted to thinking, or talking? Technology makes our world possible.
    On the other hand, technology is not as tied to happiness as you might think. People are wealthier, better fed, better educated now than ever before, but not noticeably happier as a rule. Once people rise up from slavery or destitution, happiness pretty much levels out. Billionaires are not millions of times more happy than normal people and similarly modern people are not thousands of times happier than our agrarian ancestors even though we are effectively thousands of times richer.
    We are something new on planet earth, and we could very well annihilate ourselves, but it is important we keep an eye on why we’re doing the things we’re doing or we risk becoming like the borg. On the other hand, maybe one day, we will unlock technology that allows every person alive to be effectively as wealthy as a billionaire today; with excellent medical care, education, housing etc all taken for granted as being free. And then we can truly begin to explore the upper levels of Mazlows pyramid.. perhaps exploring new forms of living. If people want to go off and meld into a group mind, it could be great rather than necessarily terrible.
    As technology advances, our weapons become more powerful, but so do our tools and our ability to cooperate and build new things.
    This is just the beginning of the beginning. Maybe one day milllions of years from now when people are spread accross the galaxy doing things and living in ways we would find scary or incomprehensible, they will think about us. Maybe someone alive today or born in the next century will still be around. Technology is the only force that can rescue us from the coming climate catasrophe that hangs accross our future. if we make it through that crisis, I think the prospect of a galactic full of adventure, horror, perhaps borg-like expansion and assimilation, but also wonder, complexity, fun and friendship, is worth the risks technology poses. Life is better than dead rocks.
    Sorry for rambling on. Great post!

  2. I love what both Grody and Randy have to say. Its a conversation that must be had over and over again as our technical and social evolution evolves. “Impressive, most impressive!”

  3. Another thought on this. Technology may eventually give us the possibility of becoming immortal, maybe not as a physical being but possibly through a medium that lets us keep a ‘backup’ of our existence that can be transferred into a living avatar of our choosing.
    The possibilities of this could be endless: – We could travel to the very edge of the universe or further almost instantly as data transfer speeds increase. Even time-travel could become a possibility if we were to set up some kind of convoluted data restore point system.
    In a sense we are already doing this, we play games with friends who live the other side of the world that we have never met in person with virtually no lag. We post messages that can remain forever on the Inter-web that can be accessed at any time by ourselves or whoever chose to read them. Same goes for photos, YouTube vids etc etc.
    As Randy says this is just the “beginning of the beginning” The only thing that can hold us back is our own trust issues with the developers of new technology. We are right to question everything, however we should not let our qualms jeopardise positive developments that can aid the future of mankind!
    Great post Grodester 😉

  4. Awesome conversation, and one worth exploring further in a fascinating documentary called Transcendent Man. (Yes, this is a shameless plug for a movie that I shot.)

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