Re: Borg... sounds Swedish (Review, Rants, Spoilers and Spe

Anders Sandberg (
Sat, 31 May 1997 19:37:48 +0200 (MET DST)

On Sat, 31 May 1997, Dan Hook wrote:

> I, like Anders, think the borg are a very interesting alien. I also think
> they are a great evolutionary step forward. It may be that each and every
> individual in the collective thinks they are still an individual but with
> access to a great deal of resources and not residing in any one place.

The subjective life of borganisms is a fascinating field to speculate
on. The "classic" view is of course that there is just one big
consciousness, the Collective. But it might be possible that each
unit is an individual, able to think for itself but still a part of
the Collective. Note that these two possibilities form a continuum:
on one hand fully independent individuals and on the other hand a
single distributed mind, with mixtures in between. As the bandwidth
between their minds increase, they become more and more a single unit
(the Collective is simply the metaindividual which forms). There is
no reason to think all units of a borganism needs to be identical,
instead it might be useful to have many different kinds (both
physically and mentally).

It is not certain the optimal state is total unity, that might cause
undue waste of bandwidth. If bandwidth is limited there is no point
in broadcasting all mental activity, so keeping some of it internal
is reasonable. The topology of the network is also important, since
it might cause differentiation: a group of units somewhat isolated
from the Collective would form a small borganism relatively loosely
connected with the Collective, and if the units were stringed out we
would get a "linear mind" (like the tine sentries in AFUTD).

This might be a reason for the borgs standing in their niches as seen
in Star Trek: when not on duty, they take advantage of the high
bandwidth of the intranet of the borg ship to truly become one, while
as mobile workers they are less integrated (this may post hoc explain
their inefficiency).

As I mentioned earlier, the typical borg emotionlessness and
callousness can be explained by their form of thinking: a borganism
can have intense emotions, but they are not displayed since it is
unnecessary (why smile when everybody else in the Collective also is
amused? ), and to a borganism individuals are just as uninteresting
as single cells; although I could imagine a friendly borganism which
for one reason or another took interest in their lives; however, to
the borganism the easiest way of communication would be to assimilate
a few individuals - that way it would also get a lot more information
about the individuals - but there is little need to make the
assimilation permanent.

Note that even individual units of a borganism doesn't need to fear
death; it would probably be a trivial matter to do regular backups of
their minds (like the Culture warships do in Iain Bank's
_Excession_), and if they are simply copies of each other there is no
reason to worry about the end of individual existence.

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y