On the Borg

Normally, I have few problems separating fiction from fact, fantasy from reality, and unlike Don Quixote, I can tell the difference between a windmill and a giant. Nevertheless, the first time I met the Borg, a race of half-human, half-machine cybernetic drones, I knew I was watching a cautionary tale about the dangers of digital mechanization, the incorporation of technology into the human body, and the uncontrolled growth of technology industries. The Borg, first seen in Star Trek: Next Generation, are a race of biological robots who are controlled by a single “collective”, which is code for eradicating, once and for all, the individual. The actors wear a series of mechanical appliances which are supposed to enhance their biological processes–better eyes, better ears, better hands, whatever, the mechanical parts are better than the biological equivalents. Of course, by eradicating the individual, the social interaction between the drones is less than zero, having been reduced to the social behavior of a colony of bees. The actors playing the drones all look pretty much alike, and their skin is gray, and their amour is black, further erasing the last vestiges of their humanity. The Borg are a kind of cross between undead zombies and Frankenstein’s monster with no will of their own, no thoughts of their own, not really alive or dead—more like machines that have on/off switches. Certainly, there is no personal initiative or ethical or moral codes controlling their behavior. They follow the orders of the “hive” without questioning anything. They don’t even interact with one another, which means they have no emotions, can show no empathy, can show no mercy. They are ideal killers. They are the ultimate consumers of technology as they assimilate the others’ cultures with which they come in contact. The Borg has only one concern: assimilate as many races as possible, adding the uniqueness and technology of each race to their own advantage in search of some sort of ideal perfection. Every time they assimilate a race, they also eradicate the unique identity of each victim, a sort of ethnic cleansing, as it were, to insure the idea that perfection does not lie with the individual, but only with the fascistic collective. Perfection, then, is about eliminating all that is unique or different and bending all of those cultures to some ultra-creepy ideology that is concerned with the pursuit of perfection. Why should we, as a people, be concerned about the Borg? Beyond the fact that they are creepy and dark villains, they are also a metaphor for our own society of consumers who are ruled by the collective marketing strategies of the technology companies who are dedicated to rolling out more and better technology to capture the consumer dollar. One of the side-effects of this technology race is a total lack of concern of what technology does to the people who use it. Can we actually say that computers, cell phones, tablets, and laptops make our lives that much better? In some ways, they do enhance communication, especially for those people who are on the go and hard to get a hold of. I like to have a phone in the car in case of emergencies, but I worry about the time people invest in social media and what that takes away from their relationships. I worry that the technology crushes individuality and creativity, that smart phones and tablets eliminate real face to face communication, that technology isolates the individual, repressing or eliminating real communication. Is the Borg collective our society turned on its head and taken to its last apocalyptic logical conclusion? The day it is possible to have a smart phone implanted into your head so you don’t have to worry about carrying it around or making sure it’s charged is the day we all need to take a good long look at what we are doing, but then again, by then, it may be too late.