Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Resistance is Futile

I grew up with Star Trek reruns, and longed for more episodes for a long time. I was less interested by the time they actually came, and never bonded completely with the new characters. When many other shows followed the Next Generation, I only caught an episode of one now and then.

Yet they've given us at least one idea of enduring fascination. The Borg Collective. Forget your iPod? No problem. You can play video games on the inside of your eyes when boring people insist on talking to you. To function at peak capacity the elements of the Borg should have high endorphin levels. Fortunately sex will do this, and a properly informed nexus will be better at finding compatible partners than individuals would be at pairing themselves off. Imagine the things a mind composed of many brains could understand, not just about technology, but philosophy and the universe.

What's that you say? What about losing your individuality and being enslaved? Well, it could happen, but the automatic assumption says more about us than Borg Collectives. Would bees live fuller and happier lives if not for the subtle control of the hive, or do they exert that control on themselves, because that is how they are suited to live? How about ants? If our brain cells tried to live individual lives in a pond, they would probably die in short order. Many human brain cells live as long as we do, a long life for a single cell. Not a bad gig, and I don't know if they would truly experience anything as profound as consciousness if they had individual 'individuality'.

Could it be we can form a Borganism if and only if we are suited to one?

Maybe, but no technology comes without dangers, and no software works perfectly without being debugged and alpha and beta tested. If you install new software and hardware in your brain, the warranty may be voided.

This is the central conflict of my new novel. Brett Johnson hates hive minds, yet is called to persuade one to surrender peacefully to avert a war that will cost millions of lives. He falls in love with a woman who is part of the hive mind, and begins to doubt that it truly destroys people's individuality. He must avoid being used as a tool by something that may well want to absorb humanity, but fears he's being used by some of his own superiors who may after all want war.

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