I’m a big Star Trek fan. I might even be considered a Trekkie (though I’ve never been to a convention and I did not own a pair of Spock ears when I was a kid). I’ve enjoyed nearly every incarnation of the series, from the original right up through the most recent movies.
My favorite rendition was probably the 1980s The Next Generation. One of the more memorable parts of that particular incarnation of the Star Trek universe was the best-ever villain known as The Borg.
That was a race of humans from another part of the galaxy that had “evolved” to being part human, part machine. At birth a Borg was just like an Earthling — a smiling, cooing, bouncing little baby. As a Borg grew up, though, various computer parts and machinery pieces were implanted in the person, so that at maturation the individual was more machine than human. The particulars of the implants in each Borg was different, depending upon what lifelong role the individual was assigned in the greater Borg community.
That included brain implants, so that the person was connected by some super-wiz version of Wifi to all the other Borg flung throughout the galaxy.
The cool stuff about the Borg? Each individual could throw up a little force-field around himself or herself to ward off attacks. They each had the strength of three or four good men. They didn’t have to tote tool boxes or scientific examination equipment around with them — it was attached!
And when one Borg learned or discovered something, they all learned it instantaneously. The Borg had the ability to adapt on the fly — if you killed a few of them with a phaser, they’d almost immediately adapt so that they were no longer susceptible to the phaser.
The drawbacks? Well, there were several, but the biggie was there was no “I” in Borg. No individual. Everyone was simply a piece of the bigger picture, assigned a task to do repetitively until they could no longer do it, then they’d be discarded, like an out-of-date computer. Everyone was connected into one large mind, a collective thought process that simply didn’t allow for individualism. It’s group think taken to its ultimate pinnacle.
I thought about the Borg this week when reading a couple of news articles.
The first was the aftermath of Thursday’s Brexit vote in Great Britain, when that nation voted to leave the European Union after 43 years. There are loads of ramifications to that vote, both negative and potentially positive, and the debate in the weeks leading up to the vote was nasty, emotional, and those calling for the nation’s exit had huge rah-rah rallies and parades and all sorts of gatherings.
On Friday, the day AFTER the vote, according to Google Analytics, there was a huge spike in Google searches from Brits, people trying to figure out what, exactly, the European Union is. A search that might have taken place a few hundred times a day prior to the vote was keyed in by tens of thousands of English.
Again, the day after the vote. Apparently, people got so caught up in the emotion of the debates they cast a ballot because that’s what they were told to do, and only afterward bothered to figure out just what they had voted on.
The second Borg-inspiring story was a little closer to home. Seems that Tony Robbins (a guy who’s a mix of modern-day P.T. Barnum and motivational speaker) was giving one of his $3,000 self-help seminars to a few folks who apparently had more dollars than sense, when he had participants line up for a fire walk.
A fire walk is an exercise where hot coals are spread out on the ground, and people walk over them in their bare feet. Robbins tells people it’s a way to conquer fear, that if they can do this, they can do anything.
In this particular seminar, with a 20-foot walkway of hot coals, nearly 40 people ended up suffering burns, five of whom were hospitalized.
I’m a fairly simple guy, so sometimes hot little trends or big, overreaching themes tend to fly over my head. But at some point, with maybe a dozen or two people rolling around on the ground suffering from burned feet, I have to wonder about the next ten people who got hurt, or the next ten after that. At what point does one think “this might not be a good idea?”
And then it hit me — no one was thinking. It was simply group-think, you do what everyone else says because they say to do it.
This is perfectly illustrated by one participant who, according to various media reports, said he realized he was in trouble about halfway through.
“In hindsight, jumping off would have been a fantastic idea,” he said. But, he explained, he was caught up in the moment, in the excitement and emotion of what everyone else was doing, what they were telling him to do.
I don’t know what the future holds for our society, but if it ever does fall into ruins I don’t think it’ll be because of supposedly declining morals, or because of other nations taking the economic lead in the world, or even because of the mismanagement of and depletion of natural resources.
I think it’s far more likely we’ll forget how to think critically and independently, and fall into the trap of simply doing what everyone else is doing because it’s what they are doing, and that will ultimately be the end for us. We will become the Borg.
John Peters is the editor-in-chief of The News