In the TV series Star Trek: the Next Generation (and Movie First Contact), the crew of the Starship Enterprise fights against an enemy called “The Borg.” The Borg are depicted as cybernetically enhanced humanoids of various races, organized as a “hive mind” collective that can think and learn together. The Borg sound byte is:
“We are the Borg. We will add your biological and technical distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is Futile.”
I assert that “Borg-like” communities are what we aspire to be, in that the Borg leverage a collective intelligence to rapidly adapt to any situation. While the Borg are depicted as “the bad guys,” there were elements in the show that pointed out how some people (Character Seven of Nine) missed the connected-ness of being in the collective. How can we be connected with computers so that we act more intelligently than any individuals, group or computer could? Indeed, the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT is exploring just that. And, I am fairly certain that we are enjoying various aspects of early “Collective Intelligence”, even if it’s something as simple as using Trip-it to find other travelers so you can share a cab.
When we separate the definition of collective intelligence from the idea of the Borg, then collective intelligence is very appealing. Why, then, to the Borg have such a bad rap? The purpose of the Borg is to try to achieve perfection (what’s wrong with perfection?) – although the definition of perfection appears to be based on perfect intelligence alone, without accounting for emotions such as compassion.
As part of my job, I think about how social media/collective intelligence can be used to improve business. I, and many of you, are about to attend IBM Connect.
At the conference, I hope I can learn more about leveraging collective intelligence, which means, I suppose, that I aspire to be a bit like the Borg… and maybe that’s a good thing.