‘Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control. This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources.’ [Machinic Desires, Nick Land]
More properly: ‘We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture shall adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.’
I describe the Borg as being ‘apotheotic/apocalyptic-pathogenic.’
Apotheotic/apocalyptic: they are the final, traumatic revealing of what Heidegger names ‘Gestell’, ‘enframing’ or ‘positionality,’ the essence of technology (that is, the mode of unconcealment of the world that brings about physical science, mathematics, machinic technology and techno-capitalism). Gestell orders the world into the ranks of ‘standing reserve,’ into usability to be consumed and turned to further ordering. Why both ‘apotheotic’ and ‘apocalyptic’? The apotheosis of technology is apocalyptic in both the classical and colloquial sense. It is the final revelation of a things nature, and it is destructive to what falls outside itself.
Pathogenic: their behavioural vector is viral. Insect swarm analogies do not function as well as pathogenic analogies regarding the Borg. The locust consumes. The disease transforms.
These points cannot, or at least ought not, be considered in isolation. They must be considered together.
Be warned, this might be an odd read.
What is the nature of the Borg? They are not best thought of as just a synthesis of the organic and the mechanical (not to deny that, on one level, they are). This description fails to grasp the essence of the Borg. They are not a synthesis of the organic and the artificial, they are such a thing that does not possess a distinction between the two. They are the breakdown of the tool/tool user distinction, of the maker/made dichotomy. They are not a synthesis of mecha/orga, they exist outside of that paradigm.
They, simply put, are Borg.
In the Borg, there are no distinctions between society and its members in the same way that there is a distinction between the United Kingdom and a British citizen. The Borg are their collective. There is not a distinction between the crew of a ship and the ship. Indeed, it is improper to speak of either of those things in this context. An individual drone, provided it is properly functioning, is as much the collective as an entire cube is. Q points out that the first drone encountered by the Enterprise is ‘Not a he, not a she’ [‘Q Who?’ TNG]. There are no dichotomies to them.
They do not reproduce. They replicate. Reproduction suggests the classic sexual-binary. The Borg, rather, have the behaviour of the virus. The virus is not universally recognised as a life-form; when the Enterprise first scans a Borg cube [Ibid.] she is unable to detect any life-signs. They operate in such a way that we do not recognise them as a life-form. The Borg might thus be described as post-life.
It is significant that there is no canonical explanation of the origin of the Borg. As there is no dogma on the subject, I shall feel free to speculate without risk of committing heresy.
The Borg, I feel, were not made. They occurred. The Borg are the end product of technological unconcealment, where all distance and differentiation has collapsed into the cycles of the machine, ever improving its own functioning by perpetual assimilation. The Borg’s first progenitor species (that is, the orga they initially developed from), did not invent them in the sense that they created them spontaneously. Rather, they were simply a primitive version of the Borg that adapted the initial conditions for their first literal manifestation, like nanoprobes preparing a target for assimilation. The Borg where always coming, plunging out of technology as technology plunges out of history. All of previous technological and scientific (and cultural?) development has simply been laying the groundwork for the first collective. The Borg where coming for the Federation before Q hurled the Enterprise into system J25 [Ibid.], they had been called by their future-past selves [‘Regeneration’ ENT]. The Borg occur outside of the causal chain.
They are infinitely adaptable, but only within the pre-given framework of Borg-ness. The Queen can direct them creatively, but only towards further assimilation. Though they can perform cursory surveys and assessments of a target without assimilating it, it is only through assimilation that they can truly come to understand something, and only through assimilation that they can progress. Interestingly, they do seem to recognise this limitation, being willing to make an alliance with the Voyager during their conflict with Species 8472 [‘Scorpion,’ parts 1. & 2., VOY]. The Borg are sufficiently adaptable to recognise the limits of their adaptability. Guinan speculates [‘The Best of Both Worlds,’ part 1., TNG] that is possible that, in the future, the Borg might be open to negotiation. We see intimations of their striving to adapt to meet any challenge with their assimilation of Picard [Ibid.], their alliance with Voyager, even their breaking down of the chain of causality [‘First Contact’ etc.]; their evolution is evolving. Their adaptability is adapting [‘Dark Frontiers’ parts 1. & 2. VOY].
The nightmare of transhumanism, the arrival (note, not creation) of an entirely new order of beings: this is the Borg. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the time-travel arc to their development. The Borg do not exist within any traditional paradigm or dichotomy; it is senseless to try and understand them through our common knowledge of the flow of time. They are as beyond that as they are beyond us. Organic life had its first origins in the inorganic (perhaps Cairns-Smith’s crystals); more properly, perhaps life has not always been strictly speaking organic. Why should it continue to be organic? The Borg are neither biological nor technological in the sense that we use these words. They are their own order of being.
I do not know if the Borg are really coming or not. But, if they are coming, they have always been coming, they have always been preparing to arrive and we have always been preparing for their arrival. That is the true horror of them.