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The Borg Complex: I’m Guilty of this Psychological Fallacy

I pledge to stop using technological determinism indeterminately.

Unfortunately, I’m guilty of the Borg Complex.

Via Waldemar Ingdahl, I came across the Borg Complex, a term I hadn’t encountered before.

The Borg Complex refers to a specific form of technological determinism, but in my case, it’s also a psychological fallacy.

And yes, I’m guilty.
Big time.

Here’s how:

Table of Contents

    The Borg Complex: A Definition

    The term Borg Complex was coined on a whim by L.M. Sacasas:

    “A Borg Complex is exhibited by technologists, writers, and pundits who explicitly assert or implicitly assume that resistance to technology is futile. The name is derived from the Borg, a cybernetic alien race in the Star Trek universe that announces to their victims some variation of the following: “We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile.”
    Source: Borg Complex: A Primer

    Do I qualify in the group of technologists, writers, and pundits?
    Yes, I guess I do.

    Have I been guilty of explicitly asserting, or implicitly assuming, that resistance to technology is futile?
    Yes. More times than I can count.

    Does knowing about the Borg Complex change my mind?
    Yes, and no.

    I still lean heavily towards the side of technological determinism.
    I still think that resistance, for the most part, is futile.

    But whether I’m right or wrong is beside the point — at least in this context.

    A Borg warrior from Star Trek - The Borg Complex
    AI art. Prompt: “A Borg warrior from Star Trek.”

    Symptoms of the Borg Complex

    Here are, according to L.M. Sacasas, some of the symptoms of the Borg Complex:

    “1. Makes grandiose, but unsupported claims for technology
    2. Uses the term Luddite a-historically and as a casual slur
    3. Pays lip service to, but ultimately dismisses genuine concerns
    4. Equates resistance or caution to reactionary nostalgia
    5. Starkly and matter-of-factly frames the case for assimilation
    6. Announces the bleak future for those who refuse to assimilate
    7. Expresses contemptuous disregard for past cultural achievements
    8. Refers to historical antecedents solely to dismiss present concerns”
    Source: Borg Complex: A Primer

    Yes, I’ve been known to make such claims without supporting them with evidence. I’ve equated concerns to reactionary nostalgia. And, I’ve been known to announce a bleak future on occasion.

    Have I been wrong?

    Well, it’s not evident that I’ve been explicitly wrong. Technology has proven to be a driving force majeure in society. Another way to put it: I could be right.

    But being right is beside the point.

    L.M. Sacasas puts it bluntly:

    “We need more thinking, not less, and Borg Complex rhetoric is typically deployed to stop rather than advance discussion. What’s more, Borg Complex rhetoric also amounts to a refusal of responsibility. We cannot, after all, be held responsible for what is inevitable. Naming and identifying Borg Complex rhetoric matters only insofar as it promotes careful thinking and responsible action.”
    Source: Borg Complex: A Primer

    Mind Your Technological Determinism

    I celebrate intellectual debate and diversity of thought. I would never seek to silence anyone proposing an opposing line of reasoning. Not consciously, at least.

    But unconsciously?
    Well.

    I’ve been unconsciously seasoning my writing with sprinkles of technological determinism to close doors instead of opening them. Therefore, I think of the Borg Complex more as a psychological fallacy than a persuasion strategy.

    Moving forward, I pledge to be more mindful of thinking, writing and discussing technology.

    A photo of a cyborg human in a cyberpunk city - The Borg Complex
    AI art. Prompt: “Photo of a cyborg human in a cyberpunk city.”

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)

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    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwerhttps://www.doctorspin.net/
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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