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

I pledge to stop using technological determinism indeterminately.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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:

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 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?

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.

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.”

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

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias 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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