I know some of you are Trekkies, and even if you aren’t a fan, you’ve more than likely heard the phrase, “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile,” chanted by Star Trek’s hive-mind aliens, the Borg. Though they pale in comparison to some of the movies and series’ most iconic nemeses like Khan and the omnipotent Q, their constant drive to absorb beings and technology to improve the collective are proving to be hauntingly prescient when compared to certain modern-day companies seemingly bent on assimilating the internet to feed the AI beast.
“I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.”
When the Borg appeared for the first time on Star Trek in 1989, repulsion to their “otherness” came from our culture’s inherent dislike of the concept of individuality and freedom being made subservient to a collective will. While AI was not new to science fiction at the time – it had already become infamous decades before in the sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey – it was viewed as something maybe possible in the distant future. Luckily, we got Y2K instead of HAL when the new millennium rolled around, but now, just 20-ish years later, we are faced with the reality of web-crawling bots hoovering up everything on the internet to fuel “large language model” AI platforms. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to the Borg in this regard. Human content creators are already having to resort to legal measures against various companies for “assimilating” their original work into AI-generated copycat products that are being sold on platforms like Amazon (a company often compared to the Borg) or appearing in YouTube videos (another very Borg-like company), or in sound-alike songs on Spotify.
“We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us.”Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Image by PIRO from Pixabay