I Borg to differ

The optimistic scifi show Star Trek, the Next Generation is not guaranteed to be on TV forever. If you have never watched it, I recommend the "I, Borg" episode.

It's not too geeky1 and contains the great line
"Resistance is not futile?"

The episode's underlying philosophy is still relevant today.

At the bottom of this post is a plot summary. I want to focus on the part that is not spot-on. I want to comment on the idea that self-contradictory ideas make minds self-destruct. Because they don't.

Here in the West2 contradictory ideas are introduced and internalized every single day. Does anyone self-destruct after watching the TV news?
Well, a few people.


The very least contradictory ideas [as 'memes'] are doing is turning some modern minds into MC Escher drawings like this

from here

This building might even be evidence:

from here (more)

In my opinion, these days it is the Escherized that are crying on the inside, and not our clowns so much. This cartoon might be annoying
but it might be right.


The most political I want to get is to say that I think some do not stop at the Escher state (wondering why the metaphorical 'up' stairs seem like 'down' stairs). I think some go all the way to stupid. Internalized contradictions can be like blows to the head.

I find I am not smart enough. Maybe it's the contradictions I've internalized! But I don't even know if the happy events at the end of "I Borg" show the way.


As promised, a summary of the plot
the Borg
They are totalitarians, intent on assimilating the entire universe to be part of their collective. As the story begins, this is a tangible, likely threat to the humans and to the entire galaxy.

To be made into a Borg is a fate worse than death. Not only does each not have their own thoughts, they do not even have names. They endure tubes stucks into their bodies, connecting them to the hive.

Worse, every scrap of knowledge that there might be a better way has been sucked from them. They don't know what they don't know.

In the episode
A single Borg is captured and the question of what do with him arises. The fate of the galaxy is at stake.

The Enterprise's galaxy-class engineer Geordi comes up with a plan to introduce a self-contradictory idea into the individual Borg, and then return him to the hive! Geordi's idea is that -forced to internalize a paradoxical geometric shape- the entire collective with go insane and self-destruct!!

Ultimately this is not done.
Instead there is a life-affirming plot device, brilliantly written and perfectly played..


  • Among Star Trek geeks it's regarded, but not ranked at the very top

  • I will explain what 'the West' really means in an upcoming post

  • As George Orwell pointed out to the world, Geordi-type plans wouldn't work. If you managed to get the attention of the real equivalent of an obedient bureaucrat from the novel 1984, introducing a paradoxical geometric figure to him or her would be like handing a bottle of glue to a habitual sniffer.

[edited 2007-02-20]