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   Wikipedia: hive mind
Sunday, January 7 2007
Gretchen is still on her Star Trek: The Next Generation kick, which, if I actually liked Star Trek, would be a dream come true to a nerd like me. Occasionally, though, I'll stop to watch parts of an episode that I find compelling. For example, I have a special fascination with the Borg and will watch any episode in which they're involved. For those who don't know, the Borg are an advanced civilization of humanoid cyborgs who live in hives, combining their thoughts into a massive shared "hive mind." Their purpose is a form of evangelism whereby encountered civilizations are assimilated and their individuals become Borgs as well. I'm interested by their strange combination of selflessness and ruthlessness. How can anyone be content as an unacknowledged, interchangeable part of a massive superorganism? (I have similar arguments against the human-suitability of Heaven and other hereafters.)
With this in mind, today it occurred to me that Wikipedia is something of a "hive mind," with scads of anonymous authors contributing to a massive, constantly-perfected and interconnected web of information that is far too large to fit in any individual's head. I used to think of the Web itself as having this property of "emergent intelligence," and the early non-commercial web actually did, back when hypertext was the only thing that made the Web special and websites weren't so selfish with their traffic.

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