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Twitter and the Borg

By - January 26, 2009

180Px-Borg Queen 2372

I wonder what Kevin might say about this random tweet that came out of me: “Is Twitter the logical next step to a Borg hivemind? First books. Then blogs. Then Twitter. Then … Borg? ”

What I was on about was a habit I’ve notice I’m getting into – I’ve timeshifted my reading into another (more accelrated) phase. I read Twitter a few times a day, blogs every other day, and print a few times a week. I used to read blogs all day, and magazines/print a every other day. I remember when I did this with blogs, everyone was saying to me “how on earth can you keep up?!” But it was not hard at all, it was valuable to me, it fed my work and my life.

What happens when Twitter shifts to real time? Could we handle it? Could it happen? A microconversation in our heads, on all the time? I’m not sure we could. It is, however, what the Borg is all about, no? The delta between individual and social closed to no more than a blink? Very sci fi. Hmmm.


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20 thoughts on “Twitter and the Borg

  1. Stefan Deak says:

    I’m all with you John. Every little step we take is pointing towards the direction of the hive mind.

    Now of course we’re limited to reading tweets or jaikus or any kind of micro conversation and the next step could be txt-voice-txt way of using these communication services.

    Eventually, of course, we will have to plug in the stream to cortex and connect it to geo data et voilá the hive mind.

    I hardly dare thinking the thought..

  2. Brian Combs says:

    John,

    How are you getting the depth of info you need from just Twitter? I’m not sure every other day would be often enough for me.

    Or, do you count links off of Twitter as part of Twitter?

  3. @Brian Good question, yes, the links are crucial.

  4. Dale Clark says:

    i thought this very same thing myself, if i am able to know what everyone else knows at a glans that would be amazing.

  5. Ishak says:

    what do you folks think of clive’s September 08 NYT piece on “Ambient Awareness.” Its not about the depth, but rather the breadth. Individuality will be based on specific interests, relationships and perspective. Society is data.

  6. ttnet says:

    Haha, it is wonderful John!

    Read this :

    “Technology is a continuation of a 4-billion-year force that pursues more ways to evolve. The technium is the best way evolution evolves (that we know about). But what might come after that? What is the future of evolution? Evolution will likely continue in the direction it has been going –whether on this planet or off it – which is toward more agile, smarter, rapid, broader, and more surprising evolvability.”

    ..

  7. John, technology increases our knowledge of the world, but it complicates it at a still faster rate. Our confidence about the world goes up just as our relative knowledge goes down. I know this is obvious, but the challenge is not to keep keep up, but to remind oneself that one can’t, and so beware. Our bankers forgot that.

    Tim

  8. It mostly sounds like you’re making your information consumption more meta. Twitter itself doesn’t provide much information, just links to information and meta-information. So you’re using Twitter to drill down into blogs, which often you’re probably using to drill down to print. The fact that you’re reducing your *direct* consumption of the information end-points is very telling.

    Before we get to the hive-mind, someone needs to operate the hive-mind profitably.

  9. Kevin Kelly says:

    Yes, John, it is the next logical step toward the hive mind, or the global superorganism. But there are at least 50 steps after that before we arrive so there is no need to turn in your ID card yet!

  10. Bob Lewis says:

    1. I wonder what Kevin might say about this random tweet, I think Kevin could complicate chaos theory. Hmmm, I wonder if the Big Bang had to stop and wait for a business model, what the effects would be. Twitter is most certainly a data miner. But wait! We need advertisements everywhere, for all to ignore! It is a shame all the marketers were not part of the Big Bang.
    2. I think the Butterfly Effect, (which has a little to do with chaos theory), and the ability of a well-respected Twitter user to start a rumor, (a temporary or imaginary truth of some kind) could create all kinds of chaos is going to be very interesting.
    3. “Is Twitter the logical next step to a Borg hivemind? Not a chance! I have never seen more self serving crap in one place since I signed up for Linkedin, and got spammed to death every day with emails for bake sales, and marketing seminars that we’re certain to enrich me.
    4. I am a faithful follower of yours, and I enjoy your thoughtful comments. I am not however interested in whether your chilidog from lunch is giving you heartburn, and how you plan to avoid it in the future.
    5. Then … Borg? ” hmmm Most likely a Social phenomenon when the marketers, and Media Moguls get done with it. Things will quiet down when they find something else to wreck…i.e., Telephones, faxes, remember when you used to look forward to an email, you can’t even take a leak anymore without staring at an ad of some sort. I can’t remember any of them. What was I thinking? Not very evolved to be sure.
    6. What happens when Twitter shifts to real time? God help us all! If you think, the Universe was chaotic, hold on to your Blackberries.
    7. The only Juggernaut in this scenario is the Marketers!
    8. By the way young man! You have a Book to finish. I’m glad they only give you 140 words!
    Hmmm, you made me think, what is that about? Damn that Twitter!

  11. Mike says:

    I could see this happen. We already have a microconversation going on in our heads all the time. Just look around more and more people are just walking around looking at screens and are unaware of what is happening in the real world.

  12. Eric says:

    Twitter then Idiocracy. Deep thinking disappears for the masses. Communication is done in 140 character blurbs? What a horrible future. Too many websites focus on blog posts, and are losing the art of the feature – in depth reporting and journalistic storytelling.

    John is getting more and more arrogant, and is falling deeper into his conversational media world – the one that he feels he had large part in inventing.

    When he’s twittering about helping his son with his homework, that was enough to disengage. As if I give a shit that he’s helping his son. How does this info help me, or even improve the collective? It doesn’t. It’s just self absorption, conveyed in a new way.

  13. Alexander says:

    I had the same thought yesterday while pondering the question whether someone already came up with a realtime online 3d visualisation of who-follows-who on twitter cause that would be a nice methaphorical visualisation for the hive mind’s brain.

  14. nmw says:

    @JohnBattelle are the links on twitter.com more “valuable” than the links on other domains?

    I wonder why — maybe it has something to do with the Wisdom of the Language: http://gaggle.info/miscellaneous/articles/wisdom-of-the-language

  15. Robert Sawyer talks about this in Rollback…
    May aswell read some Wittgenstein thoughts on this…
    Or else Scott Lash here…

    http://66.102.9.132/search?q=cache:okkOXMbzgZcJ:polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/llievrou/LashRev.pdf+scott+lash+critique&hl=es&ct=clnk&cd=3

  16. Tom Crowl says:

    That the “borg” question arises at all, I believe, is precisely because of an implicit concern with the nature of individual identity which naturally arises concurrent with the dim awareness of a developing “superorganism”.

    The inevitable contrasting vision, of course is the “Star Trek Federation”… which can at least be posited as a different sort of “superorganism” as can all civilizations.

    So the issue is the status of the individual identity within a superorganism composed of a multiplicity of identities.

    That old standard, “The Drake Equation”, however unreliable the figures used in calculation, suggests that not all intelligent civilizations survive too long(if they exist at all).

    I believe the borg model is NOT sustainable. At least not if put together with human beings.

    This is because as “Ambient Awareness” Expands…
    And system Complexity and Vulnerability Increase…
    The importance of systems for consensus building on expanding levels is ever more essential.

    This is because of the fundamental nature of “The Ultimatum Game” in social behaviour (btw, not just humans – its even been demonstrated in dogs!)

    This needed consensus regards the process for decision and NOT any specific decision itself (which I belive Hillis misses as a factor in the decision scaling issue. see http://www.edge.org/q2009/q09_12.html#hillis )

    Poor decisions will be tolerated where even good ones won’t depending on the intensity of members identification with the group.

    This is illustrated in obvious form by the “Ultimatum Game” in Behavioral Economics which says there will always be a good number (thank you lordy!) who won’t go for a raw deal and would just as soon tip over the table as accept it!

    So its a question of creating for individuals a needed appendage for ACTION and DECISION within the commons so as to create an awareness in the individual that he/she has meaningful capacity to participate in determining that “superorganism’s” direction.

    From Iqbal Quadal, founder of Grameenphone of Banglagesh:
    “If concentration of power has contributed to poor governance, the solution must lie in dispersing power… ICTs empower from below while devolving power from above, resulting in a two-pronged attack on abuse of state power that has left so much of the world’s population languishing in poverty… ICTs can be the means to both freedom and development by blindsiding obstacles to both.”

    And from Eyal Sivan’s “The Connective” http://www.TheConnective.org (and thanks to Eyal for joining my Chagora endeavour!)

    “The Connective refers to the global culture emerging as a result of the proliferation of information technology.
    A connective refers to a distributed network made up of voluntary participants, organized around a specific interest or context, with each member seeking to achieve an individual goal.”

    Capability ENABLES Responsibility

    And Capabiity REQUIRES New Methods for New Landscapes!

    Embrace the Swarm and Let GO at the Top! as Kevin Kelly has famously said and its true!

  17. paisley says:

    Resistance is Futile, You have been assimilated.

  18. tweetip says:

    Coincidently, this was in my inbox this morning:


    You might not be ready
 to declare any such thing,
    but those “clouds” tapped by
    super sensitive people are tapping in return.
    I think you are developing a nice set of tools
    to capture something of the great being,
    maybe helping her come into being.



    Something grand’s aborning.

  19. Marcelo says:

    Resistance is futile…?

  20. Agitationist says:

    Not sure what you meant by “What happens when Twitter shifts to real time?”
    How is it not realtime now?

    Also: don’t get too caught up. Twitter will be over sooner than you think. The less you identify with it the better.