This phrase was coined by Michael Sacasas on his blog The Frailest Thing. He takes the term from Star Trek, where an aggressive alien race would announce upon invasion that “resistance is futile.” The “Borg Complex” describes the view that technology’s advancement is inevitable, and any argument against it is pointless and bound to fail.
This style of arguing simplifies and minimizes contradicting concerns. Worried about privacy policies online? How about the impact of open data on governance? The “Borg Complex” dismisses any concerns with what Sacasas calls “handwaving rhetoric.” It is “deployed to stop rather than advance discussion” and it also “also amounts to a refusal of responsibility.” After all, if the argument is circular it has nowhere to go. Believing in an absolute certainty crushes healthy debate before it can even get off the ground, and it allows the arguer to wash his hands of the subject in smug, righteous certainty.
Sacasas also quotes Marshall McLuhan, who said: “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” This is central to the issue of bad argument styles. The “Borg Complex” concerns technology, but really it’s just the latest incarnation of an argument style that states truth without justification. And, too often, readers will be convinced because they don’t stop to consider whether an argument is flawed, well supported, biased, or relevant.
The only cure for this type of argument: thought that allows for nuance, without predetermined answers.
If you’ve come across the “Borg Complex” in action let us know in the comments!