As you probably already know, borg is the short form of cyborg, itself a shortened combination of the term “cybernetic organism.” At its core a cybernetic organism is the juxtaposition between the present and the future—the evolved organic meets future technology, usually technology meant to enhance, improve or replace a biological function. Today people with loss of limbs or other functions benefit from cybernetic improvements that didn’t exist just decades ago. The seemingly unlimited boundaries and implications of these technologies have been pursued throughout popular fiction for years.
My first encounter with the concept of a cybernetic organism is like many peoples’—Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. In fact, the original working title of SMDM was Cyborg. Back in the 1970s one of my favorite toys and the first of many large action figures was this astronaut from the TV series. He was the perfect archetype and a great introduction to the borg concept for kids back then. He explored both the good and the bad of mixing technology with biology, usually through the struggle he and his friend Jaime Sommers “The Bionic Woman” experienced adapting to these new enhancements. Ultimately in science fiction a lot of time is spent focused on the pitfalls of this mix—Terminators dehumanize us. Robocop and Darth Vader ultimately lose their human selves. But let’s face it, the benefits can be amazing.
When I was ten years old I got my first pair of eyeglasses. I remember reading my first comic books and thinking about the old “what if?” question: If you could have any special power, what would it be? The ability to fly like Superman? The ability to move fast like the Flash? To climb walls like Spiderman? For me the answer was easy—I wanted perfect vision. Steve Austin, the astronaut played by Lee Majors, crashed in a test flight, and because “we can rebuild him” because “we have the technology,” Steve got not only superior vision but superior physical strength and other powers, too. Through my Six Million Dollar Man action figure I could literally see (through a window in the back of his head) Steve’s super vision. But this was science fiction, right? And who has six million bucks anyway?
Flash forward to the 21st century. Science fiction meets reality, and not for six million dollars but more like six thousand dollars comes LASIK. I found myself in an eye doctor’s laboratory with eye tests that looked like something out of 1950s sci fi TV serials—with flashing lights and lasers measuring the surface of my eye to the actual (gulp) restructuring of my eyes with a real-life laser beam. Back in the 1970s I would have thought it possible, just not likely, that I could have my wish come true. And the days of lesser technologies…eyeglasses and contact lenses…were a thing of the past for me. Did I get to benefit from actual cybernetic technologies? You bet! Do I consider myself a bit of a borg? I’m not telling, but I’ve been known to refer to my new sight as laser vision—a concept straight out of Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics.
I also just like “borg” over “cyborg” and “cybernetic organism”. It’s less formal and I hope to drop all formality with this website. My own first encounter with the word “borg” was in my favorite comic book series as a kid—the Star Wars adaptation and Marvel’s ongoing original comic series that started as a retelling of Seven Samurai. In issue 16 we were introduced to the menacing bounty hunter Valance, who hunts robots, only to be revealed to us in the last panel that half of his body was replaced with cybernetic parts—he was a borg. Who knew one day I would have a website called the same thing?
I also have to mention other borg: Doctor Who’s Cybermen and even the Daleks, General Grievous and Luke Skywalker, the human Cylons from the Battlestar Galactica reboot series, Philip K. Dick’s replicants we saw on the big screen in Blade Runner, and last but not least the species in Star Trek that assimilates all species and cultures, “The Borg”—I hope here, too, to pull together all science fiction, fantasy, entertainment–all pop culture–in one place.