Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From "Biological Modules and Emotions"

By Paul Dumouchel.

Perhaps it is true that the Borg still feels, but this objection itself illustrates precisely the point I am trying to make. The objection rests on the fact that Humans, and yes, even Vulcans, immediately interpret the Borg's absence of affective expression as a sign of attitudes and dispositions that, if they are not emotions as such, are clearly related to them, for example, resoluteness, determination, cruelty, and indifference. The adjective "strategic" in the above objection assumes that we anticipate that the Borg's behaviour will be consistent with what is suggested by the signs that we recognize or that we assume to be there. This in turn implies, first, that we do not understand the Borg's lack of emotional expression as affective silence. We give it meaning in terms of emotions. However, this spontaneous projection informs us about the type of creatures that we are but tells us nothing about the Borg. For us, there is no behaviour that is without a certain affective quality, none to which we do not attribute an emotional dimension of some sort. The term "strategic" also implies that affective expression is directly related to behaviour. The idea of strategy as it is used in the objection supposes that the lack of affect expressed by the Borg is unmistakenly associated by us with definite behaviours. Finally it suggests that the impassivity of the Borg will spontaneously orient us towards certain affective dispositions, such as fear, doubt, irresolution, and perhaps terror and confusion, as if the insensitivity of Borg itself were an action that had direct consequences on our own behaviour.

It therefore does not really matter whether or not members of the collective feel anything, for we spontaneously interpret their expressive passivity as revealing definite affective dispositions. What does matter fro the argument concerning the disappearance of the self, however, is that (it) they do(es) not express anything. When we respond affectively as we do to the Borg's indifference, through anger, fear, repulsion, or disgust, we attempt to coordinate our actions to theirs. unfortunately, this spontaneous effort of ours is doomed to failure because they cannot answer our affect. Unlike the action of their imagined insensitivity upon us, our emotional expression has no hold upon them. How is this failure visible? What demonstrates it is that we cannot individualize members of the collective. I do not mean by this that we cannot recognize that this "thing," half human and half machine, that is now coming towards us was not Borg half an hour ago but a data analyst working in engineering. It is, on the contrary, easy to recognize that members of the collective once were distinct individuals belonging to different species. However, what we cannot do is individualize them in action so to speak. There is nothing we can do that can evoke from a member of the collective a response that is not dictated by the collective.

Members of the collective do not react to affective expression because they do not need to. The Borg's mind is conscious of itself and the access of all to the complete store of information it contains is immediate and total. No individual needs therefore to coordinate his or her actions to those of another precisely because they are not individuals but part of a whole. The smooth functioning of the various parts of the Borg is centrally directed. There is no need for local and individual coordination in this situation because no one is uncertain about the intentions of another towards him. That is why members of the collective neither express nor recognize emotions. They have no use for that device.

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