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As we all know, the Borg announce themselves with some variation of the classic:

We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

The question is - why exactly they are doing this? Announcing that resistance is futile is not likely to reduce the actual resistance - otherwise every battle could be won by just announcing it's futile to resist. The Borg must have learned from experience that nobody really believes them that the resistance is futile (and those that looks like believing probably are trying to pull some trick on them) - at least nobody we encounter on-screen or by reference does. The Borg also are nothing but pragmatic - so why they keep doing something that has no chance of working?

Moreover, announcing their intent to assimilate probably lowers their chance of successful assimilation (in most cases, insignificantly since they are technologically superior to most others, but still why suffer even small disadvantage)? Would it not be more practical to announce themselves as something like "We are the Borg, interstellar candy merchants, and we have free samples right here in our cubes, please come in and taste!" I'm kidding of course about the exact formula, but the point is - why not try to deceive at least at the first encounter? That could help them to assimilate at least a small number of species on initial encounter and thus gain very valuable knowledge. See how Martians act in the "Mars Attacks" movie - that's how one would expect the Borg to act.

Of course, that would eventually get them a very bad reputation about those who know them - but it's not like their reputation is any better without it, given that they are assimilating everybody anyway and, as their Voyager encounters prove, are not strangers to backstabbing and scheming. They obviously have no "warrior honor" concept like Klingons do, so why would they give up a very important surprise advantage and disclose their nature and intentions upfront?

Looking for an in-universe answer, of course, "it sounds badass on TV" is not interesting enough :)

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Good question. My first guess would be, that it actually lowers resistance: "We are the Borg (have a look at our cube!) You will be assimilated (you could become part of this) Resistance is futile (or you could die. What do you prefer?)" I guess some people choose a life as a Borg over no life at all. –  Einer Jun 7 at 10:05
    
If you ask me, the Borg are the most misinterpreted / misrepresented species on Star Trek –  flq Jun 7 at 11:16
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Is it worth mentioning that it just looks really badass on TV when they do it? –  Richard Jun 7 at 11:33
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@Einer ; i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/6508409344/h821B98AB –  Richard Jun 7 at 14:18
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@Einer Borg do not kill all the species encountered if they resist, Borg assimilate them anyway. –  madfriend Jun 7 at 17:55

5 Answers 5

up vote 30 down vote accepted

The Borg see no reason that anyone would actively resist them and are confident that any resistance is (to coin a phrase) futile.

  • In announcing their presence they are giving the message's recipient a piece of good news, that they have been judged sufficiently unique and worthwhile as to be added to the Collective's distinctiveness.

  • They're also giving some salutary advice to anyone misguided enough to think about resisting them, that their assimilation will be over more quickly (and less painfully) if they just surrender. Either way the outcome is identical.

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

and

Borg Queen: Assimilation is complete.
Seven of Nine: 300,000 individuals have been transformed into drones. Should they be congratulated as well?
Borg Queen: They should be. They've left behind their trivial, selfish lives, and they've been reborn with a greater purpose. We've delivered them from chaos into order.

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Basically from this it follows Borg have no theory of mind and incapable of imagining species thinking differently than they do. Pretty huge flaw in otherwise very advanced species. –  StasM Jun 8 at 6:16
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@stasm - from their perspective, they would consider individuality to be the flaw. –  Richard Jun 8 at 9:15
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But doesn't the point from the OP remain: that the Borg have never seen a species NOT resisting? If the Borg are rational and constantly evolving, they should notice their greeting doesn't work, and either change it or drop it. –  Andres F. Jun 8 at 14:40
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@andresf - They've assimilated trillions of sentient beings, thousands of species. We've only seen a tiny fraction of them. It's perfectly possible that the warning has proven effective at other times. –  Richard Jun 8 at 14:47
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The Borg are sticklers for efficiency. If there's a chance their target will surrender then they would rather not waste the energy. –  Brian Ortiz Jun 8 at 17:16

I think the reason why Borg always announce them is actually threefold:

  1. The Borg consider themselves liberators, not oppressors. They think that they're bestowing upon others the greatest gift ever, the gift of selflessness which (not surprisingly) sounds eerily close to the description of Paradise. They consider themselves missionaries on a quest to bring salvation. They understand that not everyone is enlightened enough to understand that, but they give you an option to join them willingly.
  2. The Borg is civilisation is of pure logic and reason, even more so than vulcans. They see armed conflict as an utter waste of resources and lives. They're also unable to see it in any other way and because of that they actually expect others to accept their reasoning. After all, they're already assimilated so many other races, why should this one be any different? Announcing themselves they actually sort of hand over their business card: They are the Borg (duh!), they consider themselves superior to you (futility of resistance), the Borg is a hive civilisation (assimilation), they do not want to destroy you (one can't assimilate dead) and few other things. Basically they are straight to the point folks with what you see is what you get approach.
  3. The Borg see other races as children and assimilation process as sort of coming to age ritual. One can't expect children to behave like grown-ups do and because of that they always try to explain. They also never take lives when they can help it and they never sneak attack. One just doesn't do such things to their own children.
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This is a good answer. If you could back it up with some quotes or references it could go from good to great. –  Richard Jun 8 at 9:31

Announcing your intentions is nothing new.

The ancient Greek / Roman / other old armies would give the target city the opportunity to surrender (and become slaves). If they declined (maybe by kicking the messenger into a pit) then the fight is on. If the target lost the fight the residents were killed - every last one of them.

The rationale was the attackers wanted the infrastructure and fighting over it made a mess of the place. So surrender peacefully and we will be reasonably nice, or take your chances in battle and we will NOT be nice if we win.

So the Borg are the Roman Legion, and Janeway* is Leonidas. Just not quite as theatrical as Gerard Butler.

And it really does sound badass on TV.

*Significantly more interaction with the Borg

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But cities sometimes surrendered, since the choice were death vs. slavery, and some may prefer slavery to death. As far as I know, nobody ever voluntarily surrendered to Borg, and there's no reason to - they'd assimilate you anyway, so there's no upside in surrendering, unless you like being Borg drone (I don't think volunteer Borg were ever mentioned). –  StasM Jun 8 at 6:18
    
@StasM - The borg queen makes a pretty fair case in favour of joining the borg ; basically you'll live forever, have great purpose, never fear anything and you'll be contributing toward a galaxy-wide scheme to achieve understanding and perfection in all things. –  Richard Jun 8 at 6:28
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@Richard have anyone ever bought it and joined the Borg voluntarily? How often that happened? How it would compare with deception strategy, e.g. where you pretend to be friendly and then ambush them when they least expect and assimilate them? –  StasM Jun 8 at 7:32
    
@StasM - No, but there's always a first time so I guess the Borg live in hope. –  Richard Jun 8 at 7:35
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Wasn't 300 about Sparta vs Persia? Not Rome. –  Vincent Vancalbergh Jun 8 at 21:34

In addition to Richards great answer; I believe this is actually a part of their protocol, their ROE (rules of engagement) that they follow to the letter. They are a very 'structured' society after all. They do not wish to kill, only to assimilate and incorporate. They believe themselves superior and prefer that the assimilation process be 'willing'. The Borg Queen even indicated this during her dialogue with both Data and Picard in the TNG movie, 'First Contact'. But if the 'willing acceptance terms' are refused, protocol has been followed and allows that more forceful measures can be used... for your own good of course.

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So this is a piece of ineffective ritual that the Borg always follow? Interesting :) –  Andres F. Jun 8 at 14:43
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@AndresF. -They say it every time, almost like it's pre-recorded... –  Morgan Jun 8 at 17:09

It illicits fear. It is very confident. They are attacking the will to resist to make their job easier and also perhaps aware that the more anxiety they generate the less effective their oppositions defenses will be. It is their propaganda message to those they wish to assimilate.

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This doesn't seem to improve upon the already accepted answer. I suggest checking out the Tour to get a better idea of how to ask and answer questions. We're not a typical discussion forum. –  Meat Trademark Jun 8 at 21:20
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@MeatTrademark I disagree. The psychological warfare aspect of this answer seems, to me, to be the best answer to the question. No other answers touch upon the subconscious effects of such outward confidence. –  Nicholas Oct 28 at 18:34
    
Ditto. Out of universe this motto makes them seem intimidating and dangerous. Surely the people in universe would feel that even more strongly. –  Hurkyl Oct 29 at 3:08

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