43

She is one of a gajillions of Borg drones. What exactly does "Seven of Nine" means as far as drone identifications? Shouldn't she have some GUID instead?

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    Her full designation was actually "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01." So you could convert that to a GUID-like code: 7-9-3-01. :) – Nick Shaw May 10 '12 at 14:58
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    What you fail to realize is that she speaks in an accent which is determined by her MAC address. – Chris B. Behrens May 10 '12 at 17:14
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    ROTFL - " shouldn't she have a GUID ". – Clay Nichols May 10 '12 at 22:16
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    When Janeway formed the alliance with the Borg that subsequently lead to Seven's disconnection from the Collective, they talked about what to call her. If I recall correctly, Janeway found Seven's full designation to be rather unwieldy, and they eventually settled on using "Seven of Nine", which Seven called "imprecise, but acceptable". – a CVn May 11 '12 at 8:19
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    I know this is really freaking old, but are we just going to let @NickShaw's comment go like that without referencing Tolkien and the ring poem? – Turambar Sep 22 '16 at 18:50
35

You're assuming there is a unique identifier for Borg drones. They could very well just have "disposable" identifiers assigned to them when they are awakened to join a group and perform a specific task.

Also, Iirc, there's a Voyager episode where Seven needs to coach a human team and she assigns them numbers. When one of them "fails", she just re-numbers them so that 4 becomes 3 (and takes over with the task), 6 becomes 4 and so on. That suggests that Borg consider their "names" as something that is subject to change and can efficiently handle that. She used those numbers as roles identifiers more than as GUIDs.

If there's GUID for Borgs (DNA signature? Assimilation serial number?), it would be pretty inefficient to state it completely in communications.

(Note, btw, the similarity with the soldier identification scheme in the Roman Army, where soldiers would decline their legion, cohort, century, etc. numbers of the unit they belong to)

  • 1
    That is an interesting idea, of a drone not being addressed until it is activated. But I'm not sure there is any proof of this in canon. – Xantec May 10 '12 at 15:33
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    It seems exceptionally unlikely. Proper resource management would be a hallmark of something like the Borg collective. Just because humans can consider other humans to be worthless and disposable does not mean that the Borg would do likewise. – Donald.McLean May 10 '12 at 15:45
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    @Donald: True, but irrelevant. The Borg might very well consider names to be worthless and disposable. My router does the same; doesn't mean it's not managing resources efficiently. – Tynam May 10 '12 at 16:10
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    @Tynam: Actually, it's completely relevant. If something doesn't have a unique, permanent identifier, there's no way to manage it on a global scale. Why would the collective need to manage on a global scale? The collective realizes that the individual components of the collective, although they are merely components, each have their own value. They didn't just pick Picard out of a hat when they made him Locutus. Nor would they fail to use any special characteristics of any other drone. – Donald.McLean May 10 '12 at 16:24
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    @Donald.McLean: True; I agree Borg must have an internal ID much more sophisticated than 'fifteen of twenty'. But I doubt the need for a static GUID. I imagine that internally each Borg has a resource/capability dataset, something like graphics card 'this device supports these features' interfaces. Given three drones of equal ability, the collective picks the most convenient - the Borg care about tracking capability, not identity. (This would be too clumsy for the internet, but Borg have much faster data transfer. "Unimatrix" ~= DHCP server.) – Tynam May 10 '12 at 19:56
30

The # of # designations are, as others have pointed out, rank of total on a ship/station and then jumps way out to subdivision of region(unimatrix). This is not sufficient to uniquely identify an individual.

Let's get speculative, seeing as the canonical answers aren't satisfactory here. When do Borg use these identifiers? In verbal communications. When do Borg communicate verbally? When they are speaking to other species.

The Borg designations are only used in the rare event that verbal communication is needed. In interborg communication there is no identity, and this undoubtedly involves more computer-like unique ids and networking. Probably mesh networks over subspace and transwarp conduits.

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    So we should migrate this question to SU site with "DNS" tag? +1:) – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 10 '12 at 17:20
  • "When do Borg communicate verbally? When they are speaking to other species." Also, the collective on a ship may synchronously say what the ship intends to be doing next, even though there appears to be no non-Borg to hear (except the cameras that are there for the TV/movie audience). – TOOGAM Jan 8 '16 at 16:53
23

TL;DR: What we are mistaking to be "names" of Borg, are actually "designations". There's a distinct difference in that a "designation" is more like a rank or job title, whereas a "name" - as humans understand them - is a persistent, unique identifier of an individual.

A single Borg may have several different designations throughout its lifetime, and it is possible that a single designation may change hands between several Borg. Further, when the designation is simplified to "X of Y" without any of the additional qualifiers which are a part of the full designation, it is very probable that many Borg exist with the same shortened designation.

We may not know for sure whether the Borg actually have persistent, unique identifiers like we have names - it does not seem to be addressed in canon. However, it would be hard to imagine such a complex Collective being able to operate efficiently without such identifiers.


I think @sylvianulg got closest to the truth, though I'm still not sure the analogy (used by some others) of a router assigning IP addresses is quite accurate.

First, let's go over some facts (see links and quotes below for reference):

  • Seven of Nine's full designation was Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01.

  • Unimatrix 01 is known to currently have nine drones, each designated [One-Nine] of Nine, with some having an additional functional designation such as Primary Adjunct or Auxiliary Processor

  • Formerly, Unimatrix 01 had only five members, with primary designations being [One-Five] of Five.

  • A Borg drone's designation represents their position within their Unimatrix or Trimatrix.

So, the designation a Borg gives to outsiders is more of a rank or title - and, when they give only their "short name", it's a fairly non-specific one at that. For example, "Seven of Nine" could refer to the Seven we know or it could also refer to (if one existed) "Seven of Nine, Auxiliary Processor of Unimatrix 42".

That said, it is also possible that Seven previously had a different designation. Perhaps one might have been "Four of Eight, Secondary Adjunct of Trimatrix 626" before she was re-assigned to Unimatrix 01.

What is important to realize here is that Borg "designations" are not "names" in the sense that humans understand. To us, names are (generally) unique identifiers of an individual. The Borg designations are an identification of the individual's position or function.

The unique identifiers - the true "name" - of each Borg will probably never be known outside of the Collective. However, I believe we can be fairly certain that such an identifier does exist. Proper resource tracking and allocation can not be achieved without being able to uniquely identify each resource. It is probably some sort of long GUID which is assigned to each Borg when it is first attached to the Collective. Since such complex identifiers would be impractical to use when communicating with species outside of the Collective, the Borg instead chose to fall back to their designations when such communication is necessary.

To bring this into a networking analogy, the operation of routers & IP Addresses comes close but is still not quite correct. Let's consider instead hostnames and asset tags, used to identify and track servers in an organization.

When a computer is first purchased, businesses will generally put an asset tag on the system to track it for inventory purposes. That asset tag is usually kept on the system, with a unique number and/or barcode, throughout its life - from its arrival in Receiving (before it is even put into use) until it is permanently decommissioned (destroyed, or transferred outside of the organization's control). The asset tag here represents a (relatively) life-long, unique identifier that will not be shared or re-used on any other resource.

Hostnames, on the other hand, are often used to identify a system's function. For example, MySQLSRV-05-03 might be node three in SQL cluster number 5. These names might be shuffled around and re-used across different unique systems, because they relate more to the systems' function than they do to its identity.

Example: A new system is purchased to act as a VM host. On arrival, it is given Asset Tag #01701. Once installed in its role, it is given the Hostname VMH-09-07 because it will be the seventh VM host in group number 9. Some years down the road though, the system is beginning to show its age - it just doesn't perform as well as the newer models, and can no longer adequately serve the business' needs as a VM host. However, it is still quite well suited to be a file server. So, a new server is brought in to replace it. The new server, Asset Tag #74656, takes on the Hostname of VMH-09-07 when #01701 is taken offline for reconfiguration. The old VMH server still retains its identity as #01701, but when it steps into its new role its Hostname becomes FS-12-04.

Below are quotes from Memory Alpha, which serve as the primary basis for my analysis:

Drones within a unimatrix or trimatrix are designated in groups known as "adjuncts", with the individual drone's identification serving to designate their position within the adjunct. (VOY: "Dark Frontier", "Unimatrix Zero", "Endgame")

Seven of Nine (full Borg designation: Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01)

Known drones assigned to Unimatrix 01

One of Nine
Two of Nine (Primary Adjunct)
Three of Nine (Auxiliary Processor)
Four of Nine (Secondary Adjunct)
Five of Nine
Six of Nine
Seven of Nine (Tertiary Adjunct)
Eight of Nine
Nine of Nine 

Previous drones assigned to Unimatrix 01

One of Five
Two of Five
Three of Five (Tertiary Adjunct)
Four of Five
Five of Five
  • 1
    +1 for convincingly detailed research and reasonable deduction. I find 'asset tag/hostname' much more convincing than MAC/IP address, although I still think there's an argument for 'capability bitstring' over GUID, if only because it suits the Borg's relentless determination to suppress individual identity. – Tynam May 10 '12 at 20:02
  • @Tynam Ah, but the "capability bitstring" would inevitably be non-persistent. A drone will eventually suffer injury or biological degradation which causes it to no longer be able to serve specific functions. Alternately, it may undergo cybernetic upgrades that enhance its abilities. It's also likely that a number of drones will end up with the same "capability bitstring" over time. Eventually, a cube - or even a Unimatrix or Trimatrix - could have two or more drones with the same string and that could lead to confusion in the system. – Iszi May 10 '12 at 20:08
  • Example: "Are you the 01111010 which is 'Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01' or are you meant to be 'Six of Eight, Secondary Adjunct of Trimatrix 626'?" Instead, the "capability bitstring" should be used as a lookup value in the manifest database when a replacement is needed. i.e.: "I need a drone that has capability string '01111000' to assign to Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01'. Assign the first GUID with that capability string value to that position." – Iszi May 10 '12 at 20:12
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    Would the analogy of military hierarchy not serve better here? If one says: I'm from the 7th platoon of the 9th battalion, 3rd squad of 1st (insert higher group set) or the 7th Sergeant, etc? – Gustavo Carreno May 10 '12 at 20:43
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    @GustavoCarreno As far as I am aware, such an analogy could actually be misleading. Unless there's some detail I'm missing out on, the vast majority of Borg (with the obvious exception of the Queen) are of equal status - no one drone is required to follow the orders of another. Military hierarchy implies superiority of some above others, and a duty for most to obey some who are not at the top. – Iszi May 10 '12 at 22:10
12

Seven of Nine was Seven's designation within the Borg collective. As an assimilated individual has no need for a name within the collective they are given a number relative to their function within the collective. Generally a Borg will refer to itself by just its number; Seven (of Nine) for Seven, Three (of Five) for Hugh, One (of One) for One. But to specifically identify itself an individual drone will give its full function as well; Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01).

Having no regard for individuality, Borg drones were identified with designations rather than names. A drone's designation typically described its position within a group, e.g. "Third of Five." To more specifically identify a drone, its function could be appended to this designation, e.g. "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01." In the same manner, the Borg refer to alien species by number rather than by name. Memory Alpha

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    My problem is the smallness of address space, not the fact that there is no name. – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 10 '12 at 15:19
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    @DVK Presumably on one of the large Borg cubes or a planet the numbers could get very high, depending on the function. But even then the Borg may have found that for standard day-to-day operations smaller groups perform more efficiently. In this which case within a large population you might still only have up to 10 or 20 Borg in a particular group but the function iteration would be larger (ex. 5 of 20, centennial power maintenance of planet 459). This is just a thought though, with no proof either way. – Xantec May 10 '12 at 15:30
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    If this is the correct answer, I'm a little disappointed in Star Trek. I'm sure the Borg assimilated scads of similar sized groups. That would mean that based on their group size, in order to maintain distinct naming, borg assimilated in similar group sizes could seldom be part of the same adjunct. I had always assumed that 9 referred to a rank or class within an adjunct restricted to 9 members. I like my theory better, even if it's wrong. – Gorchestopher H May 10 '12 at 16:44
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    But they don't need distinct naming. A Borg drone isn't going to go on holiday and need proper ID to access her money back home. The cells in my body don't have distinct names. For the stationary ones, it is enough that their neighbors know them. For the ones that move around, they are identified by function. – Kyle Jones May 10 '12 at 18:02
  • I'd even go a bit further. The designations might be limited and retrieved "just in time" if there's a need for them (a bit like IP addresses are determined through DHCP). E.g. while working together on a counter to the Undine, there were only nine drones active meant for communication in some way in that particular region. In TNG (Hugh) there were only 5 drones nearby (functional or not), so he assigned that designation to "himself" just-in-time. Seven and Hugh both consider this their "name" because it's essentially been "burnt" into their mind. – Mario May 11 '12 at 8:28
6

DVK, I think the "smallness of address space" you are concerned about is the answer, as shown in VOY 6x02, Survival Instinct.

During that episode, Seven of Nine and 3 other drones are stranded and disconnected from the Collective. If I recall correctly, one of the things Seven does while they are stranded is to reassign their numbers to (1-4) of Four.

The "Nine" in Seven of Nine is simply the number of drones she was working most closely with when the Voyager crew first encountered her, and "Seven" is her ranking within that sub-collective.

However, I may not be recalling the events of Survival Instinct fully correctly; I know she re-linked their minds when she made the sub-collective, but I think the re-numbering happened before that.

  • The Borg don't have "ranking". – Valorum Jun 12 '16 at 13:40
  • @Valorum See Iszi's answer for a more detailed description of "ranking". – Izkata Jun 12 '16 at 20:08
5

This was said in one of her first episodes and retrieved again when we meet 3 of 9 and 4 of nine that they were a group of nine people all assimilated together. It is later shown that they were the 9 members of the crew on the star ship 7's parents piloted.

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    Is there a reference somewhere showing that the "of 9" is specifically a reference to the assimilation amount? – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 10 '12 at 15:19
  • I am currently pulling from memory of the show but I want to say it was the episode where 7 as a borg is camping with the rest of her team due to the ship they were on being destroyed. – chcuk May 10 '12 at 15:21
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    I am pretty sure the Raven only had three people on it. Or at least I am pretty sure that Annika and her parents were the only people shown. – Xantec May 10 '12 at 15:38
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    The Raven had no crew other than Annika and her parents. She never saw her parents again after they were assimilated until near the very end. – BBlake May 10 '12 at 16:14
1

She was the 7th assimilated person of a group of nine captured on a starship.

This seems to be the established Borg short hand naming convention going back to Star Trek TNG when we are introduced to the character Hugh.

Hugh, formerly Third of Five, was a former Borg drone who was rescued by the USS Enterprise-D in 2368. Sources: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Hugh

Hugh, or 3rd of 5, was the first such instance of being introduced to a named Borg besides Locutus (Picard's assimilated designation). When Hugh's ship crash landed he was the 3rd crew person on a ship of 5 Borg.

If the ship was not his permanent assignment then it can also be extrapolated that these naming designations were temporary, much like the IP address on your router, however this is merely speculation.

  • 3
    Third of Five was Hue's designation within the ship he was on (quotes are from memory: "What is your name?" "I am Third of Five." "There were five Borg on your ship.") I do not believe the number was indicative of the size of the group when the individual was assimilated. – Xantec May 10 '12 at 15:35
  • Again, IP addresses on a router may not be a great analogy here. Though IPs may be passed around between devices joining and un-joining the network, each device is (generally) still uniquely identified by its built-in MAC address. – Iszi May 10 '12 at 17:50
  • @Iszi True, but MAC addresses can also be spoofed. So I think if you want to fully address that analogy, the MAC address would be more like the drone's DNA, the one individual aspect of a drone left after assimilation (barring subconsciousness). – Xantec May 10 '12 at 18:08
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    @Xantec A more appropriate analogy (see my answer for further explanation) is hostnames & asset tags. An asset tag is unique to each system throughout its lifetime. However, hostnames are often used to represent the system's role and position within the network. One system may transition through several hostnames, and one hostname may end up being used by several different systems (one at a time), but each system will still be uniquely identifiable by its asset tag. – Iszi May 10 '12 at 19:37
0

Personally i think the writers were having a bit of fun while paying homage to the early television sitcom "My Living Doll." MLD was the story of a harried scientists (Robert Cummings ) who had been charged with the enviable task of instructing another statuesque blond cyborg (Julie Newmar) in all things human. Newmar, who seemed to spend a lot of time dressed only in a towel, had the clinical assignation of " AF 709."

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to think that the writers may have been topping their caps to the show and in particular to Newmar who you may remember rocked another skin tight costume playing the original Catwoman on Batman.

  • An interesting theory, but one lacking in references and substance. – Valorum Jun 12 '16 at 13:38
  • @Randy Gaysek: Nice find, but I think you are giving the writers too much credit. – sfhq_sf Jun 12 '16 at 16:32

protected by Valorum Sep 22 '16 at 16:07

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