I was watching Scorpion (VOY) parts 1 and 2 last night and a thought struck me: sure, their computer interface looks pretty cool, but why do they have a physical interface (i.e. they tap the screen physically) in the first place? It's made quite clear that they can interface with each other through mental transceivers and they make a big deal about thoughts being a more efficient communication method than verbal communication in Scorpion Part 2 with Tuvok and Janeway. Therefore, wouldn't a mental interface with a computer be more efficient? Surely, then, they could have the drones in their stations for most of the time, just thinking to interact with the computer rather than having to tap their way through an interface. Is there any reason given for this?

And, although I only recall seeing 7 of 9 using the computer via physical interaction in Scorpion, there are plenty of instances in other episodes where other drones also use physical interaction with the computer.

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    Answers may want to incorporate or reference answers to this question about Data interfacing with computers and this question about the EMH interfacing with computers. – BESW Sep 6 '14 at 1:40
  • @BESW agreed, although by agreeing I'm not of course saying that they're dupes or anything like that! They are quite different questions, as the purpose of the Borg really is their collectiveness and how that is facilitated via technology. – Often Right Sep 6 '14 at 3:26
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    This has always annoyed me a bit. I can't think of a decent in-universe answer, while the out-of-universe answer is obvious. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 6 '14 at 18:30
  • @Himarm: How is this any different than the virus proposed to inflect the Borg through Hugh? Why is a ship more susceptible that a lone worthless drone which sometimes goes on a recon mission. They probably don't ever expect intruders on a ship. – ThePopMachine Sep 30 '14 at 16:21
  • @Himarm: "computer errors happen far more often then malicious attacks happen"..... Are you assuming they have assimilated a bunch of Microsoft engineers? Where's the canon evidence? – ThePopMachine Sep 30 '14 at 20:04

1) Efficiency of Assimilation - As mentioned by MarvelX42, when assimilating a ship that uses screens, it makes sense to just keep using those screens rather than to re-program the whole ship to bypass them. This is especially compelling since we see "Borg consoles" much more often on assimilated ships, like the Enterprise-E, than on native Borg constructs, like the Cubes, where Drones are more commonly locked into their docking stations.

However, there are three other considerations that may be relevant:

2) Security - The Borg have been shown to be a powerful force, but they have still been hacked before, sometimes to disastrous effect. There may be a certain amount of security in having certain significant functions, like propulsion and weapons, require a physical presence at a console. That way, an errant Drone or an outside influence cannot gain complete control remotely.

3) Efficiency and Decentralization - It may be more efficient to have Drones perform certain functions physically, rather than devote bandwidth and processing power that could be used for more difficult operations. It's impossible to say without examining the exact technical setup of the Collective, but it may be that their mental network is reserved for communication, analysis, and forming a consensus, while the trillions of commands for controlling equipment aren't processed through the Collective at large. Therefore, the Collective decides where a ship should go, and then a Drone inputs the commands into the ship manually so as not to clutter up the data stream with the nitty-gritty details of execution.

4) Cybernetic Compatibility - It is easy to think of the Borg as a purely mechanical, computerized race, but we are reminded over and over that their biological components are equally important. It may very well be that their biological halves are why the consoles remain necessary. The Borg are obviously VERY well-integrated with their ships, facilities, and tools, but that integration may not be perfect, so it may not be entirely possible to control a ship, especially an assimilated ship built by others, by thought alone. Whatever prevents the Borg from making purely-robotic Drones may be preventing them from fully interfacing with their ships as well.

It's impossible to say for sure, but I think between those four answers, we've probably got a rough understanding.

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    Decentralization This does seem to be the best candidate to me, and your point is backed up by Voyager 5x15/16- Dark Frontier, in which the Hansens note that apart from when salvaging the corpses of other Borg, drones from different subunits don't interact, and we can assume the same is true of the hardware, drones are only mentally linked to the systems they are directly responsible for. – Crow T Robot Oct 4 '14 at 0:01

I don't think that I even need a source for this answer because the Borg are known to steal and use technology of many various different races into the collective. Many Star Trek alien races use tactile interfaces such as touch screens. This has been shown in the movies, tv shows and other various media. The Borg simply incorporate that technology into their ships.

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    Yes, but we also see races with neural interfaces. Why do the Borg use screens when they must have encountered alternatives? – Valorum Oct 4 '14 at 7:08

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